Change with Courage & Compassion
Employee turnovers are inevitable, and all businesses have to deal with them at some point. According to Reuters, there was even a 289% surge in U.S. job cuts in 2020. Even as the economy reopened, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says there were still 1.4 million layoffs as recently as May 2021. CNBC reports that in April 2021, this led to over six million Americans filing for unemployment. Meanwhile, states like New Jersey made severance pay mandatory. However, it’s important to note that the company’s responsibility for an employee doesn’t end after they’ve said their goodbyes. As their former employer, you can make their transition as graceful and positive as possible. By preparing an efficient but compassionate exit strategy, you can embody empathy, support, and preparedness that can help shape the reaction of others.
Addressing the employee’s emotions
In a Forbes survey of 1,000 people laid off, most respondents said they felt shocked and embarrassed upon hearing the news. No matter what circumstances lead them to this point, you never want people leaving your organization feeling less. Waldron recognizes the emotional rollercoaster that layoffs or terminations entail, and the important value of supporting departed employees through this whirlwind of negative emotions. After being let go, it’s normal for employees to question themselves, so don’t neglect to tell them that you appreciate their service. Reframing the discussion from “what you could have done better” to “all the good things you have done” will help them face their new employment with confidence and no bitterness. And don’t forget to show your gratitude. Because most exiting employees want to be discreet about their departure, a simple thank you email or handwritten note will do. Make sure not to be tone-deaf or to sugarcoat the circumstances. It is still a difficult situation for everyone, but by practicing small and impactful gestures, there’s a higher chance that the rest of the turnover process will be smoother and more pleasant.
An exit interview
Exit interviews are valuable sources of feedback as they allow employers and managers to gain honest insights from exiting employees. Through this particular interview, you can learn about certain weaknesses within your business model and acquire insights into fixing them. Moreover, INC’s article on exit interviews states that simply taking your former employee’s ideas into account emphasizes that the management cares about what its employees think. It also shows that the business and its executives adhere to positive values. Treating employees with respect even as they leave the company demonstrates integrity and a sense of care, which heightens your reputation as an employer. After all, employee turnovers are not crises, so you must be mindful not to treat exiting employees in a detached manner. When done correctly, these transition periods grant valuable insights into the state of your business. As such, embrace them as a learning experience.
The effects of termination on an employee can be scary and confusing. Hence, it’s important to provide guidance during this transition period — even if their termination is effective immediately. The best way to transition is by helping employees understand their benefits’ status moving forward. For instance, you need to discuss their last paycheck and any processes regarding severance pay so they know what to expect. You also need to discuss their health insurance and retirement accounts because, for many, these are provided by or connected to their employers. When discussing these variables with your exiting employees, make sure to provide proactive solutions, too.
For example, if the former employee has retirement investments, you can recommend that they roll over their employment-based plan into a personal one. As Marcus’ article on IRAs explains, once they’ve separated from the company, they’ll stop accumulating money for this would-be retirement fund. Meanwhile, for them to keep their group health plan even after termination, you could help them enroll in the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). This federal program allows terminated employees and their dependents to keep their group plan benefits for up to three years post-termination. Every termination is different, so it is important to establish career transition services. Through extensive field experience, Waldron CPI Career Transition Services has discovered that having such outplacement resources can support both the departing employee and the organization itself, as it creates more compassionate and personalized results.
Transfer of knowledge
According to HR Daily Advisor, businesses are temporarily less efficient every time an employee leaves. To minimize this period of decreased efficiency, it’s best to have knowledge management systems in place. This means that all the knowledge that the departing employee has can be accurately captured and stored, before later being shared with any new employees. This process makes it easier for the business to onboard a replacement, cutting down on the time they’ll take asking coworkers and superiors about internal processes. If the company hasn’t developed such a system yet, make sure to create one with your team members. This way, everyone is poised to adapt to change.
For example, as part of Waldron’s Organizational Transformation service, companies can be coached on how to fine-tune their internal culture and strategies by developing specific steps from the C-suite to entry-level. This process can optimize knowledge management methods as well as other aspects of the organization, making for a smoother transition and overall better business performance. It’s important to note however that during the transition process, that you frame this situation in such a way that the exiting employees don’t feel like they’re merely being replaced. Underscore that their contributions are valued, and will continue to be of value, hence why their cooperation in this transition is absolutely crucial.
Reclaiming of company assets
Before the employee departs, make sure to tie up any loose ends in terms of company assets. Though this may seem very transactional, it’s essential to accomplish this with respect and sensitivity for the exiting party. Turning over passwords and redirecting emails can be embarrassing for many. During this process, consider how your words affect your employee. If your HR department is not directly in charge of collecting passwords, company-issued gadgets, or anything else of a similar nature, make sure to coach empathy and the correct language to those tasked to do so. While employee turnovers are not permanent farewells, it does signal the end of a professional relationship between the company and the exiting employee. You want them to leave feeling dignified and hopeful, not patronized or humiliated.
One of Waldron’s central values is to practice empathetic leadership. This should be present from the moment an employee is onboarded to the time they leave the company. It’s an essential trait for employers and managers because of its impact on the workforce. Empathetic leaders make for more trusting employees that are engaged and productive in what they do. And at the end of the day, it’s courageous and compassionate leaders that run great businesses.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ashley Hendricks, a guest contributor, is a freelance business analyst and aspiring writer. She hopes to one day publish a book and is, in the meantime, working on her personal writing portfolio.