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Your best worker is leaving? Don’t panic!


In recent weeks’ columns, I’ve talked about the challenges of recruitment – starting with how you get talented people through your company’s door, followed by the equally demanding effort to keep hold of them once you do. For the sake of completeness – and in a personally quite pleasing effort to turn these musings into something of a trilogy - it seems only right to think about the opposite end of this process: how to react when a great employee tells you that they are moving on to somewhere else.


For a good deal of their immediate line managers, naturally enough, the response might sit somewhere between raw, unfiltered panic and total devastation. Waving goodbye to a hardworking employee as they depart your company with their boxed-up office life under their arm is certainly not an easy thing to contemplate. You’re likely to dwell on the projects they leave half-completed; the processes that they alone seemed able to make work; the gaps in knowledge and experience your team may now desperately need to bridge.


You may also look at the impact on team dynamics and your overall office culture. Perhaps this individual is reliably good-natured and nicely balances more temperamental personalities in a team. They might be a great source of fresh ideas or a natural organiser who helps you keep team tasks on track with a near-supernatural ability to stay on top of things.


Most simply of all, they may “just” be excellent in their roles and their departure is going to create a major headache as you look for their replacement. With such considerations to think about, it’s not surprising that your initial reaction is a certain level of despair.


As an organisation, however, it is far more constructive to look at departing talent from the perspective that it is only really a tragedy if they are leaving because their current working conditions and workload have compelled them to do so. If they are leaving simply because a new, exciting opportunity has come along - say, for example, in an area of work you can’t offer, or in a different global location you don’t operate in – there is little your organisation might reasonably do.


If such an individual is leaving only reluctantly, armed with the experience and skills your organisation has helped develop and grow, then it is better to celebrate that fact and ensure that their final experiences with your organisation leave a positive and long-lasting impression. Far better that you helped play a role in the success of an individual who will always be an advocate for your company, than to behave petulantly in their final weeks and leave a permanent bad taste in their mouth.


In any event, the exit interview – long considered by many to be an awkward and uncomfortable box-checking task for HR – is a genuinely great opportunity to get some open and honest feedback on what it is truly like to work for your business. If, for example, a talented employee is leaving because a poor manager has driven them to distraction, you can be sure that they are most likely to tell you during an exit interview where they no longer feel bound by office politics or shifting sensibilities.


Similarly, you can also glean valuable insights into their perception of how your company deals with promotion and development, and how they see your proposition as an employer in comparison to others in the market. Think of it as nicely-targeted, expert market research for your future recruitment initiatives.


Moreover, treating employees professionally and courteously on their way out is the best way to hold the door open for them in the future – either for their own return or for people in their expanded network who possess similarly impressive skillsets. In the end, nobody wants to wave goodbye to an excellent member of staff who they trust and rely on. However, making sure they know they will be missed, and effectively managing their departure, can minimise the loss they undoubtedly are to your organisation.


Ahmad Badr is Chief Executive Officer of Abu Dhabi University Knowledge Group (ADUKG)


Reference: The National