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When a long-time or high-value employee suddenly decides to depart, it can be a shock to a business leader’s system. While it’s often felt like a loss, it should also be viewed as a learning opportunity: Why they are leaving? If there was a problem, what can you do to remedy the situation and prevent future employees from following suit? How can you and your team use this experience to become stronger?
We asked experts from Young Entrepreneur Council to share the most valuable lessons they’ve learned from an unexpected employee departure in the past. Here’s what they had to say.
1. There Are Always Warning Signs
I do think you have your finger off the pulse of the business a bit if you are surprised by a key employee’s departure. There are always warning signs. Thus, if you are surprised, you should ask yourself how close you are to the business, then re-engage. Second, it’s nearly always one of two things: Inner conflict with a manager, another team member, etc., or belief that the opportunity is greater elsewhere. Money is rarely the pure reason for high-value employees. My analysis always turns to: What should I have done better to show them the path to everything they could want in their career? I truly believe we can give that. – Codie Sanchez, Cresco Capital Partners
2. More Frequent ‘Check-Ins’ Are Required
Losing a valuable team member unexpectedly can be a heavy blow. This is particularly true when it’s someone who’s been in the trenches with you while you were growing the business. Sometimes the working relationship has simply run its course, but the departure of one long-time employee spurred me to engage in more regular “check-ins” with my team. Often, issues that might eventually lead to a team member moving on can be nipped in the bud, allowing you to retain a valuable employee. More frequent “check-ins” are typically a win-win for both parties. – Thomas Smale, FE International
3. Someone Always Steps Up
When it comes to a high-value employee suddenly leaving the company, one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned over time is that, most of the time, there are other employees who are willing and able to step up and fill the gaps, but generally haven’t done so out of respect for the person who left. Once that employee is gone, though, it can create a situation where the other employees have an incentive to step up and show that they’re capable of handling more responsibility with a greater role. In addition, a sudden departure can also expose other weaknesses your company may have had that need fixing. It might hurt at first, but knowing what’s wrong before it gets worse can be another blessing in disguise that came about as a result of one of your rock star employees leaving the company. – Jared Weitz, United Capital Source Inc.
4. It’s An Opportunity To Get Stronger
It’s always tough to see a key employee go, especially when it’s unexpected, but I’ve always viewed these situations as ways to improve the team. We’ve always ended up finding someone even stronger than the person we had before, and it’s helpful to know that those people do exist. The problem with big corporations is that employees are made to feel replaceable. When you’re running a smaller company, much success rides with key people, but you still have to be able to survive without them. Seeing who else is out there on the job market helps you realize that skill sets may be changing and improving ahead of the person you just lost. You don’t realize how much better of a situation you can create by actually improving the team when a key employee leaves. It’s an opportunity to improve. – Joel Mathew, Fortress Consulting
5. You Need To Keep Your Emotions In Check
People leave for various reasons, but it’s important to keep your emotions under control and not react. When someone leaves, it is easy to take it personally—and sometimes it may actually be personal—but that’s the point where you have to put your ego and feelings aside and put the business first. It’s your time to think about what the business needs, how best to manage the departure and how to make sure it does not destabilize the rest of the team. There is no place for your own ego and emotions in business, so it’s best to leave it at the door. – Benish Shah, Raised Real
6. It’s Not Goodbye Forever
It is crucial to have an exit policy focused on ongoing relationship management. Schedule an exit interview to address the question mark surrounding the employee’s departure and get vital insights on what can be improved upon within the organization. Even though the departure may be shocking, don’t think that the efforts that have gone into building the relationship are wasted. Let the employee know that they were immensely valued, that you wish them the best in future endeavors and that there will always be opportunities for their talent if someday they want to make a comeback. From personal experience, I can say that an amicable split ensures that you don’t really lose a valuable resource forever and you also have a positive image in the industry for future potential hires as well. – Rahul Varshneya, Benchpoint
7. Bring Your Team Together To Find A Solution
When a key ingredient goes missing from a winning recipe of an organization, it can feel like it will never be the same again. It will never be the same. Being adaptable and understanding other members of the team may be able to come together to fill that role is one of the joys of team building and human resources. Some may feel a sting of abandonment, but when a valued team member leaves it should not be cause for a collapse, or you have not built your foundation strong enough. No one person should overperform in an organization, and when you take your time in hiring, you can see humans have a variety of strengths and interests that can be leveraged in your organization. Get to the bottom of what this person’s key function was, then ask your team to supplement the work and help with a solution. – Matthew Capala, Alphametic
8. They’re All Going To Leave
The most valuable lesson I’ve learned from an unexpected departure of a long-time and high-value employee is the importance of building your business around culture, systems and processes—not individual people. As a business owner, you must operate under the assumption that your employees are all going to leave. The best entrepreneurs create businesses that can survive people leaving—including and especially the entrepreneur! Culture is important because it makes the organization akin to a self-healing organism. Documenting systems and processes should be non-negotiable. Of course, there will always be some people who execute the processes in a way that delivers supreme value, and it’s painful when folks like this leave. That’s life. Good help is hard to find. Act accordingly. – Ben Landers, Blue Corona
April 17, 2019 at 08:18AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs