Leaving on a good note: notes for a positive exit experience

The decision to leave an organization is a momentous one for most employees, but Gallup’s findings suggest that less than half of the exiting employees are actually satisfied with how the exit process is handled. Negative exit experiences can affect team functioning and morale. So, getting all hands onboard to build positivity into the departure, without compromising on the handover process, is essential. Here are some cues to ease the process:

Spot a suitable replacement

It’s difficult to replace employees with specialized skills, or those who have been in the organization long enough to have deep, non-procedural knowledge. But, as Dorothy Leonard, Professor Emerita at Harvard Business School, suggests, “You’re not going to be able to clone the employee, but you can identify her behaviors, thought patterns, and processes that have made her such a valuable decision-maker.” Ask the leaving employee to identify the skills necessary for someone who might step into her shoes. Get her help in reviewing new candidates for the role. Where possible, the new hire can shadow the exiting employee to become familiar with the routine. And if the new person can’t be hired in time, a team member could shadow the employee and offer valuable insights to the incoming member.

Plan for a smart handover

Asking the employee who is moving on to record every single task, process, or conversation she is involved in, could create resentment. It could also result in an information overload for the rest of the team and the incoming replacement. Instead, the team can work with their colleague to collectively decide what information would be relevant for smooth workflows. It could include log-in credentials, contact numbers and email introductions to key contacts and external partners, a note of all the upcoming deadlines, access to all files and spreadsheets, and a brief about the day-to-day work.

Celebrate the new phase

Work aside, the relationship that has been built with the departing employees needs to be celebrated. Spend time to appreciate their key achievements, and the value they added to their coworkers’ lives. Make sure they feel good about the place and the team they are leaving. They could one day be re-hires or serve as valuable external partners.

Build the alumni network

Many companies have a WhatsApp or LinkedIn group for employees to stay connected even after moving on. Guide the exiting employees towards such groups, so that they can stay in touch, keep sharing their valuable experiences within the company, and serve as brand ambassadors for the organization. They could offer testimonials about the place they’re leaving and serve as the source of new referrals.

An exit experience is as much the end of an old phase as it is the beginning of a new one – for those leaving and those staying behind too. Making the transition a buoyant one can ensure relationships remain positive, and the company’s reputation, strong.

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