What to do when an employee quits

Written by Laurie Dever, LPC, PHR, SHRM-CP be the change HR, HR Pro & Consultant

We all know that most employees don’t stay on forever; some leave too soon, and some maybe not soon enough. The reasons a team member may leave are varied, and regardless of whether well-intentioned or based on ill-feelings the point is that you are down a team member which may put added stress or burden on a team or department. Regardless of the reason for the termination, what do you need to do to keep functioning and not lose productivity or morale?

Don’t Panic!
The first step is to not panic or worry over things unnecessarily. It’s natural to be upset, angry, worried, stressed, or even happy that a team member is leaving. Don’t let your concerns outweigh your options! Try to look at the positive – although it may be stressful, it may also be an opportunity to assess the current role and see how or if it needs to change. Can things be done differently or more efficiently? Could this create a promotional opportunity for another team member? Maybe a re-organization of department or duties is in order.

Sometimes an employee leaves and holds a great deal of institutional knowledge, or maybe is the only person that is clearly aware of a particular process or procedure. What do you in this case? Ideally, have the employee prepare a document or some type of training information regarding what is currently done; preferably in advance of their giving notice!

Another option is to have them provide some back-up training to other team members – share the knowledge! This could be done as part of an agreement on the completion of duties before leaving the company. If not enough time to train others before leaving employment, another option might be to contract with them to provide training (written or otherwise) after they have terminated employment. This would result in an additional payment to the individual, however, it may be worth your time, money, and sanity to have them stay on to help out.

Let’s assume the person leaving is not “the keeper of all information”, but their absence may still cause lags in production, a drop in morale, or a hole in scheduling. None of these situations are fun to deal with, but all can be planned for and addressed! Being strategic and prepared in these instances is your best plan of action, and also will keep a lid on panic.

Remembering that employees don’t stay around forever, is a reminder to plan in advance. If it’s too late to plan in advance, then get started on immediate action planning. Develop interim or backup plans in advance of changes that could potentially disrupt operations. Cross-train team members and have written procedures. Have alternate schedules to cover for short-staffing. Pull together a team to develop and recommend backup planning and alternate operations; this may serve to boost morale as well as make team members feel valued and engaged. Involving others in the process helps to cover a wide range of efforts and brings new and fresh ideas!

If a staff member leaves, be sure to communicate appropriately to all. Employees like to know what is happening in the organization and often appreciate updates. For those leaving on good terms, a nice send-off message via email to the organization might be appropriate, thanking them for their service or wishing them well on their next venture. For those leaving on maybe a not-so-nice note, no details need to be shared with staff, however, a general team update letting folks know that person will no longer be working with the agency may be helpful. If employees ask for details, a simple statement as to company policy regarding not sharing
personnel information or action will suffice.

Also be sure to communicate with department heads, managers, and HR members so that everyone knows the same information and the next steps in the process. There’s nothing worse than assuming everyone knows a team member left, and then further assuming someone will “take care of the details”. (You know what happens in that scenario – nothing!) Or even worse, assuming the position will be refilled when in fact there is no plan to do so! If that is the case, team members need to be notified and plans in place and communicated as to how things will be handled going forward. Lack of communication is one of employees’ top complaints about organizations.

Recruitment Process
Who is responsible for what? What needs to happen? What are the timelines? Get all this ironed out quickly and efficiently, follow a designated process and timeframe. Set a deadline for each step in the process, as well as who handles what. If hiring managers are supposed to screen or interview candidates, make sure this is done on a timely basis rather than dragging the process on. Waiting too long to complete steps is a sure-fire way to lose candidates. Train managers that are responsible for any part of the process so they know what the expectations are and how to complete tasks.

HR is integral in the recruitment process and should take the lead – after all, this is one of their main responsibilities! Don’t have an HR process, representative, or department? There is help available! Using outside resources or consultants for assistance with HR management can help you save time and money. You’re not in it alone!

Follow Up and Train
The last step in the process is to continue to follow up. How is the new hire (or process or procedure) working out? Any further training needs or changes that need to be made? Make sure you have a pulse on agency culture, turnover, reasons for people leaving, and how departments are functioning. Continuous training and follow-up show you are invested in the organization and team’s success.

In closing, keep it manageable; don’t create further stress for yourself or your team. If you follow these five steps you should be well on your way to a smooth transition. Who knows, after your careful planning and evaluation you may even end up in a better place than where
you started!

If you’re looking to hire a new employee in California and don’t know what’s needed, we can help! We have a few resources that you can utilize, we have A Step By Step Guide to Hiring Your First California Employee and New Hire Forms available on our website.

Another good resource to help you is Us! You can reach out to us here.


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