The hole left when an outstanding worker departs can seem big enough to swallow up the productivity of your whole unit.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Here’s how you can maintain order and productivity when a top employee moves on:
1. Get the departing employee to help fill the gap. Ask her to list all her duties and how she carries them out. Then ask her to help train her replacement, whether it’s another member of the staff or a new employee.
Do your best to lighten the departing employee’s workload in her final week or two, so she can concentrate on leaving as much of her expertise as possible with others in the department.
2. Encourage final suggestions for improvement. A departing employee may feel more free to offer criticism that may have been awkward to say in the past. Or he may suddenly be struck by good ideas he wishes he had sooner. Either way, a worker reaching the end of his time with the organization can provide a perspective you should take advantage of.
3. Acknowledge the departing worker’s value. A few words at a staff meeting or a nicely phrased memo, combined with a festive farewell lunch, will not only provide an appropriate send-off but also send the message to your remaining workers that good work really matters in the long run.
4. Let replacements establish their own style. Tell replacement workers about the job that needs to be done—but avoid singing the praises of the person who used to do it. Make sure they feel their efforts are being recognized.
No one can do the same job indefinitely. To be prepared for the inevitable, keep your staff as fully cross-trained as possible. Avoid letting any employees become so specialized that no one can do their work. The better your people know how to fill in for each other, the more easily you’ll be able to maintain continuity when any single member of the team moves on.
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