The hole left when an outstanding employee departs can seem big enough to swallow up the productivity of that person’s whole department.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are four tips to 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. Ask her to describe the ideal candidate to replace her. 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 weeks, so she can concentrate on leaving as much of her expertise as possible with others in the department.
2. Pick the person’s brain. Departing employees may feel more free to offer criticism or suggestions for improvement. Take advantage of this opportunity for “free consulting” services. Meet with the person a handful of times in those final weeks—not just during an exit interviews—to get their ideas and input.
3. Acknowledge the departing worker’s value. A few words at a staff meeting, a nicely phrased memo and a festive farewell lunch help send the message to current staff that high-quality work is valued.
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, make sure managers cross- train their staffs. Avoid letting any employees become so specialized that no one can do their work. The better employees know how to fill in for one another, the more easily managers will be able to maintain continuity when any single member moves on.