A client once told me about a key employee who had announced his resignation. I knew this client to be a remarkably caring person of great integrity, who treated his colleagues with kindness and respect, so I was surprised by his tone when he shared this news with me. My client was very angry about the departure, and he seemed to take it as a personal affront. His comments about the employee's departure--and the position it left him in as a leader--had a "you're dead to me" quality.
As business leaders, we know that the overall goal for each and every client of a business is to walk away raving about their experience. Rave reviews are not only great word-of-mouth advertising, they also raise the profile of your company and enhance your brand. When there is a buzz around the positive experiences your customers have with your business, you will garner greater loyalty from your customer base and attract new customers as well.
The same principles, of course, apply with employees. When your employees rave about the experience of working for your organization, they raise your profile as an employer, which in turn attracts great prospective employees. But what we don't always realize is that it's just as important to create raves when saying goodbye to employees as it is while they're a part of your team.
When your former employee begins her next job, her new colleagues will inevitably ask about her previous position. The way you treat her while she's on her way out of your organization will impact her response. Do you want her to leave with a sour taste in her mouth, eager to warn others of her negative experience--or do you want her to become an evangelist for your brand, bolstering your recruiting efforts to a whole new audience? The final stage of an employee's time with your organization is one of the most important times to be supportive and to uphold your cultural values. Saying goodbye to an important member of your team can be tough, but think about this person as a long term ambassador for your brand.
When employees choose to move on from your company, you also have an opportunity to understand why they're leaving, which may provide insight into how you could strengthen your culture. If you react to an employee's resignation with anger or defensiveness, you're not creating an environment where he or she feels comfortable sharing earnest feedback with you. Take the time to listen to your employee and ask questions about their experience working for you, and what they hope to achieve when they move on. If you approach this opportunity with an open mind, you'll not only be taking care of your departing employee, you'll be gathering information for the long-term improvement of your organization.
On a more logistical note, the way you say goodbye to a colleague directly impacts how smooth the transition will be when that person is no longer on the team. In preparing for your employee's last day, you'll need that person to help with transferring responsibilities so that the rest of your team--or a new hire--is set up for success when the last day arrives. If your employee feels like the whole team is angry at them and not excited for their next chapter, they're not likely to contribute enthusiastically during the final weeks.
Finally, and most importantly, a departure also gives you an opportunity to send a strong message to the rest of your team about your commitment to your values. It's critical for you, as a leader, to set the tone: if you show resentment toward the employee who's leaving, or neglect them out of a feeling of abandonment, your team will follow suit. If you show warmth and respect for your employee and continue to include him or her in team work, you'll ensure that your employee can leave with a sense of dignity, and that the transition feels as good as possible to everyone involved. This goes for all employee departures, whether voluntary or involuntary. Show your team that you're determined to uphold your cultural values always--not only when times are easy. Doing so bolsters the trust of your team, which is essential in sustaining a positive work environment, and in turn, a culture of Hospitality.