Good talent can be difficult to find and even harder to keep. When you bring an ambitious, hard-working, skilled employee onto your team, you do whatever is necessary to retain that person -- even if it means losing them to another department.
If your star employee asks for an internal transfer, it's better to approve it and keep them within the company than risk losing them to another employer who will better support their career goals. Of course, the transition process will be tricky, so you need a plan to ensure it goes smoothly for all involved.
To help, here's some advice from seven entrepreneurs who have effectively dealt with internal transfers in their companies.
Have an honest conversation with them about what the change will entail.
As with any transition, handling an internal transfer is all about open communication, says Justin Lefkovitch, founder and CEO of Mirrored Media. He advises sitting down with the employee and asking a few key questions: How do their current skills translate to the new department? What are they looking to achieve? What kind of learning curve will there be? Will there be a team culture shift or adjustment as a result?
"These are all things to consider openly and honestly between the team member and relevant departments," Lefkovitch explains.
Share the news and explain what it means for both departments.
Charles Koh, co-founder of Pixery, Inc., notes that transitioning into new roles is common nowadays, so it's important that all parties from both departments understand the role changes and expectations of the new hire.
"This will speed up the transition period and avoid confusion amongst the groups," Koh says. "It also helps build new relationships, which is critical for success in the next position."
Set a one-month lead time before they assume their new role.
Unlike when an employee is quitting and gives two weeks' notice, you have the advantage of being able to set the timeline for their internal transition. Nicole Munoz of Nicole Munoz Consulting, Inc. recommends at least one month of lead time before the employee moves to their new role.
"During that month, they will prepare all of their handover tasks, which allows you the opportunity to prepare the next position or find a replacement," she adds.
Look for existing talent to take their place.
As soon as you approve your employee's internal transfer, your next order of business is finding their replacement. According to Zac Johnson, founder of Blogging.org, moving an existing team member into the role may be your best bet, as long as you set clear expectations.
"Not only will this make multiple parties happy, it can also increase productivity and office morale in the process," he says.
Have them train their replacement.
Joel Mathew, CEO and founder of Fortress Consulting, recommends having the transferring employee take an active role in training their replacement, especially since they are staying with the company.
"This is very effective, as they can share in-depth detail on the day-to-day elements of the role and what they've learned to be more effective," Mathew explains. "We've found that this greatly shortens the learning curve for the new team member, and they can be more effective from day one."
Create a transition team.
An internal transfer has a big impact on not one, but two different departments within your company. Matthew Podolsky, founder and managing attorney of Florida Law Advisers, P.A., says creating a "transition team" can help with the adjustment on both ends.
"Assign a member from the prior team and a member from the new team to be liaisons and assist with the transfer," he says. "Members from the old team will assist with the transition to ensure all tasks have been reassigned or otherwise resolved. The liaison for the new team helps build rapport and relationships with the employee's new team members."
Give them the same training as you would a new hire.
When team members transition between departments, they may think they can simply apply their earlier experiences to their new role, says Firas Kittaneh, CEO and co-founder of Amerisleep. This may work in some cases, but it could ultimately backfire if the departments operate differently.
"Instead, treat role transfers as new hires," says Kittaneh. "Provide them with all the same training and tools as fresh recruits. That way, they'll be well-equipped to succeed in their new role."