As the economy improves, more American workers are leaving their jobs to pursue new opportunities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 2.75 million people quit their positions in September, bringing the monthly “quits rate” to 2 percent, its highest level in more than six years. That’s a sure sign that employees think the job market is getting stronger, and that better opportunities may be waiting for them as they seek to advance their careers.
Lost workers are expensive to replace and take valuable institutional knowledge with them when they go. And sometimes, despite your best efforts, important people quit. When they do, they’ll continue to be a representative of your employer brand – whether you want them to be or not.
After all, professionals build their professional networks no matter who they work for. As they interact with new colleagues and existing contacts, they’re sure to discuss their experience at your company. Indeed, it’s only natural that others will seek out their opinion, since they’ve recently had an inside view of your culture, your workplace, and your approach to doing business.
Of course, how you treat people at all stages of their employment impacts how they perceive your company. If you’ve built a strong culture that encourages teamwork and excellence, even former employees will be your advocates. However, some businesses shoot themselves in the foot by being careless in their behavior toward workers who’ve decided to move on. Here are some tips to help make sure you’re not one of them.
Treat them as colleagues until the day they leave: Just because someone’s leaving doesn’t mean they’ve lost their professionalism, their expertise, or even their sense of responsibility. Of course, you’ll ask them to educate colleagues about their duties, but don’t limit their tasks to the transition. A departing team member still has expertise to offer, so include them in meetings and email threads where their input may be valuable. That will keep them from feeling isolated and demonstrate that you still regard them as an industry colleague.
Wish them well: Yes, competition is intense today, but don’t take their departure personally. Before they go, take the time to sit down with your erstwhile employee to get their perspective on their work, their department and the business in general. Doing this shows that you hold them in high regard and value their professional opinion, no matter what the circumstances.
Keep the door open: Some companies have a “never return” policy toward former employees: Once someone’s left, they’re never welcome to come back. At best, such policies make an organization look petty. At worst, they’ll deprive you of a known quantity’s skills at some point when they might be valuable. Don’t go out of your way to invite the employee’s return, but it’s unwise to blindly eliminate the option.
Taken together, these steps will minimize the awkwardness that comes with a changing staff. They’ll also position your company as one that appreciates people for themselves, not just for the work they do during their employment. That’s the kind of approach you want your former employees to talk about.
Mark Feffer has written, edited and produced hundreds of articles on careers, personal finance and technology. His work has appeared on Dice.com, Entrepreneur.com as well as on other top sites. He is currently writing for JobsinVT.com, the top local resource for job seekers, employers and recruiters in Vermont.
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