How to Recover When a Valuable Team Member Quits

Sep 3, 2015
5 Min Read

If your top performer walked into your office today and said she’d accepted another job, would you know what to do to keep your team on track?

Losing a key team member can test even the strongest team – but you need to be prepared for it. Here’s what to do if you get the bad news from a valuable team member.

In most cases, resist making a counteroffer. In most cases, employers make counteroffers in a moment of panic, but they generally don’t work out well in the long run. That’s because in most cases, it wasn’t just money that drove the employee to start looking; there are usually other factors, like feeling unchallenged by the work or not being well matched with a manager or the culture, and those won’t change – meaning that the dissatisfaction is likely to come back once the glow of the counteroffer wears off.

Make good use of the person’s remaining time. Too often when someone resigns, employers squander the person’s last few weeks in the role, by just letting the person continue on as if it’s business as usual. Instead, be vigilant about using their remaining time to download key information and extract their insight and advice on the responsibilities they’re leaving behind. This person knows the secrets of success in the role they’re leaving – understanding those secrets will help you hire the right replacement and set them up for success in the role too.

Involve the departing employee in recruiting for the new role. The person will probably be gone by the time you’re conducting interviews, but before they leave, pick their brain about who they think should fill their shoes.  They may recommend someone already working for you, or might have an outside contact who they think would be great at  the job. If nothing else, they’ll likely have strong opinions about the type of person who would excel in the role (and maybe how to find them), and that’s valuable for you to hear.

Think about whether there’s an opportunity to seize here. Is there a more junior rock star already on your team who’s ready for the role? Is there restructuring of the role or responsibilities that would make sense to do before hiring a new person? As great as your existing employee was, are there things you wished she’d done differently, and is it worth specifically seeking out those things in a replacement?

Expect that other staff may be nervous. If the departing employee has been handling key work or is known for being particularly outstanding in the role, other staff members may be anxious about what will happen next. Will a replacement ever be as good? What will the transition look like? Who will handle X until someone new is up to speed? Reassure people that while there might be some bumps in the road, overall you’re confident that things will be fine – and share the plan for moving forward that’s giving you that confidence.

Reflect on any lessons learned. If you’d spotted the signs earlier, was there anything you could have done differently to keep the employee? For example, if the person left because of frustrations with pay or management, are there changes you can make in those areas to prevent losing other talented employees in the future?

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