by Matt Alderton | June 10, 2019
Managers spend a lot of time and energy trying to make new employees feel welcome during their first days on the job. But if you ask author David Sturt, they should devote just as much thought to making current employees feel loved during their final days on the job.

"Leaders put a high priority on recruitment and onboarding. And for good reason … Turnover is expensive, and studies show that up to half of new employees leave soon after starting," Sturt writes in an article for the Harvard Business Review. "As important as onboarding and building loyalty are, we need to devote similar energy to what we do when employees leave. It can be easy to write off people who are departing, but there are many reasons to instead appreciate and support them."

One reason, for example, is that you might rehire them down the line. "Companies who bring back former employees benefit from their deep familiarity with culture and processes, saving the expense of having to train an entirely new hire," notes Sturt, who says other reasons include having their help to create a smooth transition, demonstrating to other staff that your company cares about its people, and helping you attract future recruits by making it possible for employees to say good things about your organization to their networks when they leave.

But what does good "offboarding" look like? According to Sturt, it starts with listening. "When someone tells you they are leaving, listen to what they have to say about why," he says. "You might discover there are issues about which you were previously unaware, and, while this conversation may have come too late to keep this particular employee from leaving, you may be able to improve the workplace -- and retention -- for remaining employees."

And instead of resentment, make an effort to show appreciation. "You want to have a candid, honest and appreciative conversation with a departing employee," Sturt concludes. "This is your opportunity to call out specific ways the person has contributed to the team and your company's success and to point out talents and abilities that they might not have noticed themselves but will serve them well in their new job. Think of this as a goodbye gift."

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