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An unexpected employee departure, whatever role they had, can result in panic within a company, especially smaller businesses.

Once an employee suddenly leaves, business leaders are flooded with internal questions, such as how to respond, how to cover their responsibilities, and how to make sure the company continues to develop and progress from that point on.

It is crucial for business leaders to carefully handle such a situation, so that other employees, clients, and stakeholders experience as little disruption as possible.

As a result, here are five key tips to keep in mind when an employee decides to move on.

1. Assess the situation

Business leaders might be initially shocked by a sudden resignation, and in their state of panic, their first reaction might be to feel a sense of betrayal and disappointment.

However, it is integral for them to properly assess and understand what led to an employee’s departure.

Are employees being paid accordingly? Are they being shown enough recognition and respect? Is their work-life balance being given a priority? Have they been given enough room to grow, or are they being overworked with no potential benefits?

These are all questions that each business leader has to ask themselves in order to properly gauge why the employee came to that decision.

2. Start shifting day-to-day tasks and duties

Right before they leave the business, it is helpful to ask employees to outline their day-to-day activities and the status of any incomplete projects.

Such detailed information can allow business leaders to carefully fill and manage the gap that the departing employee leaves, so that current team members are not overloaded with work.

During such a critical time, business leaders can also assess whether they need to fill the role, or if they can make do without it. Can the work be effectively distributed among the remaining employees, without disrupting their productivity and wellbeing?

3. Commence process of finding a replacement

Should the decision be to hire a new employee, then special care has to be taken to ensure they are a good fit, both in terms of skills, as well as company culture.

Finding the right talent is already quite difficult in today’s tight job market. However, business leaders need to avoid making rash decisions and going for an employee that they are not convinced about, as this might end up causing more harm than gain to the business.

4. Handle communication about the change

A crucial part of managing the change from one employee to another is handling the communication to the rest of the team.

Should the departing employee be in a high-level position, a long-serving team member, or was well-liked by others, it can be a significant blow to team morale.

Additionally, one resignation might prompt others to think about other opportunities they can have away from the company, thus bringing about an unwanted boom in departures.

As a result, it is integral to effectively manage communication about the change. On one hand, it might be best to avoid going into unnecessary detail as to why the employee left, yet on the other, certain aspects need to be communicated so that the remaining employees can understand why the decision was made, and which responsibilities might be passed on to them. Whatever is the case, proactive behaviour is a must.

5. Learn and improve

A shocking employee departure, while initially worrying and stressful, can prove fruitful to the business in the long term.

Business leaders need to learn from the talk they had with the departing employee to learn more about what led to their decision, and then they can assess what needs to be done to improve the overall work environment.

Managers are often the first point of contact for employees, so making sure they have a good relationship with one another is crucial, especially in terms of the leadership style they put in place.

Business leaders also need ensure their employees are cross trained just in case of any industry changes that are out of their control. Through this, employees can effectively adapt and welcome any changes that may come.

Lastly, company culture also has to be given priority. Business leaders have to make sure that they are leaders that employees like, knowing that they are doing what’s best for the business. This means knowing how employees are feeling, how they are being treated by others, and hearing their input in terms of what needs to be done to elevate the company further.

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