Every hiring manager and HR person knows that the first few weeks of employment are critical to the success of the employees. But what about the last two weeks?
We know the last two weeks matter from an employee's perspective: This is the time to secure references for the future, train people to take over their role and influence how their coworkers remember them. Almost every employee knows they should work diligently and efficiently during their last two weeks on a job, even if they're counting down the minutes until they head out the door.
But the last two weeks should be equally important to you as an employer. The way you react and treat departing employees is reflective of your culture as a whole. Here are five reasons why you should make sure the last two weeks are a positive experience for employees:
1) You want at least 2 weeks notice
When you get angry because someone gave notice during the busy season, it gives a bad impression to the remaining staff and makes them wary of announcing their own departure in the future. While two weeks is the cultural standard, you'll likely find that reacting angrily might result in people giving less notice — whereas if you are supportive when someone resigns, you may find people giving you additional notice (which will make replacing them a lot easier).
2) You need top performance
Sure, the temptation for "lame duck" employees may be to slack off — after all, they're focused on their new job or new adventure ahead. You, however, need them to be on their A-game. It's nearly impossible to hire a replacement before the current employee leaves, so it's in your best interest to encourage the departing employee to leave things organized and easy to transition. If you treat employees with respect and congratulate them on their next opportunity, they are more likely to leave things in good shape for you.
3) You'll have company ambassadors
Employees may go, but they certainly don't forget. I belong to a Facebook group for former employees of a company I worked for and it's a resoundingly positive group (although, granted, people who hated it aren't likely to join). I worked there for nine years in the HR department, and the company's effort to treat people well shows in how their former employees feel.However, I also receive stories from readers on my blog about horrific final weeks at work.
The last thing you want is for your former employee to discourage quality people from applying to your company. If you treat them poorly, they won't refer people from their network. But if someone's last interaction with your company is with a friendly and respectful HR person, they will likely remember things more fondly and speak about the company positively.
4) You may connect with them again
Lots of employees boomerang back to old employers. This is not a bad thing at all — most companies cannot provide all the developmental opportunities someone needs or wants. In particular, smaller companies don't generally have lots of middle levels where people can gain experience—they are either the worker bee or the boss, and there's nothing in between. So, a star employee may leave to gain experience elsewhere and want to come back. These employees come with not only general experience, but also company-specific experience, and you want them to come back.
5) Your tone influences the remaining staff
If you are positive and polite about the departure, your remaining staff will remain positive and polite. You don't have to throw a going away party, but a simple "We'll miss you, Jane!" cake is a nice gesture. If you start moaning, "Oh no, it will take six weeks to replace Jane, and we'll die under the workload," the rest of your staff will think that this six week period will be intolerable. Instead stay positive: "Okay everyone, give me your best ideas on how to manage without Jane until we can get a replacement on board!"
There's no doubt that it's hard to lose an employee. But it's even harder when people react poorly. Treat your departing employees with respect, speak positively about them after they goes and be supportive of your remaining staff — in the end, the transition will be much easier.
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