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Top tips for managing employee departures

An employee leaving for pastures new can throw an organisation into turmoil, particularly if they are in a highly specialist role with a lot of technical or legacy knowledge. In this blog post, TPP offers some tips on how to ensure a smooth handover for everyone concerned.

Be prepared

Your team may seem settled, with a good level of morale and productivity, but don’t assume that means no-one will be leaving in the near future. Employees leave their jobs for a wide variety of reasons, ranging from being headhunted or taking early retirement to resigning because of family responsibilities or relocation.

It is vital to have a policy in place for unexpected departures, as notice periods can go extremely quickly and it’s easy to forget vital steps in the handover process. It’s also always a good idea to share vital knowledge across teams, so departures don’t result in the loss of key information.

In the notice period 

Once an employee has handed in their notice, it can be very difficult to keep them productive for the rest of their time. Work out which projects they can reasonably finish within their notice period and sit down with the employee to create a plan for their completion. Any tasks which will remain outstanding once the employee has left should be handed over to other staff as early as possible.

Use the notice period as time to sit down with the departing employee and create a thorough handover document detailing the jobs they are currently working on and including any key contacts. Don’t just rely on the original job description to define their role, as it may have changed considerably during their time with your organisation.

Make sure they leave on a high 

The departure of any valued employee can be a stressful time, but wherever possible you should ensure that they leave with a positive feeling about your organisation. Many employers choose to throw a party or buy gifts to say goodbye. Exit interviews are a great opportunity to clear the air if there have been tensions at work, as well as an extremely useful tool in preventing further departures.

Ex-employees can still act as fantastic advocates for your organisation in their community. Leaving them with a bad impression can potentially damage your employer brand and possibly even future donations. The not for profit sector is a small world, and it’s quite possible that the leaver may return to your organisation at some point in the future.

Decide if you need to recruit

In the short-term, preferably before the employee leaves, you’ll need to create a plan to share out their workload and responsibilities so nothing falls through.

At this point, you’ll need to decide whether to recruit a replacement or if you can restructure your team to absorb the leaver’s duties without recruiting. Natural wastage can be an effective way to reduce costs in times of economic hardship, and is generally preferable to making redundancies, but can result in resentment among the remaining workforce unless managed correctly.

If, as is most likely, you do decide that you need to recruit, it does not necessarily have to be a straightforward like-for-like replacement. This is an opportunity to improve efficiency and to add or move around responsibilities within your team. Look at flexible working options – could making the role part-time, a job share or home working widen your pool of candidates or improve productivity? Don’t forget to consider whether it could be a promotion opportunity for an existing member of staff.

Consider interim cover 

For some roles, especially particularly specialist or senior ones, you may need more time to find exactly the right candidate and the rest of your team will not be able to cover the role indefinitely. In these circumstances, it is a good idea to use temporary or contract cover.

As well as ensuring the leaver’s role is covered, using interim staff can give you an opportunity to ‘try before you buy’ or test out a possible permanent replacement before committing to a permanent contract. Alternatively, if your organisation is going through a period of change, you may wish to delay recruiting permanently until you have a more settled view of the future. Interim employees can be used to bring in new skills that are particularly helpful on a short term basis, such as change management experience.

Reassure remaining staff 

When employees leave an organisation, particularly at the more senior level, it can leave the remaining staff feeling unsettled and dissatisfied. It is important to meet with your team as soon possible to reassure them and to explain the leaver’s motivations. Ideally, this meeting should be in person, so that employees can ask questions.

Explain why the employee is leaving as honestly and specifically as possible. It’s important to stop the rumour mill and staff know that platitudes such as ‘leaving to spend more time with the family’ are not generally the real reason. Go through your steps to deal with the departure, including any temporary solutions, and wherever possible promote the situation as an opportunity to improve the team and for internal promotion.

Don’t forget practicalities

There are many small actions to take when an employee leaves, that are easy to overlook in the rush to replace them. Don’t forget to retrieve keys, passcards, mobile phones etc from the leaver. It may be necessary for them to sign a confidentiality agreement, if they have very sensitive information, and best practice is to change the passwords for all systems they had access to.

Communicate the departure internally, and externally if appropriate, and make any necessary amendments to organisation charts, websites, phone lists, brochures etc.  Encourage the leaver to update their social media profiles to reflect the change (eg update their current employer on LinkedIn) and purge any of their contacts if necessary as per your social media policy.

Need some help? 

If you’re having difficulty deciding on the best way to replace a departing employee, TPP Not for Profit can help. One of our specialist consultants can arrange a visit, talk through the old role and what your organisation needs from a new employee. We can then offer help on writing the job description and person specification and advice on salaries and availability of potential candidates. For more details on this no-obligation service, please contact Donna Newton, Client Relations Manager on 020 7198 6111 or

Of course, the best solution to losing valuable employees is to stop them leaving in the first place. Our past blog post on how to stop best employees leaving may give you some tips to keep hold of your organisation’s valuable assets.