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How to communicate to staff and clients after a key employee resigns
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Managing the impact of an important member of staff leaving can be tricky. Here are five tactics to focus your people, your business and yourself.

As business owners, most of us can rationalise that we’ll survive the experience and the business will be in better shape once the dust has settled. What business owners tend to be less good at is managing the internal cultural impact in an equally effective manner.

We might be really good at communicating a message to clients about a replacement member of staff, but fail miserably when it comes to reassuring our staff.

Reasons for this can vary. It could be that you feel vulnerable and don’t like to show it, or simply don’t know what to say. Perhaps you’re actually scared of what other employees are feeling, so burying your head in the sand seems like the best option.

Regardless of the reason the employee leaves, and assuming their employment contract was structured properly and prevents them from walking away with half of your staff or clientele — in which case you have a much bigger problem on your hands — here are five steps to deal with the impact of a key member of staff leaving.

1.     Weigh-up the situation

Book an immediate meeting with your senior staff members to identify any vulnerabilities. For example:

  • Did the staff member manage key client accounts? If so, which ones and how can they be protected?
  • Are they a well-liked employee whose absence could cause major upset in your team?
  • Do they have skills and knowledge that appear, at first look, to be irreplaceable?

Then, prepare a SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity, threat) analysis to help develop a plan of action. This will help you and your senior team to weigh up the risks as well as work out the positives that can be taken from the situation.

2.     Don’t panic

Hold a meeting with the staff member who is leaving. Request that they keep the news confidential until you develop a strategy for telling staff and clients. Most importantly, don’t panic. It could prove to be a major challenge, but your business will survive, and may well grow as a result.

3.     Communicate to the rest of your staff

Alongside your key staff, develop a plan to communicate the news to the rest of your team. Decide upon the best medium to announce the news based on the departed staff member’s seniority and role.

Whatever the case, remember to include all staff members in the announcement as well as those on extended leave. We’d recommend talking to your staff as a group if that’s feasible and easy to do.

As a general rule of thumb there are a few points to make sure you cover:

  • The date the individual will be leaving.
  • Where they are going.
  • How the business will operate after their departure.
  • Whether you will replace this person.
  • Whether you will be having a send-off event for the staff member plus details of the event.

All communication should extend an offer to your team to discuss the situation individually if they feel the need.  Then you should work to rally the team and you may well be pleasantly surprised to find your staff step up to the plate and help out.

4.     Communicate to clients

Ideally client communication should be conducted in person or on a call with a follow-up email, including updated contact information. Assure them that the company is on a solid footing and the departure has nothing to do with instability. Just as critical, remind them that it’s business as usual.

Explain how their account will be managed in light of the resignation, as well as your strategy for replacing that lost expertise.

If the person wasn’t client facing or well known in the industry, you may not feel the need to take this course of action.

If they are well known, or very senior then a press release might be in order.

5.     Execute your plan to the letter

Execute your transition plan to the letter and keep key staff updated on your progress.

Expect this process to play out over a couple of months and don’t underestimate the potential cultural impact. If the departed staff member was well-liked and seen as a key to your company’s success, employees will need regular reassurances that their jobs are safe and your business is stable.

Key employees who decide to leave your business can rock a business. Especially if their departure is not handled with care and in a professional manner. We’d advise seeking expert help and guidance to help you get through it. We can be contacted on 0333 444 0165 or by email on help@citrusHR.com 


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