Breakups. Graduations. Funerals. Parting ways is always difficult; work is no exception. That’s why it’s important for HR to have the tools to keep morale up when employees leave; otherwise, negativity can spread around the office quickly. Here are a few tools HR can use to keep negativity at bay:
To keep culture thriving, you’ve got to be fair to everyone. Plan and follow a defined, legal process or employees will notice discrepancies and you’ll open the company up to criticism (and possibly lawsuits).
Including employees in planning helps them feel involved, valued and heard when a coworker leaves. Ask for their help with the job description you put together. Find out what the team wants to see in the person you bring in as a replacement. This will satisfy their need to talk about the change even though you can’t talk about why their coworker is leaving. You can also use this time to sincerely thank the team for their hard work and willingness to help out. (This could help keep other employees around: companies who use strategic recognition have 23 percent lower turnover rates).
By planning and following a policy for terminations and keeping teams involved in your strategy for finding a new coworker, you’ll be more likely to foster positive feelings and keep morale steady.
When it comes to culture, you get what you give. If you want employees to be positive when a coworker leaves, you need to lead by example. Encourage employees to keep their friendships alive. (Though you’ll need to set a few boundaries to protect the company. More on that below.) Be happy for employees who find a great opportunity. It doesn’t hurt to congratulate them on their new unique opportunity. Also, be sure to make positive adjustments to culture based on what employees say in exit interviews. This will show other employees that you care about what they have to say and are actively trying to improve company culture.
Establishing a positive company culture is also a great way to keep employees from leaving in the first place. Job turnover in companies with great company cultures is only 13.9 percent, compared to 48.4 percent turnover at companies with poor company culture. And even when employees do leave voluntarily, it will more than likely be on positive terms if they were engaged in a happy culture–which means they won’t run around the office telling coworkers the (often exaggerated) reasons they decided to leave.
Your employees need to feel positive about their work environment when and even before change happens. Effectively managing issues that come to the surface during a termination is important in cultivating a thriving culture, and a thriving culture will in-turn keep morale afloat.
Look within your HR department for termination training first. It may feel natural to want to disclose information to an employee with concerns in order to make them feel like you’re on the same team, but you can’t. Train your team to reframe the conversation to focus on moving forward together while addressing concerns in a constructive way.
Train managers and employees to handle termination situations too. Just like your HR team, they should understand confidentiality. Common sense will kick in if a former coworker asks for the company card number, but employees may not see any mal-intent in checking some information for their old coworker or spilling a few client names. Help employees understand that friendships with former coworkers are fine, but to be careful not to violate any confidentiality agreement. Also teach them the proper way to bring up and fix any concerns that surface during terminations.
Training everyone in the company to handle terminations will keep the company safe and help employees feel confident and positive through the changes.
Like any change, terminations can be hard. Negativity can spring from uncertainty if there aren’t tools in place to combat it. Train everyone in your company to keep things confidential, move forward and address any concerns. Make it part of your culture to guide employee behavior, and plan your policies to be fair to everyone. Doing so will make difficult termination transitions a little easier.