The New Age of Treating a Departing Employee

(Adapted from my article in WIB’s HR & Training Digest

Here’s the default position of most banks when an employee gives two weeks’ notice that they’re taking a job at another bank.

  1. Tell the employee this is their last day;

  2. Have them immediately clean out their desk; and

  3. Escort them out of the bank in front of all their former colleagues.fired

I witnessed this event at a community bank earlier this year, and my jaw nearly dropped.  That’s not the way things happen today.  (It’s the way it happened in 1996, but not 2016).

Back in 1996, it actually made some sense to have the employee immediately depart.  The workplace was still infused with paper; businesses were worried about a banker taking client or proprietary information to the new bank.  They worried about that employee “poisoning other employees” and by immediately terminating their employment, that person was literally out of sight and out of mind. Let me refute those ancient beliefs. Technology, and its ability to drive immediate communication, has radically transformed the workplace.

First, by the time an employee gives notice to you, they’ve already taken whatever information they feel they need.  Contact information is also easily available via LinkedIn or other Social media; the proverbial Rolodex is long gone.

Secondly, most employees leave because they get something from the new bank they felt they couldn’t get from you – a promotion, better pay, more opportunity, office closer to home, more flexibility, etc.  Most employees don’t hate you – it’s just time for them to change. Therefore, they most likely won’t poison the well with other employees.  (Although it’s fair to say that very unhappy employees will poison the well, whether they stay or leave). So why humiliate that person by getting rid of them immediately?  Remember, staying employees watch carefully the way you treat departing employees.  What kind of message do you want to send them? That if they leave for greener pastures, they too will get escorted out of the building in front of all their friends?

The way good businesses conduct this departure is by transparency, encouragement and respect.  Therefore, the process should be:

  1. Grant the person their two weeks’ notice.  It will give them time to say good bye; it shows respect and – handled properly – gives you time to prepare for the transition.

  2. Send an e-mail out to all employees announcing the departure.  Tell everyone where the employee is going, what they’ll be doing, and when they are leaving.

  3. Throw a small going away party.  Treat them as well as you can.  Let them see what they’ll be missing.

This might sound radical, but it’s not. Departing employees talk to staying employees, and many others in the future will talk to that departing employee about your bank – did they have a good experience there, would they recommend you as a place to work, etc. As well as that, how you treat them when they’re leaving is an essential part of your reputation, both now and in the future.

In this age of connectivity, it’s not enough to be a great place to work; you also need to be a great place to be from.

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