Your top performer has resigned. Now what?

It’s Thursday afternoon. Your employee asked you for a personal meeting. You’re thinking it will be a quick update meeting. Not quite. Your star performer is handing in their notice.

This is not how most of us want to end their week. Receiving the resignation from your top performer can leave you feeling frustrated. So many thoughts are running through your mind. Just what are you going to do now?

Accept and learn

Take a deep breath. It may feel like the end of the world. It isn’t.

You may experience the feeling of hurt and disappointment. After working closely with your top performer, you’ve trained and developed them and don’t understand why they didn’t open up earlier about their plans. The employee may have had their reasons for not sharing them with you. Or perhaps they did all along and you just didn’t listen?

For now, simply accept their decision and take some time to reflect on it.

(No) counter offers

You may not be that ready to accept their resignation. You may consider offering them a counter offer, generally involving a higher salary and/or exposure to specific work and responsibilities.

Some companies categorically rule out counter offers. Such organisations see counter-offers only as temporary band aids. After all, you shouldn’t stop a rolling stone.

Unfortunately, history has shown that most employees who accepted a counter offer will still leave for the same reasons that made them look externally in the first place. Next time around, the company will not offer another counter offer and the employee will leave for good.

In contrast, some organisations may provide a counter offer for top performers in critical roles or working on time-sensitive projects. For these companies, a counter offer closes the immediate need and buys them more time to find an alternative, knowing the employee may still resign in a few weeks or months.

Before committing to any counter offer with your star performer, check with your company’s process and DOA. How long will it take to reach a decision, including answering these questions:

  • Do you know what would make your employee stay (higher salary, flexible schedule, a different project)?
  • Will you be able to match the external offer? Do you want to match the external offer?
  • If not, what non-financial offerings (e.g. new customer, new responsibilities) can you provide? How will you sell these?

Learn from exit interviews

“Employee leave for more money” used to the be explanation. Study over study shows that compensation is not one of the top reasons. For many top performers, a number of events is leading to their resignation.

Organise an exit interview and understand the employee’s motivation for leaving. Exit interviews are ideally held on the employee’s last working day or after they’ve left the company. This way, they don’t have to fear any repercussion for providing direct and honest feedback.

For any exit interviews held by HR in person, careful attention has to be paid to non-verbal cues. Assumptions and interpreting what the employee may wish to say can be misleading. More and more companies therefore use online exit interviews which protect the employee’s privacy and allow them to speak freely.

Implications for the team

While an exit, whether voluntary or involuntary, can impact the team, the disruption can be limited. This is an opportunity to review the team’s roles, responsibilities, processes and workflows.

Most teams generally anticipate some additional work while a replacement is being identified. During this time, support for the remaining team is crucial or a domino effect may be expected.

Managers can spend more time with each team member and modify work goals. At the same time, take a genuine interest in each employee and also help them achieve their personal goals. It’s the latter that also increases employee engagement, something in high demand especially during these times of change.

Just as current work arrangements are being reviewed, focus on making knowledge sharing and succession planning integral parts of running your business. Being pro-active now can reduce the impact of future resignations.

Create a succession plan where you identify those employees who could immediately step in, even if it’s only for a specific period, and who needs to be prepared within the next 6 or 12 months or longer. Do you have any employees who could be cross trained to reduce your dependencies on one individual leaving? Decide what specific training and exposure they’ll require and then start getting them ready. Depending on the transparency levels within your organisation, you may wish to inform these employees about your succession plans while also carefully managing their expectations.

The replacement

As you’re considering the current team structure, you may decide that a replacement is no longer needed. Perhaps you place this role on hold, profiting from manpower savings and only revisit the potential recruitment activities in a few weeks or months.

Should you have determined that freezing the vacancy is not an option, start thinking about the requirements on the role and the ideal candidate. It can be a challenge finding the perfect successor for your star performer. By understanding your team’s needs, you can narrow down on the must have skills, knowledge and experience. You’ll be able to recognise desirable abilities and traits as a differentiator between two (or more) equally suitable candidates.

You may choose not to recruit for the replacement externally and select an internal candidate, although their profile may not be a 100% match. Such a decision may be linked to your overall EVP and HR strategy, focusing on growing talent internally and reinforcing your company’s stand on internal career progression. You’ll provide the internal candidate with an individualised learning plan, acknowledging the support and training they require from you to become successful in the new role.

Make for a smooth exit

While notice periods vary from role and level within the organisation, motivation generally declines quickly after giving notice. It’s best to start the hand over as soon as your top employee handed in their resignation. Agree which activities need to be completed or to whom they need to be handed by what date. Obtain log in details and passwords. Decide who will notify customers about the individual’s departure. When will that communication go out and how?

If your star performer is in a sensitive role, you may wish to put them on garden leave. If you decide that, how will you extract their knowledge and manage the hand over?

Some individuals may ask to shorten their notice period. As tempting as it is to hold them to the entire notice period, be honest with yourself: How much will they actively contribute 9, 10 or 11 weeks into their notice?

To keep the experience with your organisation a positive one, consider agreeing on an earlier end date, especially if brought up by the employee.

You can ask them to take any accrued but untaken leave days. This will reduce your financial responsibility to pay out any such days. Although it may be hard for you to appreciate it, you are, however, giving the employee some time to relax, finish working for your organisation on a high note and start their new job fresh. It all adds up to a positive image of your company and the employee being an ambassador for your organisation even when they’ve moved on.

Finally, wish them well. You may not want to throw a big farewell party. Yet, you may wish to give them a card and say good-bye with dignity and respect. Cherish the good memories you, the team and your top performer shared.

Don’t be caught off guard when your top performer leaves. Contact us today and learn how we can reduce your organisation’s dependency on a single employee. Don’t be stuck in a crisis mode. Be prepared.

How volunteering can create an engaged and happy workforce

Can volunteering be an effective tool to attract, engage and retain employees? Yes and it’s time you use it!

A new approach to attracting talent

Volunteer programmes serve as a proven attraction tool for millennials. This generation is all about aligning their personal values with their organisation’s values. 64% go as far as rejecting job offers if they don’t see the hiring organisation having strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) values.

88% of millennials would also leave an employer whose CSR no longer matches the individual’s values. While other generations may not be as outspoken, CSR is also a recognised retention tool.

When it costs almost 1/3 of the employee’s last total salary to replace them, companies also risk the non-financial implications like reduced moral and increased absenteeism.

It’s high time find new, strategic and holistic approaches to engage and retain talent. This is where employee volunteer programmes linked to the organisation’s community social responsibility (CSR) kick in.

CSR and wellbeing

Although CSR has been around since the 1950s, Archie Carroll’s defined the modern approach in his article “Pyramid of Corporate Social Responsibility” (published in 1991).

  1. Economic responsibilities: Be profitable
  2. Legal responsibilities: Obey the law
  3. Ethical responsibilities: Be ethical
  4. Philanthropic responsibilities: Be a good corporate citizen

The philanthropic responsibility may only be a discretional responsibility for an organisation. Yet, 91% of global consumers expect companies to address social and environmental issues and “contribute financial and human resources to the community and to improve the quality of life.”

Looking at these numbers, no business can afford not to have a CRS strategy in place. In its “2017 Volunteerism Survey”, Deloitte discovered that “creating a culture of volunteerism may boost morale, workplace atmosphere and brand perception.”

They further found 77% respondents to “volunteering is essential to employee well-being.” Willis Towers Watson identified 2 in 5 companies customising their wellbeing initiatives to act as a differentiator to attract and retain talent.

It’s been shown over and over again that employees who feel their organisation is inventing in their wellbeing give back to their employer higher productivity and engagement.

Create volunteering opportunities

Supporting employee’s altruistic values, companies can offer volunteering opportunities in different ways: Giving one’s time, energy, skills or talents to a charitable organisation without obviously expecting anything in return.

It’s here when the company’s sincerity for CSR is tested. Businesses donate money for a cause. Yet, when implementing paid-time off volunteering initiatives, the authentic and genuine approach to CSR is shown. It underlines the commitment for specific issues and causes and there are plenty for organisations to choose from, naming just a few:

  • Education, where employees mentor school-aged children, read out to children or adopt a school
  • Environment, where groups plant trees, organise clean up drives
  • Health, where teams participate in a walk or run to raise awareness for diabetes or cancer
  • Social, where teams offer pro-bono services or take part in Ramadan iftar initiatives
  • Skills, where individuals donate their specialised knowledge

Companies can identify possible causes linked to their corporate goals, mission and purpose. Alternatively, local projects may be selected together with employees. Local government authorities can also act as an introducer to approved charities which whom any organisation may wish to partner.

Reap unexpected benefits

While volunteering increases engagement, organisations have seen other (unexpected) benefits, too.

  • 79% of participants in skill-based volunteering found higher job satisfaction and 70% found it having complemented their career development
  • 92% of respondents agree that volunteering is an effective way to improve leadership skills
  • Relationships with co-workers and colleagues are strengthened, organisational silos are broken down
  • 93% of respondents agree volunteering improved their mood, 75% felt healthier and 79% felt less stressed
  • Line managers can recognise those employees who go the extra mile and who contribute to their communities through company-sponsored volunteering or on their own initiative

Can your business afford not creating volunteering opportunities? Contact us today and find out how company-sponsored volunteering opportunities can build an engaged and happy workforce.

How to conduct pre-employment checks

For many organisations, finding talented individuals can be challenging. After reviewing hundreds of CVs and conducting interviews, the recruiter is ready to send out the offer. Stop! Take some time out for the pre-employment checks.

What are background checks?

The hiring team may be impressed by the candidate’s performance during the recruitment process. This, however, is no guarantee for future performance. While assessment centres and ability tests are still most reliable indicators, not every organisation has the resources to conduct them.

In days where candidates do what they can to secure that new role, organisations need to feel confident about selecting the most suitable candidate.

Pre-employment checks can then be used to obtain a more rounded picture of the candidate.

Pre-employment checks may include

  • Reference checks
  • Verification of education
  • Social media checks
  • Police clearance and criminal background checks
  • Medical checks.

Organisations contact previous employers, colleagues or business partners to learn more about their preferred candidate. Reference checks are one way to verify the candidate’s professional past.

Colleges, universities or issuers of professional licences can validate the education stated by the candidate. Hopscotch found 93% of recruiters conducting social media checks as part of the pre-employment checks. For certain roles, police clearing may also be required.

Companies should follow a consistent approach to pre-employment checks which are in proportion to the job to be filled.

What can be asked?

The hiring company can choose to verify solely the candidate’s working history, e.g. the title and dates worked with the previous company. Such checks are generally easily completed. Should the previous employer only allow the confirmation of administrative details (e.g. employment dates), the former manager or colleague may be able to provide a personal reference.

These days, however, fewer organisations allow for behavioural and/or skills references. In such cases, the referee generally answers specific questions asked by the recruiter. These questions often resemble questions asked during the interview, for example:

  • Can you describe their job responsibilities?
  • Did you evaluate their performance?
  • What was their biggest accomplishment while working for your company?
  • What was noted as needing improvement during this performance review?
  • How did they get on with other team members or external customers or suppliers?

What is the legal view?

Unlike in other jurisdictions, there is no clear guidance on the nature of reference checks. In Germany, where written references are provided at the end of the employment, nothing negative may be stated. In the UK, references may not conceal facts from the hiring organisation. The only information French companies can provide is around the individual’s professional skills for their potentially new role. It is probably not surprising that different requirements exist for the different states within the US.

UAE-based employees may, however, request an “end of service certificate” from their employees when leaving the organisation. Art. 125 of the UAE labour law of 1980 requires the certificate to include

  • date of appointment and date of termination
  • total period of service
  • nature of work performed
  • the individual’s last pay plus allowances.

Under UAE law, companies may be reluctant to provide additional information, especially if it could be seen as disclosing confidential or proprietary information. Future employers may have to remove questions in their reference checks document to ensure compliance with local legislation.

Unless the company selects a UAE or GCC national, employees will need to be sponsored. Verification of the candidate’s diploma or degree may be required, if these haven’t been attested by the appropriate authorities already.

As pre-employment checks can be time consuming, hiring companies may seek support from verification companies or social media check software.

How to conduct them?

  1. Companies should disclose at the beginning of the recruitment process that pre-employment checks (including social media checks and other checks) will be performed.
  2. Most companies conduct their pre-employment checks prior to issuing an offer. However, some organisations issue a conditional offer requiring the successful passing of any checks and only conduct them afterwards.
  3. The recruiter should obtain the candidate’s permission to conduct reference checks before contacting the provided referees. If in doubt, these referees may need to be verified (e.g. via LinkedIn) prior to emailing or calling them.
  4. Time may be tight for referees. The referee should be able to answer the set of questions within a reasonable timeframe. It may be easier for the referee and faster for the recruiter to conduct the check over the phone than email.
  5. Each referee will need to be asked the same set of questions. Questions need to evolve around the vacancy and the candidate’s professional abilities and competencies for this role.
  6. To avoid any bias, any social media check should only be performed after the interviews with the candidate.
  7. Police clearance or criminal background checks should also be conducted at the end of the recruitment process and only if the role or other requirements demand it.

How to handle the feedback?

Negative feedback may be taken as a red flag. At the same time, it is only one piece of information and should be weighted against the other data points (e.g. interviews, assessment, other references) when making a final decision.

Noticing inconsistencies with previously submitted information (e.g. differences between the candidate’s CV and the referee’s information), the recruiter should clarify this as soon as possible. It could be a typo or a misunderstanding.

During a phone call, this may only require a few additional questions. Once any miscommunication has been ruled out, the recruiter and the candidate may need to discuss them. If the candidate can’t explain the inconsistencies, an organisation may see it as a warning sign.

Overly positive feedback may be too good to be true. In such cases, the recruiter could ask what the candidate could have done better. As most (all) individuals can still develop themselves further, the referee may not disclose everything if nothing comes to their mind.

Pre-employment checks can provide an independent insight into the preferred candidate. They can improve the chances of selecting an individual fit for the role and organisation. At the same time, companies need to remember that they are no guarantee the hire will be successful. They will still need to invest in the individual’s onboarding and induction.

To learn how you can improve your pre-employment checks, contact us today.