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.

35 knowledge sharing ideas to move your business to the next level

In the past, knowledge sharing appeared to be a primary concern when an employee was serving their notice. These days, it’s been recognised that knowledge sharing is vital all year around. It can’t be a priority only when an employee handed in their resignation. Just how do you create a knowledge sharing culture in your organisation today?

What is knowledge sharing?

Knowledge sharing needs to move beyond the mandated and formal way of exchanging information amongst teams or individuals. For too long, knowledge has been viewed as power and subsequently been without from colleagues. Holding back of information may not have been based on malicious intentions. The employee may consider the information as confidential or may not even know that others don’t have the same access to information.

Organisations are thus facing the challenging of making knowledge sharing an integral “process of transferring or disseminating knowledge from one person to another person or group.”

Over 20 years ago, Davenport and Prusak already highlighted the route to creating a knowledge sharing culture in their book “Working Knowledge: How Organizations Manage what They Know”: “The short answer, and the best one, is: hire smart people and let them talk to one another. Unfortunately, the second part of this advice is the more difficult to put into practice.”

Create a learning and knowledge sharing mindset

Organisations can start today and build the right environment for a learning mindset. Employees need room to speak up, experiment with their ideas and develop thoughts and concepts further. Companies in return can listen more to the feedback their employees are sharing with them. Employees often know (best) where a process has a bottle neck or how to enhance the company’s products and services. Listening to these suggestions recognises the voice their employees have, encouraging them to speak up and share more in the future.

Companies can encourage employees to share their insights and knowledge on 3 levels:

  1. Individual
  2. Team
  3. Organisation

While many knowledge sharing activities take place face-to-face, there are plenty of opportunities for subject matter experts to utilise technology and share across borders. Interactive sessions, for example games, create excitement around learning and knowledge sharing, which then can foster collaboration, improve communication amongst team members and strengthen the actual team.

It can be debated whether organisations should incentivise knowledge sharing. Providing financial rewards may set the wrong message. It’s feared that employees may withhold information on purpose and only release it against a “ransom”. This sounds counter-intuitive to working together as one team.

In contrast, other companies make knowledge sharing part of the job. Such companies recognise and reward the behaviours that support a knowledge-focused culture on an individual or team level as part of their continuous performance process. In addition, these companies evaluate the quality of the contributions made by the individual or team. For them, it’s not just about sharing data but also the value of the information shared.

35 ideas for knowledge sharing activities

Many may be surprised to read about the numerous ways knowledge can be shared. Like individuals having a preferred learning style, some knowledge sharing activities may be more appropriate depending on the objective.

Ideas for knowledge sharing activities include:

  1. Onboarding/induction training
  2. Case studies
  3. Company library
  4. Cross-functional discussions
  5. Team meetings
  6. Department meetings
  7. Townhalls
  8. Lunch and learn sessions
  9. Job shadowing
  10. Job rotation
  11. Process descriptions
  12. Process maps
  13. Games
  14. Interviews
  15. Task force
  16. Project close out reports and lessons learnt
  17. Coaching
  18. Community spotlights
  19. Innovation zones/labs
  20. Knowledge sharing events
  21. Online forums
  22. Newsletters
  23. Technical blogs
  24. Webinars
  25. Conferences
  26. Subject matter expert lectures
  27. Six Sigma councils
  28. Video demonstrations
  29. Brainstorming
  30. Master classes
  31. Workshops
  32. Benchmarking
  33. Communities of practice/interest
  34. How to guides
  35. Knowledge repository

Reap the benefits

Organisations focused on collaboration have realised the importance of open communication and regard it as essential to continuously enhancing their own processes, products and services. They invest and train employees on how to best share knowledge. After all, they’ll be looking for quality contributions.

With 49% of employees in the UK being mismatch to their current job. Sadly, they don’t feel supported by their company to obtain the appropriate skills.

Knowledge sharing increases the capability within a team and, as such, can bridge the current disparities between job and incumbent. More importantly, when knowledge sharing becomes an integral part of an organisation’s learning and development strategy, companies are 58% more likely to build the skills to meet future demand.

This should be appealing to every business, in particular small companies. Employees wear multiple hats in start ups and smaller companies on a regular basis. Pro-active knowledge sharing reduces dependencies on one person. Even in medium-sized organisations or large corporations, the number of key individuals with no backup can be trimmed down. There are no excuses for allowing key person dependency risks.

Employees can experience the benefits and synergies of knowledge sharing almost immediately. The more they put in, the more they get out. Once the dialogue is started, employees recognise how their knowledge about internal procedures, products or industry developments increases. This, in return, leads to new ideas and ways of working. As Josh Bershin found, it may result in 37% greater employee productivity and 26% greater ability to deliver “quality products”.

More importantly, knowledge sharing has shown to have a positive effect on employment engagement. Gallup found only 14% of employees engaged in the MENA region. In comparison, the US and Canada have with 31% the highest engagement scores worldwide. Employees who can share their insights and help their colleagues feel more motivated and contribute more to the organisation. As knowledge sharing isn’t restricted to the company limits, individuals may take it to external platforms or industry events, contributing to a higher level. Not only can the company gain more presence, the individual also benefits from increased exposure.

Knowledge sharing becomes the competitive advantage for organisations.

Are your staff talking to each other? If they left tomorrow, how would your business operations continue? Contact us today and learn how we can help you capture your staff’s expertise before they walk out of the door – with it!

Preparing your team for now and the future

Do your employees have what it takes to succeed?

All too often business leaders are complaining about complex processes in their organisation. Their employees aren’t achieving as much or as fast as expected. The quality of work needs to be improved. Time is wasted as employees don’t know how to fully use the latest tools. Business results are lacking behind. Does this sound familiar?

No company can afford such inefficiencies. When was the last time you reviewed your approaches towards employee training and learning? Make it a priority and benefit from more engaged and more productive employees, increasing your revenue and overall market position.

While organisations need to prepare their employees for future demands, current skills also need to be established and enhanced. For some businesses, this becomes a fine balancing act. How do you invest in staff when employee turnover is so high?

Companies have different options to train employees:

  • Internal formal training. Set up by the subject matter expert in the field, they are sharing their skills and knowledge in a structured training on a one-to-one or a classroom like basis.
  • Internal job shadowing. This is more informal and allows the employee to follow (shadow) a colleague when handling a specific task. The employee first observes and can than apply their newly acquired skills first hand.
  • Internal development projects. These provide the employee with exposure to new skills and potentially other/new departments and stakeholders. They can accelerate the skills development and prepare high potential employees for their next role.
  • Internal coaching. A more experienced colleague in the field or a manager (not the line manager) shares their knowledge and provides guidance to the employee. It’s supportive and allows the employee to explore their concerns and motives with the coach. Coaching is one element of building a high-performance workforce.
  • External formal training. Various training providers offer structured courses for participants from different companies in a classroom like environment. Depending on the topic, these training courses may last 1-5 days and may have different levels to increase the participants’ knowledge (e.g. beginner, intermediate and advanced).
  • Self-learning options. The employee is put in charge of their own learning, whether through online modules, evening/weekend classes or internal sessions with their team. While larger organisations may have their own learning portals or corporate universities, smaller companies can benefits from training courses offered by Udemy, edX or LinkedIn. The plethora of courses available may overwhelm an employee and together with the line manager, the appropriate course needs to be selected.

Employees who have received training for their current role are shown more engaged at work. They are also happier and more committed to their work. As these employees see the company investing in them, loyalty towards the organisation increases and so does the likelihood to stay with the organisation.

The company can benefit from the investment in different ways. Numerous studies have found that more engaged employees are also performing at higher levels and are producing higher quality of work. They are more alert at work, reducing the number of absenteeism and reducing the number of work-related accidents.

The overall productivity increases which leads to higher sales turnover for the company. Even in a testing economic climate, organisation that invest in their employees are more stable and notice the challenges to a lesser degree.

Set the employee up for success

To achieve the performance goals set at the beginning of the month or year, an employee needs to be enabled to succeed. This fundamental requirement is unfortunately sometimes ignored when tools, systems or access rights aren’t provided to the employee. Any training given to the employee would then become meaningless. As an organisation, start with the basics and ensure your employees have been given the appropriate tools of the trade today.

Identify the gaps

With leaders giving more immediate and on-the-spot feedback, knowledge gaps can be discovered, often in a straight-forward way.

What needs to be trained? Does the employee have an expiring skill that needs to be updated? Think about skills that are no longer required (much). This could be a manual way of sorting a product on a production belt while the process is moving towards automation. It could also be the employee knowing Linux and in need of learning learn Java, which the current programming language used by the organisation.

And why? 1) Did the employee not know because they hadn’t been informed about the appropriate execution and/or behaviour? 2) Or did they not perform the task/demonstrate the behaviour because they didn’t want to? 3) Or does the employee want to learn more?

Decide on the appropriate training

Not knowing how to perform a task or which behaviour to display can make training easier. It’s often down to communication where guidance can be a good start. Line managers may already have an idea which type of training is suitable for their employee. This may be formal training by a colleague, within an external training setting or self-directed learning, as outlined above. If in doubt, HR has to support the line manager and the employee identifying the appropriate training or training mix. Whatever is given needs to be remembered and can’t just become some time away from the office.

Not wanting to perform the task according the required procedure or not acting within the company’s guidelines is more challenging and may be a performance management issue. Here, conversations and coaching discovering the underlying reasons for ignoring the organisation’s standards are required. The direct line manager should start such discussions before involving senior management and HR. They also need to support the company’s policies and guidelines by publicly demonstrating them living and adherence to them. Otherwise, changing behaviour becomes meaningless.

Involve the employee

Employees are often said to fall into the entitlement trap. “I will only participate in a training session when offered by my company.” This mentality has to be stopped! These days, organisations are placing the emphasis on career development and training on their employees: “My career, my drive” or “Be More” are just two examples.

Training opportunities can be combined with career development discussions and questions may also be asked around personal goals of an employee. It’s important to honestly discuss these objectives as they’ll form the basis for any training and development plan created for the employee. Line managers have to set realistic expectations. In times where budgets are often limited, an executive MBA may not be (fully) sponsored by the organisation, however, study leave may be granted or the organisation may be used as a case study. Often, post-graduate studies are looking at real business challenges and the organisation benefits from innovative solutions to fix an existing challenge.

A skills inventory helps organisations to track the available knowledge within the company. At first, the core skills may only be tracked and other skills can be added in phases. Alternatively and as part of a bigger project, all skills can be identified in one step and the different knowledge levels (e.g. non-existent, beginner, intermediate, advanced, expert) can be assigned to each employee.

Organisations use the inventory to identify the training needs for day-to-day operations on a short-term basis. The inventory can be used for project assignments and substitutes, for example, in case of unexpected long-term illnesses.

Define future skills

Besides looking at the immediate skills needs, companies should consider the emerging skills in the market place and the shifts in customer demands.

Customers and clients provide feedback and by listening to them, companies can predict future products/services needs. They can also predict the necessary skills sets to develop the future products/services. Industry groups and business leaders can also offer valuable insights into future demands.

During the regular business review meetings, senior management can also discuss the need to change existing processes, prepare for future automation and re-evaluate ways of working. While some may be quickly adjusted, others may require project teams to define an enhanced outcome. Such teams can provide additional input into skills requirement in the near future.

Line managers and HR have to collaborate to identify the appropriate training for each employee. The employee’s motivation for short, medium and long-term training has to be factored in. This is where line managers can bridge organisational requirements with individual goals.

While some skills sets are to be acquired over longer periods, certain industries are rapidly changing and require more agile learning opportunities. Short and mid-term requirements also need to be considered and can be integrated into the monthly and annual performance goals.

Reap the benefits

Companies which provide strategic training opportunities also connect learning with their internal succession planning. Traditionally, skills inventories were reserved for only larger corporations. These days, smaller companies that pro-actively review the internal knowledge can limit the disruption caused by the departure of a key employee.

Furthermore, training and skills inventories can support internal recruitment across functions. Companies can identify and select suitable candidates, without having to create “fake” advertisements. This saves line managers and HR time and avoids disappointment amongst employees, not qualified for the role. This approach will need to be reflected in the HR policies, rather than an “all vacancies must be published” one. For smaller organisations, this can also serve as a retention tool since employees are given exposure to other areas without the bureaucracy often experienced in large corporations.

Don’t forget to show the benefits of training to your staff. It leaves them inspired to participate when they see how their work processes become quicker and smoother after a training. It brings them closer to the achieving their annual performance goals and, if linked, any personal goals. It underlines commitment of the organisation to the employees’ career development, resulting in higher engagement and loyalty from the individual. This will support the change in mentality discussed above. Rather than placing the ownership of training on the company, the employee has to play an active part, too.

Is your organisation ready to benefit from more engaged and productive employees? We support organisations looking for individualised training solutions fit for their business now and in the future. Contact us and find out how we can support your company.