How you treat departing employees says a lot about your own values. It also impacts your employer brand.
Over the last several weeks I have had the privilege of personally career coaching literally dozens of people who have been provided outplacement by their employers. I'd like to share two contrasting cases how employers treated their departing employees.
I think it’s instructive for the protection of your employer brand and reputation - the two examples are told from the perspective of the employee whose departure has been imposed upon them.
1. Redeployment and encouraged to look elsewhere.
'Janelle' is clearly bright. She graduated towards the top of her year. Janelle’s current employer is a well-known brand, renowned for recruiting the best and brightest graduates from a prestigious degree. In the last year, it has become apparent that Janelle does not have a career with her employer.
Rather than quickly terminate Janelle, she and her manager openly discussed her performance. Instead of discarding Janelle and potentially damaging her fledgling career and confidence, she and her manager collaborated – creating several scenarios – one of which was to allow Janelle the opportunity to be seconded/subcontracted to a client for 12 months.
By doing so, Janelle could gain further experience – have a window of 12 months to look for a new employer or career change and feel confident she was being looked after by her employer. (The employer came up with an arrangement where her package would be met largely by them.)
What’s the learning here?
Janelle was treated with dignity. While the situation was not easy, communication was open and collaborative. The employee was performance managed and a solution that honoured the employee was put in place. While Janelle’s feeling was hurt by the news she had no ongoing career with her employer, she was involved in the decision to be seconded for 12 months. Her feelings at our familiarisation meeting were positive towards her employer and she was able to work towards a plan without bitterness and resentment. The likelihood of her damaging her employer’s brand on sites like Glassdoor and social media remain small.
Until recently, ‘Albert’ was a senior manager with a market leading brand in a competitive industry. While Albert felt he was performing well in his job, he was nonetheless requested to meet his HR Business Partner and the Divisional COO late one afternoon. Albert was told of no agenda. Albert entered the meeting with trepidation and suspicion, especially upon seeing the 2 executives seated in the room. He was told that due to restructure, he was no longer required by his employer and his role was redundant. Albert was sceptical about this. In the context of the shock of the news and some emotional and heated debate, Albert was asked to pack his belongings and leave the premises forthwith. 3 days after the event Albert, still in shock and very bitter, met with me and shared his perspective.
What’s the learning here?
While we congratulate the employer for providing outplacement to a departing employee, the announcement of the redundancy and its process has resulted in an employee who has departed full of anger, bitterness, emotion, and pain.
Unlike the scenario above, there was no collaboration. Instead, Albert had the decision imposed on him. Albert mentioned to me that the discussions with HR and the COO were met with no room to move and gaps in management’s reasoning. He left his employer late that evening, slinking out with his belongings in his boxes, no closure with colleague or clients, and as an emotional wreck.
While we counselled him do otherwise, his bitterness suggests he is at risk of causing reputational damage to his former employer online and via social media. Furthermore, unless he really moves on emotionally, Albert is likely to project this at interview, making it hard for him to be seen as a credible candidate for a new job.
So here are 2 contrasting approaches to the same end result – namely the departure of the employee.
Questions to consider:
- What values do you express when you are letting people go?
- What can you do better to mitigate the emotional damage a departure has on a departing staff member?
- How can you deliver the same message and at the same time ensure the dignity of the departing employee is upheld?
- What impact do your actions have on the employees who remain?
- What can you do overall to reduce the risks of damage to your employer brand and reputation?