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Exit strategy

Plan for employee departures so you’re not left shorthanded

With job hopping now standard operating procedure for employees at all levels, it’s surprising fewer than 10 percent of small businesses have an exit or succession plan in place for staff, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses.


Exit or succession planning traditionally focused only on mission-critical positions. But considering the average worker now changes jobs every four years — or half that if they’re Millennials — it has become more important than ever for employers to prepare for sudden exits and plan for succession at all levels of their business. “Not planning leaves a company exposed to a lack of knowledge transfer,” says Izzie Egan, CEO of Blankslate Partners, a Vancouver-based outsourced, on-demand human resources company. “It takes up to six months to get a new employee functioning proficiently but you can negate that with succession planning.”

Planning for succession and retention

Engaging in succession planning well before employees give notice gives you the opportunity to retain knowledge, even when employees leave. But ironically, planning for departures can actually boost retention. That’s because grooming employees for future opportunities lets them know they’re valuable and that they have a bright future with your credit union. “Millennials are not in it for the job they’re interviewing for today. They’re looking for the job they want tomorrow,” Egan says. “Succession planning gives them that window into their potential future. If there’s no succession plan, they’ll move on. Credit unions are perceived as a stable environment and they attract employees with the understanding that it’s a long-term opportunity.”

Succession planning also helps to secure the knowledge and skills investment credit unions make in their staff, whether they stay or go. Egan suggests getting it all down on paper. “You need to understand what everyone in your company is doing,” she says. “Create an operations handbook for each role and have a check-in every six months as the company evolves,” she adds. “Get them to walk you through an average day, including all the things they do that they don’t think are important.”


When employees leave unexpectedly

If exit planning hasn’t taken place before an employee gives notice, don’t panic, says Egan. You can still spring into action to get the info you need to manage the workload while you fill the position. “Work with the employee to get as much info as you can,” she says. “Don’t let emotions get in the way of knowledge transfer. People get hurt and often take the resignation personally but you need to separate yourself from the situation. The employee is probably feeling a little guilty for having gone on interviews, so address that. Let them know you want to work together to make the transition go smoothly.”

Best practice dictates that employees give a minimum of two weeks’ notice when they intend to leave their position, even though it isn’t legally required in all provinces. But two weeks doesn’t give employers much time to recruit, hire and train new employees, particularly at senior levels. “Most companies expect employees to honour the contractual agreement they have,” says Egan. “That usually means two weeks’ notice for positions below director level and one month notice for director and executive level.”

Egan says there’s nothing to stop an employer from asking an employee to stay a little longer to finish a project or increase the handover time. And if that’s not possible, you can always bring in a contractor to help keep the wheels on the bus, she says. “There are options.” ◊