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The Great Resignation: Turning departing employees into lifelong advocates

Fiona Stevenson
In Part 2 of our blog series on the Great Resignation, Energy for Growth Co-Founder Fiona Stevenson explores five actionable ways you can use the news of an employee’s departure to bring energy to your team and organization while creating lifelong advocates out of former employees.

Organizations are dealing with an accelerated rate of turnover in their workplaces, with more people leaving jobs than they have in 20 years.   Although the increased focus on hiring and training resulting from the Great Resignation are very top of mind for most leaders and managers in the current environment, most are likely not giving as much thought to how they will say goodbye to an unprecedented number of departing employees over the next several months.

While you may be able to save some of these employees from leaving – we’ll share some guidance in that area in an upcoming blog post in this series – in other cases, the best course of action for one or both parties may be the employee moving on.  A caring and in-touch manager truly wants the best for their employees as human beings – and there are several scenarios where the best might not be possible for even a highly valued and engaged employee to achieve in their current place of employment.

It’s critical to be as intentional about our approach to employees’ departures as we are to their arrivals. Employees who leave a company on good terms and feel supported in their departure can become lifelong advocates for you and your business.  Seeing a departed employee treated well can also provide a much-needed energy boost for remaining employees – demonstrating the compassion of their leadership and the appreciation of them as human beings.

That said, here are five tips for saying farewell to a departing employee and honouring the time you had the privilege of working together – in a way that brings (vs. depletes) workplace energy – and may even increase the morale of the rest of your workforce:

1. Celebrate their departure

Once an employee has made the decision to leave – however sad or painful it may be, it’s time to wish them well on the next phase of their journey. Make your best effort to shield them from the temporary upheaval that may result from their departure – and really strive to bring positive energy to your last workplace interactions with them.  Letting them know how much they will be missed, asking them questions about their new role, and helping to make their offboarding process as smooth as possible will go a long way.

2. Recognize and show gratitude for their service

It’s important to acknowledge the contributions of your departing employee. Reflect on significant project achievements, personal and professional growth they demonstrated, as well as some of the intangibles they brought to the workplace – and ideally share these with them in front of their fellow employees. Reminding them about the legacy they are leaving behind and the lasting mark they’ve made on the organization as well as their fellow colleagues can be incredibly powerful and will likely be something they remember for many years to come.

3. Give fellow colleagues an opportunity to say goodbye

Too often, employee departures are treated in a secretive fashion and never or not adequately addressed publicly, quickly becoming the elephant in the room in those last few awkward meetings. But, as we know, the departure of cherished employees can be very hard on those left behind and it’s important to respect their need for closure as well.  Create opportunities for colleagues to say goodbye and share memories through events such as team lunch, virtual cocktail hour or dedicated team meeting or collaborative projects such as a collage or video tribute.

4. Give them a thoughtful parting gift

Thoughtful vs. value is key here, as an extravagant gift without meaning may have the opposite of the desired effect. In choosing a gift, think about something that shows an understanding and appreciation for them as a person, their contributions to the business, and/or the new city and/or job they’re headed to. If this is not your strong suit, identify someone or a group of people within your organization who knows the employee well and is skilled in gift giving to take the reins.

5. Stay in touch

Treat departing employees as the newest members of your company’s alumni network. If you haven’t already done so, set up a system for keeping in touch with past employees through a formal or informal network. You may also want to think about holding and funding annual alumni events. With respect to the departing employee, make a note in your calendar to reach out after a few weeks to see how they’re doing. If appropriate, offer to become a mentor for them.

Leaders and managers invest a significant amount of energy in attempting to be recognized as a great place to work among our current employees – but we often fail to put the same amount of thought and effort against ensuring our former employees view us as the best place they’ve ever worked. The impact of our words and actions in the final days of an employee’s tenure may be even more meaningful than the thousands of days that preceded them – so let’s be intentional about making them count!

What has been your approach to departing employees? Which of these 5 tips resonated most with you? Leave us a comment below to share your thoughts. We’d love to continue this conversation! See you in Part 3.



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