employee leaving

How to handle a key employee leaving

Shock, disappointment and disbelieve are just some of the emotions that rise up when one of your key team members tells you that they’re moving on. But before you start tearing your hair out at the idea of your employee leaving, remember that every cloud has a silver lining.

Unfortunately, once someone’s made their mind up to leave there’s very little that you can do to get them to change their minds. However, if you handle things properly, not only will your employee leave with warm and fuzzy feelings for your business, but you’ll have a far better understanding of how to stop history repeating itself with your next employee.

Let me explain…

Right now, your employee has already laid their cards on the table by handing in their letter of resignation. That means that they’ve got nothing to lose by telling you the real reasons for them wanting to move on to pastures new. Very few employees want to jeopardise their positions by being open and honest to what they see are problems within the business or within teams and generally tend to keep their opinions to themselves.

But now that the employee is leaving, they feel far more confident in opening up to you and can give you some real insights that you might now be aware of. Of course, how you approach this is important, and by taking it personally and acting unprofessionally your employee won’t tell you a thing.
So to approach the subject properly, remain calm and ask the following questions:

Did your role match your expectations?
This questions great if you want to find out how your job description stacked up against the actual realities of the role. It’s a possibility that the position was too demanding, not as described or didn’t match the expectations of the employee.

Although disappointing, if this is the case it will give you the heads-up that you need to revisit the job spec and description when you’re trying to source a new candidate for the role.
If everything was as advertised, then there’s another reason behind your employee moving on.

Did the job match up with your personal goals and interests?
In some cases, it’s nothing to do with the job or company that gives employees itchy feet. It’s just a case that they want to try something new or focus more on the dream of starting up on their own.

But if you’re falling short on providing good professional development opportunities for your staff, then surely you’d want to know about it. 37% of employees leave as they feel that other organsations have far more to offer in the way of career growth and development, so listen to see if this reason keep cropping up as it might be time to overhaul what you’re currently providing to your existing employees.

Did you have all of the tools and support you needed to do your job properly?
Staff will only struggle along without the appropriate support and tools for so long until the inevitable happens and they leave. If there is a need to invest in more resources then you need to know about it before the rest of your team jump ship.

This information will tell you if everything is going to plan, or if you need to allocate some of your future budget to new systems or team members to keep your employees happy and business wheels turning.

Would you recommend this as a good place to work?
If the answer to this is yes, then it gives you hope that your employee will be a good advocate for your business and possibly refer potential candidates in the future.

If there’s an issue and the answer is no, then there could be several reasons for this. However don’t start making promises that you can’t keep to fix things just to hang on to your staff as this could leave a sour taste if you don’t deliver and they miss out on another opportunity after taking you at your word.

Staff leave, it’s just part and parcel of the wonderful world of work, but how you handle it can make all the difference between a disgruntled ex-employee or a wealth of information that you can use to ensure that the same problems don’t keep reoccurring.

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Emma Bonfiglio

About the author, Emma Bonfiglio

Managing Director at Appointments, Emma has spent 15 years building up a stellar reputation for commercial recruitment excellence across a variety of industries and sectors. There’s no staffing challenge Emma hasn’t encountered and her insight into the recruitment landscape has assisted countless clients achieve their goals over the years.


Specialising in the legislative and procedural side of business operations and through her extensive knowledge and continual training, Emma has a wealth of legal and contractual recruitment knowledge to help advise and support organisations of any size and in any industry.