It’s a fact that losing good employees is a major pain point for business owners. Not only is it hard (and expensive) to replace a quality employee, but replacing institutional knowledge, relationships, and experience takes a lot of time. But this doesn’t mean employers should avoid thinking about or preparing for the eventual departure of an employee. In fact, employee alumni networks and strong networking communities comprised of ex-employees may make the next step of hiring much, much easier.
While onboarding programs are all the rage among HR professionals and business leaders, it’s sadly common for employees to leave a company in a very different manner. New employees are greeted with training, communication, and team engagement, but an employee leaving a company may be met with an exit interview, a pat on the back, or in some cases, outright hostility, resentment, scrambling and confusion on behalf of their managers.
But this doesn’t make sense for both the business and the departing employee. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average job retention rate in the United States consistently hovers at around four years. In fact, business professionals have been noted to advise against staying in a job for too long to avoid damaging your career. So why do exiting employees so often get ignored or treated poorly?
The short answer? A lack of foresight. Previous employees can have a dramatic impact on a business even after they leave. They may come back in the form of clients, business referrals, vendors, brand ambassadors, and boomerang employees. The fact of the matter is that employees are almost never going to stay with your company for their entire career, so it makes sense for organizations to prepare—well in advance—for their eventual departure and subsequent post-departure impact on the business.
But how do you nurture relationships with previous employees?
Corporate alumni programs
These programs are popular among corporate industries, including legal, consulting, and financial services. They are designed to create a network for former employees to stay connected with their old colleagues and organizations, providing a space for them to continue growing and nurturing their relationships long-term.
According to a report by Conenza Inc. in conjunction with Cornell University, there are four main motivations people have for joining alumni programs:
With that in mind, it seems like a major loss for organizations to miss out on staying connected with people driven by these traits. After all, they all point to growth-driven mindsets that positively impact both the alumni and the organization.
If you’re a smaller business or simply not a fit for an alumni program, there’s plenty you can do to maintain mutually beneficial relationships with employees after they’ve left your organization. The basics of offboarding aren't complicated—it’s simply a step-by-step process that allows for clear communication and preparation as an employee arranges to depart, ensuring the employee and the organization have everything they need before the final day. Here are some simple steps you can take to help the process along:
- Begin preparing for their eventual departure long before you expect them to leave by creating an offboarding program that matches your organization's values, mission, and culture. You want employees to have a cohesive experience throughout their entire lifecycle. This will help you manage expectations and maintain trust even as an employee begins the exit process.
- Create an ongoing dialog around career development that starts the moment an employee enters your ranks. Make it clear that while you hope employees will stay forever, you understand most employees change jobs every handful of years and you’ve created opportunities and resources for them to develop within your organization and stay connected with you after they leave.
Offboarding programs will help leaders not to go into chaotic damage control by creating a clear process for each step of the departure. It allows organizations to say, “We’ve prepared for this and made it simple and easy, so we can all continue on without anxiety.” It allows the employee to leave in a measured, calm way, and the organization to be prepared to handle their leaving without confusion or missed steps that would end up frustrating both the organization and the departing employee.
A mutual investment
For both individuals and organizations alike, the relationships developed, both externally and internally, are the foundation of success. They drive investment, engagement, reputation, and networking power. It’s simply common sense to get the best value out of the most intimate of these relationships—with your employees themselves. Remember, how you treat your employees—both current and past—has a determining effect on your reputation within your industry. Handle these relationships with intentionality and care, and reap the benefits of a robust, engaged, and long-lasting network.
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