All Articles Leadership Management 14 valuable lessons any business can learn after an employee exit

14 valuable lessons any business can learn after an employee exit

Advice from startups on dealing with an employee exit.

6 min read



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Q: What is the most valuable lesson you learned from an employee’s departure?

1. Get your processes in place

Employees will come and go — it’s the nature of any business. The most valuable lesson I’ve learned is to ensure that your processes (standard operating procedures) are documented, up to date and easy to access. Focusing on processes not only reduces training time for new employees, it also reduces interruptions to the operations of your business. — Karlo Tanjuakio,

2. Don’t take it personally

Unless you’ve done something to make an employee leave, there is no reason to take a departure personally. I realized this early on, when one of my first employees decided to leave after working with us for four years. It served as a great reminder that my business may be my be-all and end-all, but my employees have their own interests at heart. — Derek Robinson, Top Notch Dezigns

3. Stay checked in

When a key employee left a few months ago, not only were we caught off guard, I realized how much trust I put into her independent work habits, only to be disappointed by the lack of progress in some areas. I didn’t want to micromanage — and near the end, she was definitely checked out. Had I stayed checked in with progress reports, I wouldn’t have the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” of regret! — Jen Brown, The Engaging Educator

4. Have contingencies in place

My most valuable lesson came from a temporary departure (also known as a “vacation”) early in my career. Scrambling to make sure everyone had the right passwords, invites, contacts, etc., really highlighted how important it was to have contingencies for departures that might not have been planned months in advance — and we now have documented processes and redundancies for everything. — Sam Saxton, Paragon Stairs

5. Understand the role of accountability

I learned the difference between what a business is accountable for providing their employees vs. what employees are accountable for providing their business. What I mean by that is I’m accountable for providing training, resources, opportunity, income, and a workplace that fosters growth, but the employee is accountable for putting the effort in. — Michael Mogill, Crisp Video Group

6. Have a learning culture

The most valuable lesson that I’ve learned is not to take good employees for granted and to continue to challenge them. People will get bored if they are simply doing the same thing over and over again. One simple way to encourage a learning culture is by giving the team free access to online training courses. — Jared Atchison, WPForms

7. Understand that growth brings change

Understanding that as your company grows, your team grows. Some of those team members want to be a part of that growth, others won’t have the talent to stick with the growth, and a few will want to branch out and grow on their own somewhere else or independently. Regardless of which category a departing employee falls under, you have to accept it. — Daniel Griggs, ATX Web Designs, LLC

8. Expect the unexpected

Sometimes you are going to have team members that are incredible, but at the end of the day, they may have different goals. And that’s OK. I have lost some team members I thought I’d be with forever because they had different passions. They were incredible to me and gave me their best, but then eventually wanted to change it up. And that’s OK. Be prepared for the unexpected. — Ben Landis, Fanbase

9. Don’t rely too heavily on one person

After a few cases where team members left our organization, I noticed that our productivity took a hit for the next week or so as we scrambled to fill the gap they left behind. What I’ve since learned to avoid this issue is to not rely too heavily on one individual. Instead, I try and set up my company structure where at least two people have the same responsibilities. — Bryce Welker, CPA Exam Guy

10. Learn how to improve

I think the most important thing to learn from the exit interview is if there was anything better to improve their experience and culture at the firm and what the reasons for leaving are. This is the opportunity for someone to be brutally honest, so ask the tough questions, put them on the hot seat, and try to expunge the last piece of value you can get from them. — Vincenzo Villamena, Online Taxman, Global Expat Advisors

11. Always end on a good note

Most employee departures end on a bad note, and in the business world, that doesn’t exactly serve anyone. You never know how a person can be impacted to help out when you may need, even after their departure. Always end on a good note and create a win-win no matter how successful your startup is because at the end of the day, you want to ensure that your culture has impacted the person in a good way. — Sweta Patel, Silicon Valley Startup Marketing

12. Think about who is left

Exit interviews give us an idea about issues that former employees may have had in the workplace, and it’s important to look into these things. Current employees may be experiencing similar problems, so if we can address these concerns, we may be able to reduce the possibility of additional employees leaving. — Diego Orjuela, Cables & Sensors

13. Make transparency central in recruiting

I have found that when employees leave it is usually because they were never the right fit to begin with. The main lesson I have learned is that it is incredibly important to be as transparent as possible throughout the recruiting process to all candidates, so the ones who are given offers and accept are more likely to actually be right for your company and for the role they are interviewing for. — Adam Mendler, Beverly Hills Chairs

14. Be patient

When a team member departs, regardless of circumstance, patience and acceptance are crucial. Be patient that the proper replacement will be found, and accept that the new member will have different ways of working. The same position can never be filled in exactly the same way, so value what elements the past member brought to the team, and welcome the potential of a new set of skills. — Matthew Capala, Alphametic