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If your star employee leaves, be very careful

Christian Fernsby |
Movement of talented employees across firms is inevitable, but if you’re in a leadership role, there are things you can do when a star employee leaves.

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Perhaps the most important thing you can do when someone leaves is to listen — carefully, Art Markman writes for HBR.

Start by conducting an exit interview with the person departing to find out what factors led to their decision.

Probe a little to understand any concerns — even if someone is leaving to take on a great opportunity at another firm, there may still be some dissatisfaction lurking in the wings that’s leading other people on the team to cast a wandering eye at other jobs.

Then, take the pulse of the rest of your team.

Meet with team members individually and talk to them about how they’re doing.

Ask how they think the departure of their colleague will affect morale.

If you picked up concerns from the exit interview, weave them into the discussions to find out if those concerns are widespread.

Just the act of talking with people can reassure them that you care about how well the team is functioning.

Many organizations run regular engagement and trust surveys.

If yours is one of them, consider doing a brief survey of the whole group to find out how they’re feeling about the organization and leadership.

These “pulse” surveys can help you get a sense of your employees’ reactions to positive or negative milestones within the organization or even external issues that have gained societal prominence.

If these conversations and surveys do uncover significant concerns among team members, it’s important to engage them directly.

Start by explicitly acknowledging the concerns so that employees recognize that you’re aware of the problem.

Then, be transparent in your attempts to address the issues people have raised.

Gathering information from employees will only increase long-term trust if they sense that you’re actually working to use that information constructively.

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