Any small business that employs people other than the owners will be faced with the issue of what to do when one of your team members decides to move on.

Blog: how to manage employee departures in a small business

Unfortunately, it really doesn’t matter if you are the world’s greatest employer or the team member is extremely loyal and engaged.  Inevitably life’s nuances will dictate that a change in circumstances necessitates that your team member pursues a different course.

Given the inevitability, it is essential that you address the effect any departure will have on your business and plan accordingly.  Here are a few thoughts.

  •  Operational Impacts - Unless the departing employee was totally redundant, you need to address capacity problems.  Do you really need to recruit or can you just reallocate duties to absorb existing spare capacity? 

Typically, we automatically look to replace but taking the time to consider whether that is necessary will be worthwhile.  Investing in technology may be an alternative and internal promotion may mean that any replacement has different skill sets more suited to the current needs of the business.

Of course, having well established systems for new team members to follow will help them become productive quicker (and that is always a good outcome for everyone).

  • Confidentiality issues - Usually, the departing team member will have had access to at least some of your business’s intellectual property.  Your processes, customer and supplier lists etc may be important assets of your business and need to be protected.

Trying to do that at the point of departure is rarely going to be effective - this needs to be addressed at the start of the employment relationship.  Cases where the terms of these important relationships are not documented properly always surprise me.  Problems can occur during or at the conclusion of the relationship and agreeing, in writing, before we encounter problems is a wise strategy.

Where the departing employee has had contact with customers or suppliers, the effect on these relationships also needs to be managed.  Being proactive (whatever that means in the context of your business) is necessary to ensure a smooth transition.

  • Effect on other team members - Apart from the possible increase in workload or responsibility, the departure of an employee will have an impact on the rest of the team.  While your team probably doesn’t live for work, workplace interactions are a part of life.

While the loss of those interactions is unlikely to be a major issue, being aware of any effect on the team will help ease any concerns.

The loss of a key team member can have a significant impact on your small business.  Taking the time to identify these impacts and having a contingency plan to minimise the negative impacts will help the transition process.  Ignoring the possibility and hoping it doesn’t happen is not a sound strategy.