Sage Advice US

How to recover after your best employee quits

When a football team loses its star player due to a season-ending injury, other players need to “step up” so the team can still perform and have a winning season.

Businesses have to deal with similar losses, too. A key employee may leave for several reasons—moving, illness, a new career opportunity, higher education, or they even decided to start their own business.

How do you react? How can you bounce back from losing your best employee?

First, stay calm. You want to project confidence to your employees who are not leaving. Let them know while losing Joe or Jane is a painful blow to the team, life goes on and so will the business. It is time for everyone to move forward and overcome this temporary obstacle.

Minimize the damage. Can the departing employee responsibilities be reallocated? If some of the former employee’s skills are unmatched by your remaining staff, perhaps you can step up to the plate to fill the void or hire a seasoned freelancer with those skills.

Find an internal replacement. No one is truly indispensable. With some training, another loyal employee may be able to backfill the opening on your team—and they may even surprise you with different talents and perspectives that the previous employee didn’t have. If that is not an option, put on your recruiter’s hat and start networking.

Now, take steps to keep this situation from haunting you again:

Find out the real reasons their leaving. Common causes include lack of challenges, limited growth opportunities, micromanagement, dysfunctional culture, or feeling undervalued. You may not like the answer, but at least you can begin correcting a problem that may be festering others.

Identify critical skills that the former employee held and cross-train others to perform these jobs. Cross training helps employees to be more engaged in the business and supportive of your goals.

Start grooming potential “star” replacements. As a business leader, you should never stop looking for ways to hire great talent, cultivate their abilities, and motivate them to stay on your team.

Has your business ever taken a “hit” from a star employees’ departure? Please let us know how you handled the situation by leaving a comment below.