Losing a key employee is never fun and made worse when they leave things undone and don’t cross the finish line. We decided to learn from a recent dust-up and wanted to share our experiences in the hopes we might save another business a few headaches.
One of our project managers handed in his two-week notice on December 15, and then informed us that his second week would be considered vacation time. Needless to say, I felt punched in the gut and tried my best to appeal to his sense of decency and reason. Clearly putting in two weeks’ notice around Christmas is stressful; never mind the stress of really only being around for one week to transition. Ironically, his resignation letter alluded to his desire to transition his role as smoothly as possible. He’d been a good employee, so this behavior came as a big surprise to us.
Our last leadership team meeting focused on lessons learned and how we could minimize the possibility of the same thing happening again. Three key changes came out of the meeting, which we hope will stand is in good stead down the road:
1) Any “key” position will now require four weeks’ notice instead of two.
2) Any “key” job descriptions will now be identified as such on the paperwork to emphasize the importance of smooth transitions.
3) Failure to put in enough notice will result in the following:
a. Loss of paid time off (PTO)
b. Designation for any job reference checks as “not re-hireable”
c. Loss of any other company benefits accrued as allowed by law.
I’ve learned over the years that people are going to behave according to their incentives. Hopefully the introduction of this “stick” portion of our employee handbook will deter anyone inclined toward this kind of behavior. Nothing’s a silver bullet, but failing to learn from our experiences and mistakes destines us to repeat them.
I also sought to learn why he left. He transitioned to another industry, so it wasn’t a competitor-poaching scenario. After much cross-examination, I finally pulled it out of him that he’d been unhappy about a few parts of his job but never communicated directly about them. It’s hard to be a mind reader, but we did make a note about his personality type (we use the DISC profile in hiring) so that any future similar personality profiles could be screened for inability to directly communicate.
Thankfully we have three strong candidates identified and will be making a job offer this week. This hire is the result of prior experiences where we brought in someone too quickly. Now we strive to hire slowly and fire quickly. We live, and we learn.
Stay frosty and see you in the field.