How to Handle Staff Departures

Three experts offer advice on how to handle staff departures.

How to Handle Staff Departures | BCBusiness

Three experts offer advice on how to handle staff departures.

Whether they retire, leave to pursue a new opportunity or are let go, the departure of top-level staff means big changes, uncertainty and often stress. How should employers guide their staff through this tumultuous time? We asked three experts: Richard Beed, HR vice-president at Telus; Cissy Pau, principal consultant at Clear HR Consulting; and Catherine Van Alstine, partner at Odgers Berndtson’s Vancouver office.

Be Transparent

Pau points to the importance of keeping your staff in the loop as much as possible when it comes to staffing changes. “The more communication given to employees as soon as possible, the better,” she says, adding that keeping information hidden can result in rumours spreading throughout the organization, leading to confusion and uncertainty among staff. At Telus, Beed follows the same principle, noting that “for us the key is transparency. We inform [staff] and begin engaging in an open dialogue as soon as possible.”

Say It Right

While it may be obvious for a company with 10 employees to call a staff meeting to relay the news of a change in management, for an organization with hundreds of employees and multiple office locations sharing news face-to-face is almost impossible. All three experts agree that the key to delivering big updates is to ensure that those affected directly are told first. This allows the individuals for whom the change will be most significant to ask questions, notes Beed. As for the rest of the staff, “Make sure there’s a well-crafted email that’s ready to go out to everybody at the same time,” says Van Alstine.

Have a Plan

“You have to give staff enough information so they think you are in control,” Van Alstine says, otherwise you run the risk of looking unprepared, which could make staff doubt your ability to make long-term decisions. According to Beed, preparation is also key at Telus: “We try to equip our managers with as much information as possible. We want to ensure they are confident to articulate the change and answer the team’s questions.”

Be Positive

The worst thing you can do is to leave your staff members wondering if their own job is in jeopardy. If the management change is an isolated incident, then “staff need to know this isn’t an ongoing thing – that it isn’t some restructuring – and they don’t have to walk on eggshells thinking that the next day the axe is going to fall on them,” Pau emphasizes. Val Alstine also points to the importance of casting the change in a positive light. “Explain it in positive terms: ‘So-and-so is gone, we have someone coming in and here’s why they’re going to be wonderful.