Great culture. We all want it and its many positive side effects. But even great culture isn’t all sunshine and roses.
The only thing we value as much as our award-winning HR software is our company culture. And we guard that culture vigilantly. Because we’ve learned just how wonderful it can be to work in a thriving culture, we want to preserve and celebrate it. But over time, we’ve discovered a surprising challenge that comes with great culture: employee departures can feel like a divorce.
Not to be flippant about something that can be genuinely as traumatizing in real life as divorce, but in many ways, the comparison fits. The reason for this is simple. If your culture is built on principles like trust, teamwork, and respect (to name a few), you’re going to build lasting relationships with your coworkers. So, naturally, putting an end to those work relationships can be very difficult.
The good news
The good news, overall, is that this is a positive sign. To quote Tennyson, “’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” As hard as it to say goodbye to fellow pandas, we would take that over being relieved, or even happy, when somebody leaves the company. And I’m confident most people would agree.
So, if you can relate, hold your head up high. Turnover is inevitable—and will happen more and more as millennials make up more of the workforce—but that doesn’t mean you have to feel stuck on a path doomed for consistent divorce-like trauma. There are actions you can take to lessen the trauma of turnover. Here are three:
Social network groups. One easy way to stay connected to former employees—and there are a number of reasons to stay connected to former employees—is to start a social network group with them. Facebook is an obvious choice, but there are multiple other platforms to choose from (we use Yammer). At their exit interview—unless they’re particularly bitter—you can make sure departing employees have joined (and know how to access) the group. This way your employees can stay connected with old friends, and since you’re in charge of the group, you can ensure the tone will stay positive.
Company parties. For larger parties and events, many organizations send invitations to former employees who remain in good standing with existing employees. It’s a fun and easy way to stay connected, and it can go a long way towards preserving good feelings. It is easy—perhaps too easy—for business leaders to talk about their people being a “family,” but this type of message becomes counterproductive when supposed family members are never heard from again. Keeping former employees involved in activities can give employees confidence that their leaders mean it when they say they have a family-like culture, and it helps employees focus on their long-term relationship with your organization. And, of course, keeping former employees involved keeps the door open to potentially re-hire them someday.
Stay in house. Sometimes, the best way to avoid the hardship of saying goodbye is simply not to. After all, finding smart, hard-working employees who fit your culture is sometimes difficult, yet it’s always vital to succeeding as an organization. Every once in awhile, people’s talents or desires don’t end up matching their current role. We’ve found a ton of success by relocating strong employees to roles that better fit them. Not only does it allow us to keep our best people, but it also serves as a reminder to others that even if your job isn’t a perfect fit now, with hard work and the right attitude, someday it can be.
This obviously doesn’t work in every situation, and employee reassignments should be considered on a case-by-case basis. However, if you have a healthy performance management system, you will be well aware of your people’s talents, as well as their short and long-term goals. And if you have an open culture where employees can be honest and forthright with their managers, you will know when it makes sense to consider role changes. You’ll save yourself from at least one more hard goodbye, and if you have a strong culture, this is very good news.