Why your ex-employees matter
December 5, 2018 / Networking / Greg Atkinson
Hirers and hirees spend a considerable amount of time, attention, and money on their entry and onboarding process. Hirers often enlist the help of recruiters, paying vast sums in commission. Hirees spend weeks polishing up their CV, good interview shoes, and Where I See Myself in 5 Years’ Time speech. And while it’s undoubtedly important to pay attention to how people join an organisation, not many companies put as much effort into their employee exit process. We discussed how best to tell your boss you’re going freelance in our previous post. In this post, we discuss why it’s important to have your employees leave with a good impression of your company.
1) They can say nice or nasty things about you
Ex-employees can be your loudest fans or critics. Having worked for you, they have first-hand experience, so their thoughts are far more valuable than hearsay from competitors or other industry players. The right or wrong word to a potential new client or recruit could make or break business deals for you.
Once employees leave, you have little control over what they say. You may have a Non Disclosure Agreement in place, but that mainly covers your operating processes and products – things actually protected by intellectual property and contract law. That NDA isn’t going to stop an ex-employee from telling anyone about that time the Wi-Fi was on the fritz and everyone went home, but you charged the hours onto client anyway. Or the fact that you served leftover snacks from a previous meeting. But wouldn’t you rather have them telling the story of how a client had left their coat, and your MD personally delivered it to their office across town? Or how you made that miracle deal happen and saved your client millions?
Stories have a way of floating far and wide, and sticking around for years. And it’s unlikely you’ll ever be able to track the source. So, make sure your current employees have enough good stories to tell, so even if they have a few negative memories, it’ll all balance out.
2) You may want to rehire them
Employees leave for a variety of reasons. Some leave at the request of the employer, and others leave on their own volition. Emigration, starting a family, starting their own business – there are a plethora of perfectly reasonable reasons for someone to leave your employ. And even if the leaving is at your request, it may have been due to unavoidable downsizing, or the completion of a project. Unless the person has been asked to leave for bad behaviour or underwhelming performance, there is no reason why you can’t ask them back in the future.
An ex-employee who returns will already know your company culture and processes, so will be easily reintegrated. They may also have invaluable historical knowledge to share that can help you solve current problems. And if they had forged strong relationships with clients, their return will further strengthen that relationship. To keep the door open for the future, make sure you don’t slam it in their face.
3) You may need their skills in another capacity
Rather than welcoming someone back as an employee, you may find that they’ve started their own business in the interim. Their sought-after skills are now available to you as consultants or collaborators instead. Similar to the benefits of having someone return to the fold as an employee, you’ll benefit from all of the person’s history and relationship with you. You also have the flexibility of calling on them only when the project requires.
4) They may move client-side
Individuals often move diagonally to further their career. Having spent a few years servicing a particular client, an employee may decide to move client-side, instead of waiting around for their next promotion. Now, instead of giving them orders, you’ll be taking orders from them. And because the ex-employee has an intimate understanding of all the tricks you have in your bag, they could really make your life easier or much more difficult.
The new power dynamics may take some adjustment, but if your personal relationship is good, there is no reason the shift has to be awkward. Mutual respect, transparency, cooperation, and having someone you trust on the other side could do wonders for the new business relationship.
5) They can mentor current employees
Whether as part of a formalised mentoring programme, or simply because they bonded on a deeper level, ex-employees can be, and often are, great mentors to current employees. Getting advice from someone who has personally been there and done that is worth more than any amount of theoretical knowledge.
You may want to bring ex-employees in for the express purpose of mentoring. Creating Kalido networks that connect past and present team members can be a great way of going about this. Network members can see each other’s current skills and interests. They can also see what projects they’ve been involved in, with portfolio links. Network members can introduce and refer relevant contacts to each other. The Nearby feature tells members if other members are close by. Free chat and calls make coordinating busy schedules much simpler.
On the flipside, without your intervention, ex-employees may still be in contact with current employees and exerting influence. Ensuring that they had a good experience increases the likelihood that the influence will be good for your company.
6) You should respect each other as people
Regardless of the circumstances of the employee leaving, you should always still respect each other. This means that if someone is leaving to pursue their dreams, you should try to help them, instead of hinder them. And even if someone left under contentious circumstances, recognise that people make mistakes, and let bygones be bygones.
There is no reason an ex-employee should be derided or ridiculed after they’ve left. It may be amusing for current employees, but they’ll wonder if they’ll be treated the same way should they ever leave. Out of respect for the time that you spent together, you should always treat ex-employees with courtesy.
Maintaining decorum and treating ex-employees with respect means they’re more likely to do the same for you. This is vital for your company’s reputation, and for possible future collaboration. So, put as much effort into your employee exit policy, as you do your entry one. You may find the cycle repeating itself, to your mutual benefit.