How would you handle an employee resigning during a critical time period?
My client came to me desperately when an employee of his resigned last week with only one month notice. His resignation came very sudden and suspicious. This is because in the upcoming 2 months there are many critical deliverables that need to be done by this employee. The resignation comes in three forms - a) we cannot deliver in time; b) the employee is running away from responsibility; c) even if we get new person in fast, there is still learning curve required.
My client is at loss, he started the recruitment process immediately, but we knew it is not easy to find a someone exceptional very fast. I'm in a very tough position as well, as I feel his pain and understand he needs to find someone to fill the position as soon as possible.
What will you do if you face the case?
I came back to my client with this proposal:
"Get an expert to work with leaving employee and within 20 days produce 2 months output, while we are searching for the ideal replacement".
I came up with this idea because I asked the following questions:
1. Our goal is to achieve $X sales next month.
2. What is the impact on the goal of the leaving employee?
3. Which is more important and which cannot force or shorten the time to reach our goals?
4. What alternative do we have?
5. Perform evaluation on all the options and discover how to generate the highest profits even before the leaving employee tender resignation.
What about your opinion?
When employees leave suddenly, it's best to let them go. Even if you have lots of work that needs to be done, having someone who has decided to move on is not the best person to have working on these projects.
If there is a team, meet with them, explain the situation and reassign work that can be done by others to get the goal met. If there is not enough people to do the extra work, bring in a consultant experienced in this area and pay them to finish the work.
Its unfortuneate that the employer is in this situation but unless the employee is leaving on good terms and is willing to finish things before leaving, you are better off, helping them out the door.
The first thing YOU should do is not to feed his panic. This is no different than someone having to leave for an emergency, or the team accepting another high profile project when the team already has a full plate. In short - this is a project management issue. And you should approach the client in a calm manner.
And - in my opinion - it's not logical to try to force the "leaving employee" who is already burned-out and has a short-term mindset train another expert and complete 2 months of work in 20 days. I don't feel that's a winning game plan.
I don't know the industry or market you are working with - so these solutions will be general in nature. Setup an appointment with me to discuss more detail solutions that are better aligned with your specific situation.
There are several project management options:
1) Reduce the scope of the deliverables to fit the current resources.
2) Reduce the complexity of the solution to fit the current resources and talent.
3) Release early and often to the end-client (your client's client). Give then end-user early drafts, demos and releases as the project progresses. Because the end-user is frequently receiving and reviewing the progress, they can tell you which features they really need by XX date, and which features they can wait on. Then schedule the features as the user needs them (versus all at once).
4) Studies show that end-users only use 36% of the entire product. Find out the features the end-user are actually going to use and postpone (reschedule the others for maintenance releases).
5) Accept the knowing that the product is never "done" - there are always going to be maintenance and improvement cycles. Make better use of the rolling delivery cycles.
Last tip is to never make someone "indispensable" - always have pair-training, pair-testing, and a buddy system. I am not recommending that everyone has to be able to do the same things at the same quality. But you should have various team members knowledgeable about other people's areas such that they can stand-in or help out.
I don't know the industry or market you are working with - so these solutions will be general in nature. Setup an appointment with me to discuss more detail solutions that are better aligned with your specific situation. You can setup an appointment at https://www.timetrade.com/book/WFSFQ
Has anyone talked to the employee to find out why he's leaving? If it's money, find out if he'd be willing to work as a freelancer for more money until the project's delivered. This gives you more time to find a permanent replacement and the project keeps moving along. Is it because the project timeline and/or workload are unreasonable? Throwing more bodies at the project may relieve the problem until the project is delivered. Is it because the project supervisor/manager is difficult or unreasonable? If it's because the departing employee doesn't want the responsibility, then you need to ask yourself why. Does your company have a culture that easily assigns blame? If so, it may be that the employee doesn't want to see his career go up in smoke because of something he has no control over.
It sounds to me like there's more going on at your client's company than one fed-up employee. For the health of your client's company, human resources should take an unbiased look the department in question and make sure it's not symptomatic of a company-wide problem.
JC- I agree with your approach above...Has your client approached the employee and asked for an extension on the resignation or possibly contract him to work with a new employee? Does the work need to be done onsite or can your client outsource to an expert?
I would start by abandoning the negative mindset. When you start with blaming an employee for "only" giving twice the customary notice in a resignation, you aren't in the right mindset to really solve the problem. As far as alternatives, consider a contract or temporary worker either to complete the project or to take on other responsibilities so the project can go more smoothly. If it's a highly technical field, there are likely contract workers available or companies that will subcontract some of the work.
There are few ways to look at it. We work in a society where people are more conditioned to leave if they get a better opportunity.
Since this employee gave a month, notice there is ample time to cross train someone to take on the additional responsibility while a replacement is found. All roles and responsibilities of the employee leaving need to be documented. A good leader will set this plan in motion.
Granted goals are important but business continuity needs to be higher priority.
I like where you are going with this JC. If the deadline is firm there is no reasonable alternative to get the task done. I'm not sure who that expert would be but I'd suggest it will be a colleague who is already reasonably up to speed on what the resigning employee is doing. If the task is not fully completed in 20 days it may be reasonable for the "expert" employee to ensure the task gets done.
The first thing I would do is sit down with the employee and find out why he is leaving. Is it disatisfaction with the job? Another employee or a boss? Has he/she had a better offer elsewhere? Is it a personal issue? The situation may be something that can be resolved and if so then the problem can be avoided. I would really work at getting this point settled first.
If the employee is still bent on leaving then you will have no choice but to replace him/her. Your suggestions to your client then would be the way to go. I feel the first step is omitted and worth a look first however.
Melissa is correct as well are others.
Some people do bale when there is a deadline coming if they know they cannot handle the time line.
This is what I would look at. Is it feasible for one person to do what they have/had to do? Do you have another person that can jump in and help accelerate the process to meet the deadline prior to them leaving? Ask for a commitment from them to perform their highest till the end of their
Doubling sales can possibly have a negative effect on the service you offer your clients. Things always change and sometimes not the way you want them to. It is what you do with it that will make the difference. Like a sail on a boat when the wind changes swiftly, you reposition the sail to stay on course. Re set your plan to meet your targeted timeline.
Best of success. Gil
If the position is in the U.S. one month notice is very generous.
Need to find out specifically why the person is leaving. You might be able to address those reasons that will answer his concerns. However, once an individual decides to leave a company, the basic reasons for that will rarely change. Statistics indicate that even if an employer can do something about an employee wanting to leave, he or she will generally be gone within a year anyway.
As suggested in many of the responses the company has to address the culture and how employees are treated...and make appropriate modifications.
Also, as suggested cross-training is extremely important so other employees can temporarily pick up the slack.
JC, I would stop worrying about why and start being creative about meeting this dead line. Someone mention out sourcing to a professional, excellent idea. Take care of the customer and the project at a loss if need be to save that business. You and your company just learned a valuable and possible costly lesson. Cross train and always include others on major projects. Never put all of your eggs in one basket. I was a manager at the store, district and regional level and I was burned twice in my first 5 years and never again over the next 15.
If you really want to know why the person is leaving, give him and exit interview.
I think that Steve Smith is right - let them go. There is good advice here, but there is another aspect to this -- what are you going to learn? There is a risk that almost no company considers -- Knowledge Continuity. The question has been asked in other fora, "Is anyone indispensable?" The task of leadership is to ensure that the answer to that question is, "No!" The way to do that is to make doggoned sure that you have not allowed any critical knowledge to be the domain of a single individual. Otherwise, you are hostage to that person. Guy
I think that you are approaching it in the right way. Some questions that I have are the following: Why is this employee leaving? Is it monetary or is he/she disgruntled? This is important because if they are disgruntled, chances are cross training is not going to help because he/she wont care much for training the next employee because they have one foot out out the door. If its monetary then maybe offer the employee more money to stay if they are an effective worker. Maybe they can freelance for you to get these projects done and train the new higher as well
Finally I would say you must go at this with the right attitude. Assure your client it will get done and you will deliver. Take the stress away from your client put it on you and leave them feeling confident. You must also use this opportunity to cross train your employees so you are never again put in this position and show your client and future clients that there is no one person above the team. Everyone in group can take over and keep things going, This will eliminate vulnerabilities within your company and instill confidence in your clients.
I believe that you are feeding to much energy into the loss making it greater. You have the bitter taste of betrayal involved in this dynamic. You are overthinking it. You say it all in the short entry on number 4. Okay, what are the alternatives and how can we use them to erect a quick contingency. Keep your eyes ahead on what you can and will do now. Discerning the impact of getting let down has no purpose or use. Always move forward and never waste time analyzing what needs to be put behind you...Just a thought
Have you asked the employee if they can stay on longer? Have you asked the employee why they are leaving as it is really important to establish that. I like your questions. You might wish to consider whether you can get a skilled and experienced temporary employee from an agency to help out whilst you recruit a permanent employee or get someone in on a contract basis, which may cost more up front however you are more likely to meet your goal. Hope this helps give you some options.
Seems like there is a lack of risk management in your client's organization- identifying risks, assessing likelihood, identifying mitigation strategies. Succession planning, cross training and compensation reviews are all mitigation strategies, but if you haven't identified that a risk exists, no strategy will be ready for an emergency.
A month's notice is generous (at least in the US) and indicates to me that the employee doesn't want to completely destroy the project or the management. Is there no one in the company who can step up (or down from management to worker)? If not, maybe an intense, professionally facilitated project brainstorm session with the goal of reworking the process, work plan and deliverables may be in order. Many times the team members know what work is unnecessary and could be eliminated to shorten timelines and recover your project, along with identifying the critical path tasks that must be done for success.
That said, as a last resort, perhaps your client could renegotiate their commitments to their client. Penalties and/or discounts are the cost of poor risk management. The same result (missed deliveries) could have been the result of other types of risk - weather, fire, hackers, strikes, lack of working capital, etc - all of which can be mitigated if thought through carefully.
I agree with most everyone's comments. Let him go. An unhappy employee will cause more harm than any work he'll produce.
Meet with the team. Challenge them to figure out how to get the work done on time. They know more about the ins and outs of the work than you do. Besides, they'll feel more ownership.
I also agree with bringing in a temporary, albeit expensive, person to work with the team. I'd consider having the team draw up the hiring criteria for you to review-- again, more ownership, more results.
And most of all, get rid of the negative attitude and stop second-guessing the motive of the person leaving. Have you asked? Has he offered? If he's reluctant to give you reasons, let it go. Support his decision so he can leave peacefully.
I wouldn't read a lot into the motives of the employee. There may be other reasons you aren't aware of. That said, I think your approach is smart and you can leverage the employees experience while finding someone else to take his/her place.
Below are few of my opinions.
1. It is always good to have a second line of manpower, who holds important portfolio. In times of emergency and unforeseen situations, the second line person will take over the responsibility.
2. Alternative, you may outsource the work to a third party on a contract basis, till such a time that the project is completed.
3. The employees working in profit centres need to sign a undertaking that they will not leave the job without advance intimation atleast 90 or 120 days and if they happen to leave within this period, without advance intimation, they will replace the person thro one of their contacts.
You may be setting yourself up for failure with a proposal that is dependent upon getting two months of work out of an employee in 20 days. If you are correct in assuming that this employee is "running away from responsibility", what makes you think that this person is about to change their behaviour? And even if they aren't, why would anyone agree to that? I'd be concerned that you've just made a promise that you, in all likelihood, will be unable to fulfill.
PS: In Canada, employees can be compelled to stay longer.