People move on. It's only natural - we've all moved on during our careers.

    We all seek to improve ourselves and to secure a better or more fulfilling environment to work in. In larger companies, staff turnover is nothing if not a constant.

    Yet in smaller firms it is perhaps more of a rarity. We can become spoilt that the same highly engaged and motivated people come to work to look after our clients day in and day out.

    We often feel it keenly when a valued or key member of staff decides to leave. This can be felt just as strongly, albeit in a different way, when a newly recruited member of the team leaves, particularly if this happens just after they have completed their induction or gone through comprehensive training.

    Larger firms obviously tend to have bigger recruitment and training budgets. While they will likely have a core group of individuals they retain, if someone leaves shortly after joining larger companies have the ability to absorb and dilute the financial impact on the firm, as well as the impact on the wider team.

    We have had instances recently where two key individuals in our administration team have left us, as well as parting ways with someone who joined as an adviser and was still newish to the firm.

    Of the two administrators, one sadly was leaving for personal reasons, and the other secured a similar role elsewhere for an all-round better package than we thought we could afford. In the case of the adviser, they were recruited and trained with a lot of time invested to get their role and environment right, but in the end we lost out to more money being offered elsewhere.

    So how to cope, and is there ever an upside when a key employee decides to move on? For what it's worth, here's how we go about things.

    A managed exit

    I find the best way of dealing with the news that someone is leaving is absolutely never to take it personally. Don’t blame or accuse, or in any way make the employee feel bad for doing something they have every right to do.

    It’s perfectly acceptable to say you are disappointed or wished it was not so, particularly where valuable employees are concerned, but you should never make them feel uncomfortable.

    We gather information via an exit interview which looks to cover the reasons why the individual is moving on, and ask whether there is anything that can be done to allow them to stay. 

    We also ask if they have already told their colleagues about their move, and when they would like to leave. It's worth working with them around their leaving requirements, and keeping in mind that while you may be disappointed to lose them, it helps to works towards them thinking fondly of you when they leave. 

    Being overly difficult is not particularly helpful for either side. We always try to leave the door open.

    If they haven’t yet told their colleagues, this can give you an opportunity to ask them to delay doing so. This can give you time help to frame the message around their exit, as well as time to think of a counter-offer, if this is something you are willing to make and they are willing to listen to.

    It may not always be possible, but a counter-offer may work if your exit interview has uncovered the reasons they wish to leave and if those reasons are fixable.

    If it comes down to salary, for instance, you have a simple choice to make: match it, better it or let them go. Consider your budget, and perhaps do some benchmarking and research to figure out their true worth in the job market.

    The cost of recruiting a replacement, on top of the associated costs in time and money of training up someone new, may well lead you to conclude you're better off paying them what they are looking for. Yet it's worth bearing in mind that salaries for team members doing similar roles should fall within a certain bracket and ultimately be fair to all concerned.

    If all that does not work and there is no accepted counter-offer, you then have to spend your time on an efficient handover process and recruiting a replacement. Try to minimise the disruption as much as possible by establishing a departure timeline. We've found it helpful to start the recruitment process as soon as possible and document everything throughout.

    Going through this is never easy. To lose both good people or those you have invested a lot of time and money in does impact smaller firms in a deeper, more personal way somehow.

    You have to keep morale up, particularly in a small firm where the wider team will have invested time and effort in helping a new colleague settle in and learn the ropes. They may have introduced them to clients and other key connections and end up feeling the time and energy they spent with the new recruit has been wasted.

    It's important to keep them in the loop, and let them know how the recruitment process is progressing. They may need extra support or reminders of how much you continue to value their efforts, particularly if they are picking up slack from the departure.

    As I say, this is our approach to things. We have always tried to act in a friendly way, dealing with people with fairness, honesty and integrity when they have decided to leave. Our personal and company reputations deserve nothing less. Of course, people are entitled to leave and we have all left somewhere to end up where are today.

    In closing, there has been some good news out of all this. By acting in the way that I've outlined, one of those who left us is acting as a paid consultant to the firm while their personal issues are resolved. Another has decided to return to us after we continued to discuss our counter-offer following her departure, and in light of her experience where she went and the fact that we kept things both friendly and professional.

    Shame about the new adviser but hey, you can’t win 'em all.

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