Notice periods, however long, are an interesting time for employees and managers alike, attitudes are changing, often the employee mentally left before they even handed in their notice, so why do we use them and how do we manage an employee in their notice period?
Notice periods / successful off-boarding is about:
- Allowing time to find a replacement and/or plan future needs
- Enabling a handover
- Maximizing periods of garden leave to prevent knowledge being shared with competitors
Importantly; a notice period isn’t about trying to get as much work as possible out of the employee before they leave! It is unlikely the employee will be wanting to up their productivity at this stage. I remember being given new projects during one notice period, I was never going to finish them, there wasn’t going to be someone to handover to and despite asking I wasn’t told what to tell the key stakeholders. I ended up in lots of very awkward conversations, trying to say what I thought was right for my employer without actually giving any answers to direct questions. Even worse at the end no one wanted my handover notes, as whoever took them would end up with the work, I just had to email them and hope I’d done enough to keep my reputation intact.
Consider why you need the notice period; this will guide you in deciding how long you will impose on your employees. Remember there is likely to be a gap between someone leaving and their replacement starting, recruitment takes time and rarely will a notice period be able to accommodate the full process (including the new starters notice period on their current role).
Once your employee has submitted their notice, make a plan, decide how it will be managed, who will be told and when – this will give you and your employee a focus for the period.
Consider how the notice period feels to an employee, they are starting to mentally plan their future, they have decided to leave your organisation and their loyalties may be starting to change. They will hopefully want to leave you with their reputation intact, they may even want to keep the door open for a potential return in the future. During the notice period they are likely to see the business moving on without them, projects they were very much in control of may be handed over, your employee may find this difficult, they may feel concern that where a handover isn’t completed fully it will impact on their legacy. On the other hand, a disgruntled employee may not be interested in supporting a handover, may even go as far as to be disruptive.
Exit interviews are so often left to the final few days in the business, these should be done as soon as the resignation is submitted. This will help you gauge how the employee will handle the notice period, and therefore how you will manage them, it will also provide answers more reflective of their decision to leave rather than their notice period experience.
Also remember, this period is your last impression on an employee who will continue to talk about your company and your brand, may even leave reviews of their employment with you.
I’ve seen many a manager take a resignation personally, often in the first instance panic and considering only the impact on them and their workload. Managers may find themselves having to fight for a replacement to be authorized before they can even start recruitment. I’ve seen managers stop communicating with leaving employees or worse start telling others how “they weren’t that good anyway”, this type of behavior will only harm you as a manager.
The key to successful notice periods:
- Approach it with positivity, see it as an opportunity for you / the business and your employee
- Speak to the employee find out why they are leaving
- Decide whether garden leave or pay in lieu of notice is needed for either all or part of their notice (e.g. if they will be disruptive, to protect confidential information or to protect client relationships)
- Plan a handover strategy – when and how will work be handed over
- Communicate your employees leaving with colleagues / stakeholders and importantly clients – ensure you decide what is being communicated and not your outgoing employee
- Ensure the employee leaves with a positive attitude towards your brand and their time with you
Experts in HR for Small Business
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Article last updated: 15 October 2019
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