Thursday 6th Feb 2020
Often when a senior member of the business leaves, it’s a foreseen event. Perhaps they were planning to retire, or they were expected to be looking for the next step. Sometimes however, it’s a sudden event. And depending on the size of the business, and the individual’s responsibilities, it can be an event that carries serious ramifications. If you’re a prudent business leader, then you’ll need to think ahead to situations such as this, and with this in mind, there are a few things we think you should consider.
Put a plan in place
As soon as you have word that a senior figure is leaving, you need to set a plan in motion. It’s no good seeing how things play out after the event, because this is when problems are most likely to arise. You should gather together other senior members of the business, and firstly determine exactly how the departure might affect the company. Are business relationships going to change? Will replacement be difficult? Were there any unique skills possessed by the departee? Will internal politics change? When you have an answer to questions like these, you can work out how to tackle them, and put a robust plan in place. One that everyone that needs to be is aware of. This might include things like sourcing a replacement, delegating the individual’s jobs to others in the interim, and more.
Communication is essential, just as with any other customer service event. There are two sides to this. The first is naturally internally. Senior figures leaving means major internal events, and these can often be mitigated through effective communication. In larger organisations, high up changes can often result in gossip at lower levels, and this will only cause issues if left. Too often businesses will try to keep information from the business as a whole, expecting that senior incomings and outgoings have little to do with entry-level employees. However, this can build distrust at lower levels of the organisation, and should be avoided.
The other side is of course external communications. Talk to the media if the business is large enough to warrant it, and keep in communication with business partners and customers. If they have concerns, you should have the plan that you’ve developed as evidence that the situation is under control.
Manage the change
Active management of the change is essential. There needs to be a balance between stopping your usual course of business, and trading as normal. Where the individual’s leaving will have major effects on day-to-day business, you need to take control and ensure that the essentials are being done. It can often be helpful to have other senior members of the business split the tasks. On the reverse of this, you should also take care to not continue running as though nothing has changed. This is when things get missed, and problems arise.