How to Bounce Back After Losing a Top Employee

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The guest blog post is written by Kate Cornelius, online marketing intern at OpenSesame, the world’s largest marketplace for buying and selling elearning courses. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh last year with a degree in anthropology, psychology, and women’s studies.


The average cost of losing an employee is just over 20% of the employee’s salary. Costs can be even higher for highly skilled jobs and jobs requiring a high level of education. Minimizing costs is an important consideration when a key employee departs. Employee loss is inevitable, so how can you cut your losses and have a successful recovery?

Use these tips to help minimize financial, morale, and productivity costs to your company.

1. Conduct an exit interview

If possible, conduct an exit interview with the employee to discover his or her reasons for leaving. It is important to know whether the employee was driven away by something in your company (unresolved conflict with a coworker or boss, disagreement with a company plan or policy, etc) or lured away by the promise of a greater opportunity elsewhere (better benefits, higher salary, etc) so you can make changes to retain current employees.

2. Create a recovery plan

Write out your recovery plan and plans for the future. Create a list of short- and long-term goals focusing on how to recover from the current loss and what you will do to avoid a similar situation down the road. You will need to make decisions regarding the job of the employee who left– will you hire someone to fill the same role or reorganize the department? Losing an important employee allows you to make changes you may have been considering, but could not implement, while the employee was still with your company. Maybe you want to split the position into two jobs or move it to another department; now is the perfect time.

3. Establish and divide essential responsibilities

Hopefully, the employee left on good terms and gave an exit report before departing. Have a report template you can give to employees as soon as they let you know of their intent to leave; ask them to outline their key responsibilities and best practices. Once they are gone, you can redistribute these essential duties to other employees in the department who can handle them until a replacement is found. If an exit interview was not conducted, determine what the employee was working on and who should take over the responsibilities by talking to supervisors and fellow employees.

4. Be attentive to the needs of those affected by the resignation

You must ensure the needs of clients and other employees are still being met, even without the key employee. Be sure any communication the employee had with clients has been picked up by another employee. Be honest with clients, clearly communicate the plan for moving forward, and address any concerns they may have. The same goes for employees; keep an open line of communication and quickly address concerns. You don’t want to end up with a case of employee burnout.

5. Prepare for the future

Being prepared is key. Adapt your current plan for the future; make it general enough that you can use it again next time you lose any employee. Identify which employees and what roles are the most essential in your company and create a specific part of the plan for what to do if they leave. This may include identifying who could be a good replacement and grooming them for the position just in case; they may not be an ideal candidate, but preparing someone to take over is always better than having no one ready. Be sure you are frequently checking in with employees; it’s important everyone knows what’s going on with everyone else. You’ll then be able to support each other and work together.

Avoid losing employees by keeping lines of communication open at your company. Do what you can to encourage them to stay, but be prepared for when they leave. By having a plan in place, you can minimize costs and make the process much less painful for those who are left behind. If you begin to notice negative trends in your exit interviews, it may be time to explore change management as an option to help get back on track.

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