‘You say goodbye, I say hello’ – why you should get induction and leaving right at your business

What stories do you want your people to tell at a BBQ (or on social media?) This is the lens through which you should view your induction and leaving processes. Word of mouth can be either the best or the worst marketing for your employer brand.

A great start

Induction should ideally be the honeymoon period for your new starters. You’re forming the bond between company and employee that can withstand the normal ups and downs of a role. Most employees know the importance of a good first impression during an interview, remember that equally it’s a two-way street.

Your new starters have already formed a view of your business through the application and interview process – do you think it’s a good one? Yes or no, the induction process is your chance to either turn a mediocre perception into a good one, or turn a good one into a great one!

“Take care of your employees and they’ll take care of your business.”

– Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group.

Induction can help you turn your employees into your biggest advocates. This will help you improve not just your company’s employee attraction and retention, but also your client attraction and retention as well!

How do you ensure a good induction?

Details, details, details. There are a lot of moving pieces to having someone join the organisation. Has all the appropriate paperwork been filled out? Have you ordered all the hardware and software they need, as well as setting up their desk? Having access to the network and emails is important, but so is having pens and paper to take notes during their early days. A nice touch? Have their business cards ready and waiting on their desk when your new starter walks in.

We’ve heard tales of people showing up to work with no desk or computer, no access to their company email and no one scheduled to show them around the building and highlight any important safety information.

Administrative tasks are important in induction, but so is ‘cultural induction’. Where do people go for lunch? Who can your new starter join for lunch on their first day, have you scheduled a team lunch or morning tea to properly welcome the new team member? Does your business have a more formal culture, or relaxed? Do you have casual Friday attire? It’s a bit awkward to show up on your first Friday in your best suit when everyone else is wearing jeans (or vice versa if someone assumes you have casual Friday and you don’t!).

Speaking of awkward (but funny) tales of induction, we had a new starter recently who requested two screens for her computer to help her do some website and content work. Our culture is one where we work hard, but we also know how to have fun, so a little prank was pulled.

We acquiesced to her request for the two screens, but as you can see, we just sourced monitors that were perhaps a little ‘vintage’. The best part was the second or two where you could see our new recruit wasn’t 100% sure of the joke. (Don’t worry, she’s now equipped with all the tools of the trade she needs – all brand new this year, no less!)

Take it up a level

Think about the things you would have liked to have on hand when you started in any of your roles over your career so far. Below is my wish list of things I would have liked to see, and they’re also the items that I try to embed in our business now:

  • Business strategy – there are several components to this. First is having a documented strategy (easier said than done, I know). Second is packaging it up in a way that’s easily understood by everyone in your organisation. And third, delivering the strategy and purpose straight from the horse’s mouth. Your CEO/Leadership Team should be the ones either sitting down with or presenting the strategy (depending on your business size). Imagine the impact having everyone in your business on the same page about where the business is going!
  • Mission, vision, values – Understanding the purpose of your business and bringing its values to life are the things that capture the hearts and minds of both your people and your clients. Helping new people understand the soul of your company and embrace your mission, vision and values involves more than just a page in an induction manual. Do you have values-based reward and recognition? Do you celebrate your mission and vision visually in the office where people see them regularly? Aligning your day to day business activities with the mission, vision and values in mind, in a very real and tangible way, takes some planning and determination but yields the best results for your people and your business.
  • Org chart – this one sounds really simple but I’m always shocked at how many businesses actually don’t have an up to date organisational chart that their people can access. For new people, this element can make life so much easier. Imagine walking into a place where the org chart is available on your intranet, along with photos of all your colleagues and their desk location. And at their desks, they all have name tags in case you’re drawing a blank and it’s already that awkward time after your first week when you should remember someone’s name but you’ve had to meet so many new names and faces that you just can’t quite think of it! Again, it’s sometimes these small, inexpensive and easy solutions that can lead to a great induction. And it’s not so bad for some of your teammates that have been wondering what that guy in Finance is really called because it would probably be inappropriate and unappreciated to call him ‘the creepy ninja’ because you didn’t catch his name three months ago and have therefore been referring to him (to your team only, you’re not a total monster) by the manner in which he appears silently next to your desk. HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN THERE, UM, BUDDY?
  • Health, safety, policies and procedures – this is as much to protect your business as it is your people. Don’t let your new people start without knowing what to do in case of an emergency or an issue, whether it’s knowing where the exits are in case of a fire or threat, who they should go to if something inappropriate happens and also a very clear view of what is considered appropriate behaviour at your workplace. This topic, while perhaps seemingly monotonous, is one of the firsts and most important things we address with clients. In fact, I think I’ll expand on this in a later blog, so stay tuned.

Now on the flip side of the coin… Leaving with respect and dignity

People leave businesses all the time, for a variety of reasons. Some leave on their terms, some leave on yours. One thing they should all have in common is a sense of leaving on the best terms possible.

Sure, there will be cases where a company or employee acts blatantly badly and perhaps it’s less possible to leave as friends, but I would still argue it’s important to depart at least with the perception of respect, and there’s a few reasons why.

‘But the employee lied, stole and bullied their colleagues’ you might say, ‘why shouldn’t we make an example of them or herald their departure with a snarky social media post?’

To be frank, partly because it happened on your watch. I have never seen a business gain anything by a nasty exit (not even satisfaction from calling out ‘don’t let the door hit you on the way out’). Be the bigger person, and instead review what YOU could have done differently in your role or as a business to prevent such things in future.

Not all leaving is bad leaving however, and in fact, I’ve seen some boomerang employees who come back after seeing that ‘hey, the grass was, in fact, not greener’. Don’t count your regrettable turnover as a lost cause. Maybe they don’t all come back, but if you leave them with a good feeling about their contribution, that their time was valued, perhaps they’ll be referring you their high performing friends (or even clients!) in future.

What does a good departure look like?

You know what a good employee should do when they’re leaving so they do the right thing by you: give you proper notice (or more), complete a good handover, give real feedback as to the reason for their exit, unsubscribe to their fifty eNewsletters so you don’t have to…

But what should they expect from you in return?

Leaving with respect should be something you pay to every employee, even if they are leaving because their performance or behaviour didn’t meet your expectations. Allowing them to tell their own story for their departure (leaving to take some time off, chasing a different opportunity) is one of the most appreciated steps you can take. There’s nothing to be gained from sharing that they didn’t pass their probation period or you aren’t extending their contract.

Redundancies can be difficult and emotional, but one of the most admirable things I’ve heard a good HR Manager say is that she takes pride in going through the redundancy process with utmost respect, care and professionalism – the impacted individual may already be going through everything from fear and anger to happiness and relief. Regardless of their response, manage the process in a way that doesn’t make them feel like their work didn’t matter or they’re just a number. Apply the golden rule, it always helps to think about how you’d like to be treated during this kind of significant change.

I’ve heard horror stories of everything from businesses withholding pay to make sure the employee ‘shows up’ in their final week (this also might be a breach on the part of the employer by the way), to the manager of the employee not even showing up for their last day or sending any kind of farewell note or a phone call.

Don’t leave a bad taste in someone’s mouth – it takes little effort to give a polite farewell. If someone has been with the company for many years, a proper card, gift and perhaps a lunch is appropriate. If they’ve only been with you for a short while, a card, small gift or at least a genuine thank you is called for. I’m not of the opinion that every departure calls for ten rounds of drinks at the local pub – this is all too commonplace and I can tell you that more times than not it ends poorly (a few drinks in and you get tears, blame, anger, gossip, the opposite of leaving with dignity and respect!)

And don’t forget about the details you attended to when your employee joined, perhaps take that list and reverse it for your departures checklist – here’s a few things to consider:

  • Have they returned all your equipment, keys, pass?
  • Have you communicated their leaving so their key stakeholders know who to contact from now on
  • Have you alerted your IT person so they can begin the procedure of ensuring they remove access and maintain your data security?
  • Do any external suppliers need to know of the change?
  • Do you have access to your outgoing employees emails and files so you can catch anything that’s slipped through the cracks in the handover process?
  • Have you spoken to your team and/or function to let them know what is happening with the role (is it being filled or not, are you recruiting, can they apply)?

And it doesn’t hurt to keep up with your leaving employee on LinkedIn and congratulate them if and when they have a new role. Even if someone leaves feeling disenfranchised or somewhat bitter, their attitude and advocacy of your business may improve with time.

If you’ve done as much as you can to be considerate of your people’s induction and leaving, you can rest assured that your improved employer brand and word of mouth will not only improve your overall business culture and employee engagement, it may even give you a competitive advantage.