Replacing a departing employee

Jan 25, 2016


Change in life is inevitable, sometimes we move due to family or we feel we are ready for a new challenge at a new destination. This happens all the time, but what does this mean when the one making the change is one of your star employees? The departure of a key employee is always a risk for any organisation. In this week’s post we discuss some ideas you can do to make sure the transition in replacing said employee is as smooth as possible.


No one wants to see one of their best employees leave, but sometimes there are circumstances where you really can’t change their mind, they could be leaving for factors external to your organisation. If so, you need to have a contingency plan. Whether you plan to directly replace the departing employee or moving someone internally to fill the role, you’re going to have to fill the gap. C.J Reuter, senior director of global client success at social recruiting solution Work4 suggests that managers make sure to always have two or three people ready to step up into a position at any given time, even if just temporarily.

The Specifics

When will their last day be? What do they think they can accomplish before they leave? How do they want to announce they’re leaving to the rest of the team and staff? If your employee is handling their resignation in a professional and congenial manner as most people usually do – you need to leave it up to them to tell their colleagues (although make sure that happens soon, so that you can move forward with transition planning). On the other hand, if they seem hostile or negative, you might prefer to handle that announcement yourself so that you have some control over the tone.

Create a Transition Plan

Hold a meeting with your employee and compile a list of everything they’re currently working on, including key client relationships. From there you’ll need to ascertain:

  • What they should finish up before they leave; and
  • How the organisation can/will handle those responsibilities before a replacement is hired.

Ensure that your employee has a clear and specific to-do list, which should also include actions for a complete Passover – transferring key knowledge and contacts before they go. You’ll need to alert affected clients of their departure so that they aren’t surprised when an email to them bounces back one day or goes unanswered. During this time you need to instil confidence in these clients that business will still resume as usual even if the employee is departing.

Make sure that once you’ve got this transition plan in action that you also monitor the progress during their remaining time – don’t think that everything on that plan is getting done as it’s written or you are risking finding out on their last day that things haven’t been done in time.

Get their feedback

Conducting an exit interview, can help you to gain insight into an employee’s personal experience and may help in sourcing the right replacement for the departing employee. Your exit interview can also help you shape your recruitment strategy for that particular position in the future.

Replacement Recruitment

After you’ve come up with a transition plan and initialised a knowledge transfer, you’ll have a pretty fair idea of exactly what your employee did and how much work will be left when they’re gone. From here, you’ll want to compare this information to your team’s current priorities, tasks, and workload, so you can determine if and when you need to hire a replacement.

Don’t automatically post the same job description that you used last time when recruiting for this position. Instead, take this opportunity to think about what you really need in the role and how it might have changed since it was first needed. Make sure that you’re hiring for what you need today, not what you needed last time (which could have been years ago – your business and industry would have certainly changed over the years).


Once you’ve found the successor to fill the role, assist with smooth transition by allowing them (particularly if they’re entering a top leadership position) to shadow the person being replaced.

Note: That is if you are able to hire the successor before the original employee departs, alternatively, pick someone in the meantime to shadow the departing employee so that at least someone within the organisation has a more informed of their day-to-day activities).

Smooth Transitions

You’ve hired their replacement, now what? Introduce the successor to all the individuals with who they will be working with – give them the chance to interact, get to know each other and develop a level of comfort. A lot of the time with successors, teams can react negatively, thinking who is this person? Provide opportunities such as a welcome picnic so that the new employee can feel part of the team and get to know everyone a little bit.

These are just a few ideas to help in the transition when replacing a departing employee. Do you have any tips that you can share? Comment below.

By: Curran Daly + Associates


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