Reframing the Employer/Former Employee Relationship for Mutual Benefit

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Reframing the Employer/Former Employee Relationship for Mutual Benefit

Business owners take great pride in their businesses. Part of that pride extends to their relationships with their employees. A tight, well-managed team can accomplish great things together. When members of your team decide to move onto greener pastures, though, it’s easy to feel several emotions, like anger, sadness or bewilderment. Possibly even betrayal. After all, you’ve treated them well, compensated them fairly, trained and encouraged them. And now they’re moving on? It can feel like a personal affront. But is it really? Let’s try to reframe the situation into a positive one.

Upon their resignation, an employee is letting you know that the fit is no longer good for her. She’s letting you know she’s not getting what she needs from this job. And that means that she’s no longer effectively serving you. That’s good honest information to have and certainly nothing to be angry about.

In fact, there’s a lot you can learn from a departing employee. A good exit interview can be enlightening - and can transform your relationship from employer/employee to colleagues. It’s not so much a door being slammed forever; rather, it’s a change in your relationship.

And when that colleague has been treated as such throughout her departure from your employ, she can become a powerful ally for you within your industry.

Former employees can become:

Brand ambassadors, spreading good will about your business to peers and potential customers alike. Because you parted on good terms, there’s mutual respect. You appreciate her hard work; she appreciates the professional opportunities you provided.

Top-notch rehires. As a former employee, you’d be rehiring someone who understands the company and its culture, which would reduce onboarding time. Having pursued other opportunities, she’ll return with a stronger skill set and broader expertise, all at someone else’s expense. Having worked elsewhere in the industry, she’ll have firsthand knowledge of your competitor(s). They can also provide professional development and coaching for newer employees. Rehires tend to remain with the organization longer than other employees because they’ve satiated their curiosity in the job market and they know what to expect working at your business.

Future business partner identifiers. Think of former employees as spies who’ve infiltrated across enemy lines. They’re meeting and working for others in your industry. The relationships they’re forming could be with people who would be ideally suited as your future business partners. Your former employee could be the point of connection, so it’s best if the lines of communication between you are wide open.

Former employees have recently been dubbed "alumni", highlighting this different type of relationship with their employers. In fact, many organizations have developed formalized programs to aid in tracking former employees, keeping them on their radar. These alumni programs offer incentives to keep in touch. These programs sponsor events, social gatherings, conferences, professional development opportunities and the like. They also can offer bonuses and discounts for successful job referrals. Their purpose is to create a vibrant network of connections among present and former employees. This lays the foundation for new business opportunities, support and recruiting referrals. Alumni programs enable employers to have their finger on the pulse of a rich and unique talent pool from which they can greatly benefit.

Include your mindset toward your alumni into your company overview and add it to your onboarding process so that new employees have a practical lens through which to view their employment with you from day one.

Just because an employee and you have parted ways doesn’t mean you’ll never cross paths again - or that you’ll never again work together. By harnessing the power of the reframed former employee relationship, it’s simply a transition, not a farewell.

Would you rehire a former employee?

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