leaving a company

The end of life

This week, I’ve been writing about business acumen. About how it’s one of the hardest topics to provide training on, and there’s actually a range of things you need to have in place that enable people to develop this core business skill.

In the final piece of this, it’s worth considering what happens when people leave the business. Business success isn’t just dependent on developing the ability to make good business decisions, or just about developing that knowledge internally, or just about putting people through focused training that can increase their capacity and ability to be better at this skill. It’s also about retaining the knowledge once someone walks out that door. That person, they did something for the business. They brought with them a wealth of knowledge, experience, success and failure, that made them a part of the business. So what can be done to ensure we don’t lose that?

Let’s assume the parting is a mutual one, and not one forced by factors such as dismissal or redundancy or something else. In this case, we will know that we have period of time within which we can insert a data cable into said person’s brain and download everything they know about life. Wait, that’s a scene from Johnny Mnemonic. What do you mean you can’t take everyone’s knowledge and experience and skills when they leave?

Wait, wait, here’s what you’re doing. You’re getting them to hand over their knowledge, skills and experience through hand over notes. If you’re lucky enough to have hired a replacement you’ve got them joined at the hip until the minute they leave. One person has to interpret and make meaning from x years of experience in a matter of weeks, and decide what they’re going to listen to and what they’re not. You’re getting them to document their life in your business. It’s all there. For posterity. Waiting to be read. To gather dust and die because no-one goes back to that shit.

Can we do this differently? Of course we can! Else this would be a really short blog post.

Let’s start with some presentations shall we? Or some workshops? Some environment where Leaver Bob – because HR have to label him as a ‘Leaver’ you understand – shares his knowledge to a group of people. It should be quite structured. On Project X, I was involved like this. These are my learnings from working on it. This is a set of successes and failures. Here’s my take home messages. Let’s Q&A this project.

Let’s continue with some interviews from cross departmental peers. What did you do here? What was it like? How do we make it continue? What’s your perceptions on our effectiveness? Similar questions to what might be asked in an exit interview, but done by the business, to understand what’s happening in the business. Information like this is seriously rich and insightful and shouldn’t be left in the very capable hands of HR.

Get them to document stuff if they need to. Cos you know, that gives security. And death, but mainly security that we have things written down.

Help them leave well. I speak very well of my time at QVC because I bloody enjoyed every moment of it, even when I was leaving. A lot of teams/departments will just let someone go with no effort. That’s just poor. A good sending off – and I don’t mean a party or getting a leaving gift or getting drunk – means Leaver Bob will only recommend the company once they’re long gone.

Starter for ten? Am I on to something here? Am I spouting rubbish?