Six Steps to Ease Workplace Transitions.

by Rob Marchalonis.



Have you lost a key worker recently?  If you employ people, it’s inevitable that you will experience transitions.  Employees retire, receive promotions, move on to other opportunities, quit suddenly, or get fired.  Rarely do these events happen without some strain or stress.  Have you experienced the departure of a direct report or partner?  Hopefully, you weren’t too surprised.  (If the news of a key employee’s departure came as a shock to you, then you may want to revisit your current 1:1 and workgroup communication strategy, but that’s a topic for another article.)  Regardless, when employees leave, leaders must manage the transition effectively and efficiently.

Times of transition are opportunities.  Too often, in the hurried haze of an employee’s departure, critical opportunities to finish well are missed.  Emotions can rise and reactionary responses can rule. Be careful to not let these distractions absorb the critical hours you have to end one “season” well and start the next strong.  With a typical departure and “two-week notice”, you potentially have 80 hours to accomplish as much as possible – for everyone’s benefit.

Consider an “upward” focus when employees move on.  The outline below should help guide you, your team, and the departing employee as you all work together to move successfully from your current to a future state:

  1. Lift Up
    • Find ways to respect and honor the departing team member.
    • Recognize and appreciate the contributions they made to the organization.
    • Wish them well and provide help as they transition to new opportunities.
    • Maintain positive relationships, and avoid burned bridges.
  2. Speak Up
    • Connect with the person leaving 1:1 for parting feedback.
    • Use this opportunity to discover opportunities for you and the organization to improve.
    • Encourage respectful and professional, but also transparent and candid, input.
    • Remain disciplined to avoid heightened or unproductive emotions and judgment.
    • Communicate personnel changes to staff and encourage their input.
    • Have staff identify any support, needs, or related connections with the departing member.
  3. Write Up
    • Before leaving, have employee list and outline all roles and responsibilities.
    • Prioritize or sequence responsibilities or activities, and identify the % of time spent weekly on each.
    • If appropriate, log step-by-step procedures in writing to assist replacement help.
    • List names, locations, and other relevant info for files, log-ins, user names, passwords, etc.
  4. Wrap Up
    • Before departing, complete any projects that may still be open.
    • Finish tasks that have been started or are important to complete.
    • Connect with other stakeholders who may have needs from you before you depart.
    • Finish strong, both relationally and as a contributor to the organization.
  5. Clean Up
    • Organize your workspace, equipment, materials, desk, vehicle, files, etc.
    • Purge or donate unneeded items.
    • Complete exit details and paperwork.
    • Hand over keys, credit cards, phones, computers and other company property.
  6. Change Up
    • Train, support, and otherwise help employees who will assume new responsibilities.
    • Facilitate ways to transfer work or activities quickly and easily.
    • Mentor others who may assume new roles.
    • Celebrate past accomplishments and new beginnings.

Manage your next departure with ease and excellence.  Employee transitions are a common workplace occurrence, yet most people don’t manage the transition time or process well.  Effective leaders need to have a plan and develop skills to ensure that employee departures result in better eventual outcomes for everyone involved — a transition up for all.

Rob Marchalonis is the founder of IncentShare and author of IncentShare: Motivate, Recruit, and Get Results with Incentives, now available at Amazon. Connect with him at