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How to Communicate that Team Members are Leaving

25 April 2022 , by Azaria Beukes

While leaving a business is a natural part of an employee's journey at a company, it’s important to acknowledge and proactively mitigate the potential impact of such a change on the rest of the team. Here's how we think about it at OfferZen.

How to communicate that team members are leaving

Team members may leave for a variety of reasons:

  • Voluntary – Resignation or retirement,
  • Mutual – Mutual separation or voluntary retrenchment, or
  • Involuntary – End of a contract or retrenchment.

Depending on the scenario, communicating these changes can be simple or quite complex. It’s super important to get this right and minimise any negative impact on both the person leaving and the rest of the team. Below are some of the principles that help us do this at OfferZen.

We've also created this leaver comms template for you!

Consider the impact of the team member leaving

Before you get started, it’s helpful to consider the impact of someone leaving on at least two levels:

  1. The individual’s team, as a group of individuals, and
  2. The organisation, operationally and as a group of individuals

The team’s response to someone leaving will be influenced by their position, their role within the team, and the team’s dynamic. For example, suppose the individual is a Senior Leader and has direct reports or is working on mission-critical projects. In that case, the impact on morale will be especially tangible.

It’s also important to consider how much time the team has to process the change. For example, shifts are generally more sudden when you have to dismiss a team member, which may shock the team if you don’t take enough care to manage the situation appropriately.

When someone is leaving quite suddenly and/or the person is leaving a critical skill or other types of gaps, make sure to check in regularly with the team after their departure. The goal should be to understand where individuals are in terms of their response to the change and put concrete steps in place to limit any negative impact on individual team members.

Communication Principles

These principles are supported by our company values and guide our thinking when it comes to the way we communicate team members leaving.

Principle Impact
Timely - The sooner we communicate that someone is leaving, the better. Allows more time to process change
Prevents broken telephone effect
Fosters trust
Open - We are as open and transparent as possible about available information. Fosters psychological safety
Eases anxiety
People trust that what is known is shared
Clear - We don’t beat around the bush and rather aim to create clarity. Clear is kind. Provides direction
Reduces confusion
Sparks energy to move forward
Authentic - We are sincere, compassionate and considerate in our communication. Creates clarity
People feel considered and recognised
Makes it easier to move through change
Consult - We consult early with those impacted, seek advice and ensure we get input where required. All angles are considered
Key people feel included and this helps establish buy in from stakeholders
Resistance is reduced

Applying these principles will depend on the situation and it’s important to consider the level of confidentiality and consideration required by each case. If the team member is leaving is due to a dismissal, it’s especially important to provide as much clarity as possible. This conversation is not a forum for debate but a space to inform and allow them to voice any questions or concerns.

In general: Try to keep it light and celebrate the person’s contribution to your company authentically.

Communicating to the team

Who should communicate the change?

It’s important that the relevant leader informs the teams about the departure of their colleague during a structured face to face meeting or video call. In cases where a senior lead is leaving, they themselves will communicate to the other leaders within their area before getting the team together. However, if they are going quite suddenly, then the interim leader, the people team or CEO may need to step in to assist with communication.

Getting the timing right

It’s important that directly affected teams don’t find out about their colleague leaving in a forum where it’s hard to ask questions. They need a dedicated space to get all the details on the next steps. That’s why it’s important to consider what individuals are affected in what capacity when you’re making your communication plan.

Here’s the order we’re using at OfferZen:

  1. Inform your direct manager and the People Team so they can help with communication plans and off-boarding processes.
  2. Create a communication and change management plan.
  3. Share the communication plan with your leaving team member and align on the messaging.
  4. Follow the communication plan to:
    • Get the directly affected team together and communicate that the individual will be leaving.
    • Set up follow-up sessions if necessary to discuss any relevant handovers.
    • Let others in the business know that the person will be leaving.
  5. Use a company-wide meeting to wish the person well in this next stage of their journey.
  6. Organise a farewell for the person.

Note: In cases where the reason for their departure is more complicated, it’s super important to involve the team as far in advance of the actual departure as possible.

After the team member has left

When the team is heavily impacted by a colleague’s departure, it is crucial to create closure. Here, ideally someone like the Head of People should facilitate a team debrief to help them to:

  • Get closure and move forward.
  • Have a clear understanding of the event to limit gossip and negative talk.
  • Clarify the company’s position. Again, this is not a debate about the termination but a space to deal with how it affects people.

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