However, it’s how you handle losses that make the difference between a successful business and one that flounders...
Your employees may resign for all sorts of different reasons.
Sometimes it’s because of pull factors—like better pay—and other times, there’re push factors—like when an employer clearly doesn’t have an employees best interests at heart.
It’s often a mix of push and pull factors that lead to losing a good employee. As a result, many service, maintenance, and installation businesses are losing talented staff.
The real question, then, is what can you do to bounce back when an employee does leave? Do you have a plan in place for how to respond?
From practical steps to simple acts that will help you to create a more positive workplace, let’s dive in:
Why are you losing a good employee?
If you’re to understand why you’re losing a good employee, it helps to do some reflection.
It can be hard to hear, but you can’t change things without first acknowledging your situation.
For instance, it’s true that the field service industry is experiencing an employment crisis. There are clear external factors that many businesses are struggling to grapple with that are causing this. These include:
difficulty attracting/educating young employees about the trades
coping with an ageing workforce
lingering pressures from the pandemic
rising cost of living and inflation
Such factors can help explain why you mightbe losing a good employeeeven when things are going well.
It’s only by acknowledging these challenges that you can then work to overcome them.
But please, keep in mind that turnover isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
As we said, staff turnover is inevitable, and most companies believe that some natural staff turnover can even be good to to help motivate staff and inspire new opportunities. Equally, “new blood” encourages innovation and can improve a company.
For example, speaking of the difficulty that trades are experiencing, Fix Radio reported that:
“Recruitment costs for trades businesses have risen by at least 30%” and of the businesses surveyed, “40% said they’ve had problems with recruitment and fulfilling roles.”
If you take the time to understand the external factors that are impacting you comapny and reflect on the way you treat your staff, you’ll start to see why you might be losing good employees.
If yours is a small business that places a high value on personal service, you will want to minimise turnover, as customers will likely become attached to certain employees. To limit the effect of this on your customers, there’s action you can take, which will benefit you in other ways, too.
Let’s explore what you can do in more detail:
What do you do when faced with losing a good employee?
As we mentioned, there’ll be a mixture of reasons why a good employee will want to leave a company, even if things are going well. But however they leave, you’ll need to learn to manage.
Let’s take a look at what you can do when you do lose a talented employee.
1. Agree on the terms of exit
Most employee contracts stipulate a set notice period (if not, this is something you should address), typically of one month. The period may be longer for managers, or for employees who’ve been around for a large number of years. That’s because their departure is more likely to have a greater impact.
It’s not unusual for contracts to add at least a couple of weeks to a notice period for each additional year that an employee has worked, capping out at 2-3 months, depending on their position.
Of course, if both parties are able to come to an agreement, you don’t always have to stick to your notice period. It’s why having a good relationship with your staff can mean they’ll feel more comfortable being honest with you when they make it clear they’re moving on.
Whatever the length of notice, being aware of the time frame will help everyone to better manage their departure. This gives you time to spend looking for a new hire, but also can help ensure work is handed off correctly and that knowledge and expertise are passed on to other employees.
That’s also especially helpful to your customers, who may be affected if, say, an engineer leaves during a project. Mismanagement can damage trust and the last hing you want is for a bad exit to damage your customer relationships, too.
The same can be said of their exit influencing colleagues, too. If mishandled, it can be disruptive, or even lad to other colleagues leaving, too. To better handle this, an open conversation will always make it easier for everyone to prepare and cope with a transition.
2. Hold an exit interview
If someone has decided to leave then it is better to part on good terms, if possible. Choose a good time to hold an exit interview and conduct it in a friendly and open atmosphere.
When an employee does quit (but ideally before that time), it’s well worth setting up a way for them to provide feedback. They may indicate that certain pressures are causing them stress, or even putting them off from staying at the company.
Treat these interviews as an opportunity to gain insight into the real reasons behind why they are leaving (people are more likely to give you honest answers when they have nothing to lose). You might even get some ideas on how you can improve your business.
During the interview, don’t hold back from saying that you are sorry to see the employee go and that you wish them good luck in the future. The field service industry is a collaborative place, so don’t burn bridges if you can help it!
After all, you never know what might happen.
But, particularly if you’re losing a good employee who’s considered a valued member of staff, making it clear there’ll always be a place for them in the future won’t hurt either…
“Employees who have a positive exit experience are 2.9 times more likely to recommend their organization to others than are those who have neutral or negative experiences.”
Essential questions to ask employees in an exit interview:
“Why are you leaving?”. It may sound direct (and obvious), but if you’re going to get an honest and useful answer, this is an effective way to get it.
“What would you change about your job?”. This is a great way to get ideas about how you might adapt the role or more it more accessible to a new hire.
“How did you feel about your workload?”. Knowing how they felt about the work they managed, if it was too much or too little, can help you weigh up additional changes. i.e. do you need to hire more, less, or even just try to improve the way you organise someone’s workload?
Check out TotalJobs for a full list of questions you can ask your employee.
3. Start looking for a replacement
If the employee’s departure is going to leave you short-handed, you should start looking for a replacement immediately. Recruitment takes time and, when you find a suitable candidate, it is likely that they will also have to serve out a notice period, too.
If you are really busy, the ideal situation would be to secure someone in time to work with the employee who’s leaving for at least a week or two, to help ensure a smooth transition.
If, on the other hand, you believe you can cope without the extra headcount, then transitioning straight from one to the other might benefit your company and save you some money.
4. Manage the handover of responsibilities to other team members
If the leaver – whether it is an engineer or a member of the office staff – has specific responsibilities for individual clients or processes, then you need to make it a priority for them to hand these over.
For example, if an engineer has a direct personal relationship with an important client such as an estate agent or industrial company, it would be a good idea for him to introduce a colleague on a service call, or simply for the two of them to make a courtesy visit.
If an office support person knows his or her way around your computer system better than anyone else in the company, that knowledge needs to be transferred. Produce documents, guides, and tutorials which capture their knowledge and make it easy for you to train up their successor.
This is a preferred method of learning for a lot of people from a younger generation—millennials in particular.
“With millennials well versed in mobile technology, embracing mobile field service apps is a quick way to get new hires up and running. The knowledge of all your older technicians can be accessed on the mobile field service app through service history.”
6. Remove the employee’s email and system accounts
You’ll be surprised at how many companies forget to do this!
It is frustrating for customers if they send emails to employees who are no longer with you. Leaving database accounts with engineers or office staff who have left can cause administrative headaches.
For example, if you use Google Accounts and Gmail, before deleting the user’s account completely, you should first restrict access from the account andredirect their emails.
If you give it a couple of weeks before you fully delete their account, you can be more certain that everyone has access to the files and folders they need and that emails are being sent to the correct people, even after your employee departs.
If handled improperly, there may be a security risk to customer and company data. And if the employee is going to a competitor, you don’t want them to be able to access critical information, whether that’s related to your business numbers or to customers’ private data. Open but unused accounts will also leave you vulnerable to hackers, so make sure they’re properly deleted.
7. Bid them a fond farewell
Saying goodbye isn’t always easy, especially if you’ve worked with a colleague for years. Whether they’re moving on to a new role, or perhaps retiring from the industry, then saying goodbye is an important step in helping everyone to move on.
It can sound a bit twee, but there’s no harm in showing emotions to a colleague you respect, and who may even be a friend.
A farewell event, especially for an employee who has been with you for some time, is not only the right thing to do—it is good for the morale of your remaining staff, as it creates a sense of closure. Ideally, this should be done on the employee’s last day, but certainly after the exit interview.
The leaver’s colleagues may take the initiative in organising the event and arranging a gift of some kind, but the owner or senior manager should also participate.
This—or the lack of it—will be noted by the colleagues who stick around.
It can be easy to forget, but even a nice email or a simple speech shows people that management appreciates and respect their work.
Here’s how to recover from losing a good employee:
Whether it’s an engineer who’s been working out in the field, a manager leading a team, or a member of admin staff working diligently behind the scenes, losing a team member can be difficult.
Of course, it’s the processes you have in place that will help you assign new points of authority when someone moves on. Processes to follow can help your business function as smoothly as possible and with best practices to follow, you’re less likely to face disruption.
You may even more easily attract new staff, whilst encouraging others to stay. To help with that, we’ve prepared a short infographic to highlight the hiring process.