The resignation: Opportunities provided by an employee farewell

I don’t know how to tell you this, but……….I am leaving.

The words that every health business owner dreads. Once upon a time, and perhaps seemingly not that long ago, employees seemed to be more “loyal” and stay for years. We need to get real! Our employees will leave. I have realised that it is not necessarily all about me. I usually feel happy for them (but sad for me). The narrative is often about enticing your staff to stay. I wonder if that is always in their best interests or in the best interests of your practice, especially if an employee is not finding excitement from their work and their performance is flatlining?

I acknowledge that recruitment is difficult and costly and that it can take a long time to “onboard” a new employee. If your attrition rate is high and your staff are leaving unhappy, then I recommend that you have a look at your expectations and the culture that you lead. This is a different scenario from the occasional employee who decides to leave to seek new opportunities.

In recent years, I have re-examined my role in our Physiotherapy practice. As a leader, my role is to nurture and help all of my employees to be the best clinicians, administrators, practice managers, and people that they can be. As I have become more self-aware, I have realised that individual wants and needs may extend to more than what we can offer. In fact, whilst I am usually very sad to see people leave, I know that it is in their best interests and therefore in the best interests of the practice.

In the past, I have made the mistake of offering higher rates of remuneration, thinking that pay is the reason that they are leaving. This is an assumption and generally not a correct one. I manage the remuneration conversation differently these days and I will discuss this in later blogs. It rarely enters the leaving conversation. I would caution offering more money in the attempt to woo an employee on the brink of leaving. My experience is that this rarely works out well. The employee may be happy for a little while but there is often a deeper reason for their discontentment. If not explored with them, you will continue to throw more and more money at them, with no long-term benefit, resulting in a grumbling discontent by your employee and yourself. Or possibly leaving you waiting for the next time that it happens- and it will!

There are generally signs of a pending resignation. If you are regularly checking in with your team members, you will likely pick up if something seems to be remiss and be in a position to have a conversation about your observations. I have found that as I have prioritised regular check-ins and have built trust and understanding, that rarely, these days someone leaves without me knowing or having an inkling. Interestingly, I have also helped some of my employees to make the decision to move on, and a couple of them right out of the profession. I recognise that this might seem counter-intuitive. If you base your leadership on helping your employees, then that role extends to finding out what maintains their excitement and interest and exploring how they might find that with you or maybe they are ready for a change?

Now that your employee has decided to leave , you have a fabulous opportunity to get information that will help you as a leader, the culture of your practice and ways that you can improve to help your team. I wonder how many times an Exit Interview is conducted by practice owners? It can be difficult to approach an employee if their resignation has come as a surprise and you are having to manage your emotions. If you are having difficulty managing how you are feeling about the resignation, the timing might not be right for an Exit Interview. However, it is worth, approaching the ex-employee once a short period of time has elapsed, especially if they have been working in a new position for a month or two, and ask them to meet you for a coffee. Tell them what it is about and ask them if they are willing to have a chat with you. Let them know that you are wanting their feedback to help improve your practice. This will serve to reduce threat about the meeting and lay the platform for an honest and helpful conversation. You are likely to be surprised by what you learn.

The leaving of an employee is as equally important as the recruitment process. Well handled and supported, it can be a very positive process. Once your ex-employee has left and learned new skills and discovered more about themselves, you might find them knocking on your door, ready to come back and contribute to your team with their new knowledge and skills. This has been my experience. I am interested to hear about your experiences.

Dianna Howell Certmgr MIML MAPA

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