“DEAD MAN WALKING!”… HR Rockstars Need to Lead the Way in Cool Employee Exit Strategies…

Dawn Burke Culture, Dawn Hrdlica, Employee Relations, Engagement and Satisfaction, Giving Notice, Good HR

So after ten years at one company… I left for a new job. Transition is on my mind in a big way.  In a BIG way.   So I was talking to Kris Dunn (who coincidentally was also in transition) and he related his last weeks of work as a “Dead Man Walking.”  Referring to that silent, awkward period after you turn in your notice and instantaneously you are as transparent as Charlie Brown is to Lucy.  Now that’s not a slam on the company… that is just the feeling one gets when they resign.

Well frankly speaking… I felt the same my last weeks as well for a different company.  And I was mighty busy those last weeks.  So Dead Man Walking Syndrome is not mutually exclusive with busy.  Dead Man Walking Syndrome is a state of mind, loneliness, maybe oddly enough – a crowded isolation one feels regardless of the number of tasks, transitory duties, or goodbye rituals in your final days. And feeling excited about your new opportunity doesn’t seem to compensate for the Syndrome.  In some ways it makes it worse.  Oy … the guilt!

So, of course, I had to over analyze that feeling from an HR Rockstar point-of-view.  Over the 10 years at my last job, I must have seen hundreds of employees exit.  And I am sad to admit… I was likely an unwilling party in perpetuating the Dead Man Walking Syndrome on others.  How?  By not putting 1/16th the effort in outboarding employees as I did onboarding.  Period.  I just didn’t look at the outboarding process as an important emotional transition.  Ignorance to it really.  That wasn’t a strategic HR decision; it was just not on my radar.  And God… do you really think I had time to emotionally engage people who were disengaging from the company?  Puh-leeeeez.

So many companies are branding themselves as employee friendly; for practical reasons, for altruistic reasons, even for strategic profitability reasons.  But here is the bottom line – if any employees, especially ones who have dedicated substantial portions of their lives to a company, are dismissed the day they turn in their resignation, then your company is NOT employee friendly.  It doesn’t matter if you dismiss them because you don’t have time to focus on an employee who will not be part of the future; it doesn’t matter if you are angry or sad by their departure, it doesn’t matter if it slipped your mind.  NOT employee friendly.

So why should HR rockstars make the effort to outboard properly?

  • Frankly speaking, no one else will.  And somebody must.
  • I learned in my theatre days that audiences remember the actors’ entrance and exit for a lifetime.  Your great employees do and will remember their last week for a LONG time as well.  And when they are out in the world… it benefits you for them to remember you fondly and talk you up positively.
  • Because HR rockstars are nice… it’s the cool thing to do.

Put yourself in their shoes and you’ll see… outboarding. The next big thing.