How to maintain good relationships with ex-employees

Recently, I received an inquiry from someone looking to reshape the culture around departures within their team. They expressed a desire to maintain meaningful connections with colleagues who were leaving. So what are the strategies for keeping good relationships with ex-team members?

It’s a great thing to want to keep lasting connections with team members who, for whatever reason, have decided to leave your team and company. It’s important to recognise that what makes some of us happy and fulfilled career-wise makes others frustrated or unhappy. And in a many sectors where good results are critical, it’s better for staff members who have had enough to leave on a good note and create space for staff who want that sort of a career. 

To keep up the good relations:

I think, for once, we can turn to the big management consultancy practices for an indication of how to get this right. Rather than treating ex-employees as outcasts, they see them as alumni, keep talking to them, get them to come to future events, and treat them with kindness and enthusiasm. The consultancies may have an ulterior motive: ex-employees are likely to become future clients as they climb the ranks in other organisations and need to bring in consultants themselves. However, the ex-employees benefit too, as they maintain a great network. In your case, these ex-employees may go on to work for other hospitals, undertake research, discover critical treatment approaches, and bring these messages back to you from afar! I advocate this to clients of all sizes, and many of them – ranging from museums to law firms – now use it to great effect.

Make a commitment:

I don’t think you need a formal mechanism, but a commitment that you will find a way to tell people, if you need to, that you respect their decision. I have seen goodbye cards used to great effect – not just generically signing the general one, but including a note which says ‘let’s stay in touch’ and even includes your mobile number or a suggestion of a future coffee or dinner. Then, you need to follow through: making an effort to contact the person two or three substantial times over the coming six months will embed you in their new network and vice versa. 

When I say substantial, it’s because these interactions should be more than just a ‘hi, how are you?’ (but you can do those too if you want to). Find a reason why it’s worth being in touch, e.g., something you’ve read that they may be interested in, news about a shared colleague, or something which reminded you of them. You may also remember an interest you shared out of work and use that as a basis to connect. 

Three resources to help: 

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