It is becoming increasingly important for companies to think more broadly about employment boundaries, particularly the impact that wide-reaching “alumni networks” of former employees can have. One of the critical prerequisites though is maintaining positive relationships with departing employees- prior, during, and after their transitions.
Compensation professionals can have extraordinary impact across all three timeframes through well designed total reward portfolios that drive positive financial and emotional experiences. The most powerful drivers, like moments of recognition, will be able to touch upon both simultaneously.
One study published recently has examined this phenomenon of positive relationships between departing employees and their former employers. The researchers found that employees who felt good about their former employers can have a number of positive benefits, including serving as ambassadors, future customers, or strategic partners. They may also become “boomerang” employees, and bring their knowledge of culture and process to get up to speed much more quickly than new hires.
In order for these benefits to be realized, employees need to have had a positive experience leading up to and following their departure. Two aspects contribute to a positive experience from the former employer’s perspective:
- Financial, influenced by existing compensation levels, as well as additional inducements to retain the employee. To the extent that both are perceived as fair, transparent and authentic, employees are likely to perceive the relationships more positively.
- Emotional, influenced by the interpersonal treatment leading up to the transition and whether the value and contributions of the employee have been acknowledged and communicated back. These messages, from bosses and colleagues, have a strong effect on the goodwill of former employees.
Both sets of perceptions will be important in contributing to the positive outcomes listed earlier. If we look across the total rewards portfolio, one aspect in particular stands out in terms of its ability to touch upon both simultaneously and drive positive experiences: social recognition.
Each moment of recognition communicates a financial investment in the form of an award, as well as an emotional investment in the accompanying message of the employee’s importance and value within the company. Moreover, these moments can be sourced from anywhere in the organization, amplifying the potential for a positive experience.
This ongoing process positions a company well to create positive experiences for employees, including those who may eventually leave for other jobs or careers. When that happens, recognition moments can present a timeline of all the contributions an employee has made, the relationships shared, and the investment the company has made in the employee.
Attempts to retain the employee or re-attract the “boomerangs” can also be built around these recognition moments, in discussions that identify potential shifts and pivots in career development plans based on work that was most meaningful in the past. Recognition moments may also provide a company with insight into unique skills and abilities that former employees have should strategic direction or talent needs shift in the future.
In this new, fluid world of work, companies need to be more flexible and perhaps creative in creating positive relationships with their employees, financially and emotionally. Through these relationships, companies can position themselves to more effectively retain and re-attract key talent, as well as build thriving alumni networks.
How has your company handled departing employees, and what has been most successful?
As Globoforce’s Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting, Derek Irvine is an internationally minded management professional with over 20 years of experience helping global companies set a higher ambition for global strategic employee recognition, leading workshops, strategy meetings and industry sessions around the world. He is the co-author of "The Power of Thanks" and his articles on fostering and managing a culture of appreciation through strategic recognition have been published in Businessweek, Workspan and HR Management. Derek splits his time between Dublin and Boston. Follow Derek on Twitter at @DerekIrvine.