` Employee experience and mental health: why departing colleagues should be given a fond farewell | Reward and Employee Benefits Association (REBA)
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16 Mar 2022
by Sam Musguin-Rowe

Employee experience and mental health: why departing colleagues should be given a fond farewell

Just becausecontent/employee-experience-and-mental-health-why-departing-colleagues-should-get-a-fond-farewell an employee is leaving, doesn't mean they’re no longer valuable to the company. In fact, the way you treat employees on their way out is important and speaks volumes about your leadership and culture.

Whether someone is voluntarily leaving to something new and different, retiring, being laid off because they're ‘redundant’ or leaving for any other reason, the last stage of their career with your organisation is more important today than ever, considering the high rates of turnover and the pervasiveness of social media.

Consider these stark and revealing numbers:

  • 4.7% of UK workers have resigned since the start of the pandemic, according to SDWorks
  • 38% of employees in the UK are looking to change roles in the next year, according to Personio and Opinium
  • 54% of Gen Z workers are considering quitting, according to the Microsoft 2021 Work Trend Index
  • 41% of employees worldwide are considering handing in their notice, according to the Microsoft 2021 Work Trend Index

It’s important that HR realise this for three big reasons: to avoid getting negative feedback on job sites, in social media, or in your industry; to help set up existing employees for success in their next venture; and to extend your employer brand outside your organisation. 

You can help achieve all three goals by making sure departing employees are recognised for their contribution to the business, and that they leave feeling positive about their experience. Maybe a better incentive is for HR to learn more about what's driving people to want to leave, taking a closer look at how managers and leadership get feedback – and what they do with the feedback they receive.

After all, reports and surveys over the last 18 months have found that while the Great Resignation has multiple drivers, they are mostly variations on a theme, as Phillip Kane, chief executive and managing partner of Grace Ocean, a business advisory firm, wrote in Inc. The central theme Kane is referring to can be summed up in one statistic: 76% of employees in a LinkedIn survey said the time spent at home during the pandemic – either during shut-downs or working remotely – had caused them to rethink their current work situation.

“A great many – over half in several surveys – cite stress and burnout in their current position as a reason for looking elsewhere,” Kane notes. “Others point to dissatisfaction, and even fear, caused by knee-jerk cost-cutting actions by their current employer in response to Covid-19-related business slowdowns as a reason for bolting, with many finding fundamental unfairness in holds on promotions, frozen merit increases, and indiscriminate layoffs which impacted poor performers and stars equally, particularly as they watched executive leadership refuse to participate in the pain.”

Other reasons for leaving nearly all centre on reconsidering their work situation, usually from the perspective of their mental and emotional wellbeing and the effects of their employee experience on their life outside of work:

  • After reasoning with their heart and head, deciding that the economic benefits of a two-income household no longer outweighed the emotional and mental costs.
  • Taking the leap to start a dream business
  • Simply being done feeling undervalued and unheard by what Kane terms “toxic, narcissistic managers.”
  • Concerns about their personal safety in having to return to an on-site position while the pandemic still rages.

The smart move today is to take the time to ask employees – regularly and formally – what's going well and what isn't. Best-in-class leaders are not just asking for employee feedback, but are taking action on it. HR might, meanwhile, improve the employee experience for people leaving the organisation by:

  • Taking steps to create a positive exit experience (for example, make sure they feel heard).
  • Offering benefits and perks to departing employees – to support their transition and simply because it's a good thing to do.
  • Using exit interviews to gain insight into your culture and help inform adjustments.
  • Being more aware of common red flags that signal potential trouble for your company brand.

By creating a better departure experience for employees, you’re acting for the greater good. Existing employees may well take their positive experience into their next adventure and spread the news about a positive approach to mental health at work. Your impact truly could extend far beyond your organisation.

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