There’s lots of talk about Onboarding. Wikipedia sez:

Onboarding, also known as organizational socialization, refers to the mechanism through which new employees acquire the necessary knowledge, skills, and behaviors to become effective organizational members and insiders.

I love this idea that carefully curating and designing a process for new starters to get up-to-speed and be better integrated into your company can bring nothing but sunshine and unicorns, create better bonds, lower attrition and more engaged staff.

But what about when someone leaves? It’s usually a short process: leave is negotiated in private (either a jump or a push), it’s communicated to the wider team, some handover, perhaps there’s an exit interview, “clean out your desk”, eat a bit of cake, say goodbye down the pub and Mondays aren’t the same every again.

For everyone else in the company.

The leaver will be enjoying the delights of the next company and their onboarding process, but the people at the old company? Mourning the loss of an ally, a compatriot a peer.

And this is where I wonder whether we shouldn’t be paying more attention to the people around the leaver as they work out their notice period. There are thought processes:

The leaver was happy, weren’t they? Why would they choose to leave? Maybe I should leave? Is it better elsewhere

Or maybe

Why were they sacked? Could I be sacked? Maybe I should look for another job?

Or even

Who is going to do their job? Am I doing it now? How will I know I like the new person? Will we get on? Will they be able to do everything the leaver can do?

These thoughts all lead to a risk that those around the leaver, the peers (and perhaps the reports) will be feeling adrift, unsure, unsteady, things have changed and it’s resulted in someone I like/respect/admire/fear not being a such a big part of my life anymore.

I feel like we need to account for this somehow. To have a process of offboarding for the people around the team member – make sure they understand why the leaver is leaving, what that means for the future of the team, how they might use this upheaval, this change as an opportunity for improvement, or promotion or simply to realign themselves with their team, their company and their career. Use somebody leaving as a positive thing to promote … something good. My thoughts here aren’t clear and I believe that whatever the process is, it’s probably going to be specific to your company anyway.

(Hat Tip to @nefarioustim for the #alighting alternative)

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