Graceful Transitions: How to Part Ways with an Employee the Right Way

Graceful Transitions: How to Part Ways with an Employee the Right Way

In this unusual podcast episode, Senior HR Business Partner Molly Kelley opens up about her decision to transition out of her role at Xenium. She and Brandon discuss the ideal process and communication for smooth transitions for key employees, from the angles of both employee and employer. Listen in for recommendations on timelines, employee communication, client communication, as well as how to handle less amicable employee transitions.

MP3 File Run Time: 39:29

Brandon: Hey, welcome back for another episode of the HR for Small Business Podcast. I’m your host Brandon Laws. I am with Molly Kelley, a returning guest, a valued Xenium employee and this is kind of a sad episode! Molly will be leaving us soon and we’re going to do an episode all about amicable transitions and what that looks like.

So first, I wanted to just ask you. How much notice did you actually give?

Molly: I think it will wind up being almost three months.

Brandon: Yeah.

Molly: Which feels appropriate – in July, I would have been here ten years. It could have been longer, honestly. We’re moving for family reasons and I won’t actually have a job lined up in Michigan when we relocate.

Brandon: You will not?

Molly: Intentionally.

Brandon: Taking a break?

Molly: Yeah, I’m really going to focus on getting my family settled in.

Brandon: Good for you.

Molly: I’m moving my 7 year old and my 76 year old father at the same time, too. So there’s a lot of coordination in addition to helping my husband coordinate with a new job on his end and looking for housing in a completely new area of the country for me. So we’re dealing with a lot of change, so I think that will be my focus for a while.

Brandon: Good for you for taking some time off. I think that’s super important.

Molly: Thank you. It’s bittersweet though.

Brandon: Yeah. You’ve given obviously a lot of notice. But for a tenured employee like yourself, that’s probably normal?

Molly: It really depends. It’s kind of what made me think to reach out to you and say that this isn’t something we tend to talk about very much.

Brandon: I jumped at the opportunity to talk to you about this. You have a personal story about this.

Molly: I do. But it’s also something I’m seeing these days. We’re getting to a place in both career lives where a lot of my peers are making major transitions. Either they’ve been in a role for a while and they’re ready to try something new or they’re stepping back to spend more time with family, aging parents or young children. So it kind of feels like it’s surrounding me and my personal life. But it’s certainly something that I’m seeing with my clients as well. We tend to focus on the icky, sticky, painful termination for cause when people leave. But the reality is we have all kinds of amicable transitions that happen for a whole variety of reasons that we don’t really tend to talk about that much. I thought it would be an interesting topic to delve into a little bit.

Brandon: Absolutely. I want to stick to you for a few minutes if we could. So you’ve been with Xenium 9.5 years?

Molly: Yeah, it will be 10 in July if I was here that long!

Brandon: Your sabbatical, what’s going on with that?

Molly: Yeah, I’m foregoing my sabbatical in favor of a smooth transition for the team and I figure my sabbatical will come on the shores of Lake Michigan once we get settled.

Brandon: That sounds pretty nice! What’s interesting from my perspective is that I’ve been here 8.5 years, you’ve been here almost 10. I’m pretty sure you did a drug test for me when I first started!

Molly: I probably did. Pee in this cup. There’s really no better way to form a quick relationship!

Brandon: We don’t do that anymore here onsite.

Molly: Thankfully, we don’t! No, I wouldn’t recommend it. I mean you and I are bonded forever over that experience!

Brandon: That you held my pee for like five seconds.

Molly: Exactly!

Brandon: It’s so weird. But I had to slide that in there just because we have a connection there.

Molly: We’re drug test buddies. Which is not to be taken the wrong way!

Brandon: Oh, I love it.

So people in your sort of situation where they’ve been with a company for ten years and they’re thinking about transitioning whether for a reason like yourself or it’s just not a fit anymore, they’re not passionate, whatever the reason may be – let’s put that aside. What’s a typical transition timeline? Two-week notice?

Molly: The two-week notice, yeah. We see everything.

Brandon: That’s kind of a joke for that long, right?

Molly: For me, as a senior leader, if you can give more notice, it’s greatly appreciated. There are circumstances that are beyond our control, frequently. I know other people who have gone through a transition like this where the timing was such that they may not have been able to take the other position if they had not jumped on it.

Brandon: Oh absolutely. I didn’t even think about that.

Molly: If another employer is saying it’s two weeks or we have to move on to our next candidate because we’ve got something going on, critical on our end. There are times when that timeline is escalated from a month down to two weeks or something like that. I think so much of what we do here at Xenium is about relationships that, for me, two weeks would not have even scratched the surface.

Brandon: We’re consultants as well, so we’re dealing with clients and you’re a trusted person for them and you have 30 different cultures to worry about and with the transition, you have to deal with all of that.

Molly: Absolutely. As soon as you have client service thrown in the mix, you’re dealing with, for a long term employee, kind of a grieving process with the internal team, your teammates. So for me with Brandon, for me with Angela, Anne, Lacey, Tana, my entire team, the payroll team, benefits. But then we take a step wider in that circle and we look at what’s the impact to clients and then more importantly how do we support that transition when that happens. For us I think there’s added pressure and I think for every business there’s some complications. If you were an accounting firm, figuring out the intricacies of hand-off in terms of timing for tax cycles and things like that. Every company has its own challenges and certainly job by job there are challenges.

I think as a transitioning employee, one of the things that we tend to fall into is this thinking that I’m irreplaceable, that only I can do this. Certainly for me, I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve had to step back and realize that my style, the way that I work with my clients, is my style and that they don’t need an exact replica of Molly to be incredibly successful and well-supported by Xenium.

There are stages of realization and especially when, as I have been in this transition, such a valued partner with the senior leadership team around deciding who would take parts of my job. That’s a very wonderful feeling, but there needs to be a moment of trust of just saying that it will be fine. I’ve got an amazing team. Whoever steps up to the plate here will do well. So there’s that internal-external struggle of what happens from here and it’s both freeing and frightening to think about not being there at the same time.

Brandon: When you first knew that you were going to make a transition, was the decision to do a three-month transition your decision or agreed upon? It seems like you have this balance because you’re talking about how internally, you think you’re irreplaceable. So it’s like, why wouldn’t they want me for another six months as I’m transitioning? But then, isn’t that just a little awkward and long? So if the employer pushes back and says, You know, actually a month is good. If you’re good with that, we will just part ways. What’s the balance like?

Molly: Yeah, it’s interesting. I think about this both from an employer perspective and then personally in my own experience. For me, the three-month transition was really around – you know me Brandon, I’m an open book. For me, it was very hard to come into work every day knowing that we were getting our house ready for sale, preparing to change schools, things like that.

In this day and age where everybody is connected via social media, I had a real fear that something would get out via Facebook or LinkedIn or something like that as well and I really did not want to be disrespectful to my leadership team and my teammates and my clients here at Xenium. There was a need to communicate quickly and at the same time John and I decided early on that it was important to us to have Liam finish his school year here. And it takes time to do all this stuff when in this case, we’re relocating. So that makes a big difference.

I think that what does happen, though, and I’ve seen this in many cases, is you can get a sense of short timer syndrome. There are situations where you’ve seen employees that are good, solid, dedicated employees who have given two months’ notice or a month’s notice or even three weeks’ notice and it’s hard to continue coming in and giving 150%.

I am lucky right now that I’ve got the excitement of handing off to some really great people and some other projects that are coming my way through Xenium that will be interesting and exciting.

Brandon: It will keep you engaged until the day you leave.

Molly: Yeah, keep me engaged. And the transition itself, moving from one business partner to another with each of these clients is something that is going to take time and attention. So I’m not experiencing that at this time, but I’ve seen it with my clients who have had longer term employees that out of an abundance of courtesy have given a long notice and have personally suffered for it and then sometimes the employer suffers because people kind of start to drift a little bit or aren’t feeling as comfortable. Frequently, those are the good, ethical folks who come forward and say, You know what? I’m sorry. I know I told you it would be three weeks. But two is really all I can do.

Brandon: Interesting. Who did you tell first? You said you worried about it going on social media, we’re so connected now. I’ll tell you, when that email came out, I was completely surprised. I think I told you in an email response. I mean I had tears. It’s always so hard when you are going to lose somebody that you absolutely love.

Molly: It’s hard. It is hard, and especially in our world where we deal with the terms “resignation” and “separation” all the time.

Brandon: These heartless words!

Molly: Right! When you send an email that said resignation, everybody assumed it was some kind of an update on a process, not a personal resignation. So it was actually kind of a three-ring circus the day that I came in to give my notice. I could hardly breathe, I was so close to the edge of tears. I mean even talking to you about this right now, I’m right on the edge. It’s still really hard for me. So I was trying to track down Alishia, who is my manager.

Brandon: Who is my cousin!

Molly: Who is your cousin, yes! She was in a meeting downstairs in the basement, so her stuff was here, which kept giving me hope. I kept drifting past her office.

Brandon: As the anxiety levels are rising, I’m sure.

Molly: Oh, yeah. As you know, we have cubicle land here, so everybody can see everybody. So for me to come traipsing over to Alishia’s office four times in the space of about 30 minutes in tears, I think the entire team outside of Alishia’s area was like, What the heck is going on?

Brandon: I doubt people have an awareness of their surroundings like that, though. They probably had no clue.

Molly: There were a few people who kind of sensed that something was up, especially when I was frantically asking for Alishia and at some point.

Brandon: Yeah, an investigation could have happened or something.

Molly: Bad news, right? So at some point, I ran into Tana; and Tana had been my manager until about the month prior.

Brandon: Our VP of HR at Xenium.

Molly: VP of HR. She could see that I was upset and so we just stepped into her office and so I formally told Tana first only because I couldn’t find Alishia. But out of respect to Alishia and a long term friendship, I wanted to tell Alishia first. Unfortunately, she was hiding in a meeting in the basement.

Brandon: We call that the “garden level.”

Molly: Right! You know, and we have an organization where we are so apolitical and open and authentic in our communication that there was no concern around who do I tell first from that perspective. It was more that I wanted to make sure I did it right by Xenium before figuring out what was right for Molly. So I was prepared to wait quite a while to tell the rest of the team. Thankfully Alishia encouraged me to send out an email later that afternoon, which I really appreciated because this is my family. It has been my home for ten years. It’s what has kept us in Oregon this entire time is Xenium. It was handled very respectfully on Xenium’s side, which I really appreciated and those are the moments. You know, stepping back from my personal experience and just saying as an HR consultant, when you have a long term loyal employee, those are the moments that both attest to that relationship, when a senior leadership team has the trust in the employee to say, Well, we will trust that you will let your clients know at appropriate moments and that we will handle this well and that you will remain engaged and all of that. And at the same time, from my perspective as an employee, the team is also saying to me we want to make this comfortable for you because it was such a massive transition for me personally that it was pretty painful at moments.

Brandon: I’m glad you shed light on the communication timeline because I’ve seen it a couple of different ways. I actually read this book called Disrupted. It talked about the tech industry and it’s kind of ruthless in a way.

Molly: It can be, yeah.

Brandon: The person writing this book described it as, one day somebody is there, working, and getting along with the team. They’re all about culture and they’re having beer in the afternoons and whatnot and having free candy and stuff. Then the next day, the boss is sending out an email saying they’ve “graduated” in this like weird, cryptic way. The person obviously got fired or something. But then you talk about when you make the decision to transition out and it’s this three-month process and they’re encouraging you to communicate openly with everybody. That seems so different and so healthy.

Molly: So healthy, I agree. Moments before coming to meet with you today, Brandon, I was supporting a client with a long term employee, a 9-year employee, who was ready for her next chapter. The same kind of thing, their consideration is around having a really positive email go out. In my case, it came from me directly. In this case, it came from the company president, just praising everything that this person has done for the company for nine long years. Immediately the consideration around let’s do a lunch to celebrate.

Every culture is different. But it really is true that how we say goodbye is just as important as how we welcome new people in.

Brandon: That’s actually a fantastic point.

Molly: And it often gets overlooked because we are so busy and we’re thinking about what’s next on the employer side. And this is happening a lot. We’ve got an entire generation of folks right now that are within the next 10, 15 years facing retirement potentially and how we honor that service and also how we capture that legacy knowledge is going to be absolutely critical.

In Portland, at least, it’s a small town. If people leave us and they move onto another company, the chances are pretty high that our paths are going to cross within the industry, whatever industry you’re in.

Brandon: Going back to the timeline thing. You told managers, they encouraged you to send out an email later that day. It’s interesting because when I see emails like that occasionally, as an employee, you’re sort of like, Well, I don’t know any backstory. This is weird. Is it authentic? Is it not? Your email came from you and it was your decision and it was all about that and you were very open about it.

Molly: Relocation makes it easier. I’m not leaving to go to another consulting company right down the street. It’s a little bit more straightforward.

Brandon: You’re totally transparent about it and I think if you’re going to give advice to clients who are doing these transition type emails and encourage their employees to send them emails, do you think open and authentic is the way to go or do you think like bare minimum is fine? What do you think?

Molly: It depends on the circumstances. If we’re talking amicable transitions where somebody has resigned or they are leaving for family reasons or retiring or something like that, it’s easy. I think it’s when maybe it’s still amicable, we’re not terminating this person, but they’re resigning because they’re very unhappy with decisions made by management or their current job structure or what have you. Then it’s important to potentially control the narrative a little bit more and that doesn’t feel comfortable. But I think, really, at that point, communicating to the employee respectfully, we would really like to have the communication be future-focused. You were such a valued member of this team that it is going to rock a lot of people to have you leave. So if you can talk about kind of your transition, how long you will be here, if there’s somebody appointed to take your position, questions can be directed to that person. I mean typically that’s the kind of thing that a manager would handle, but if we want the communication to come from the employee, then that makes sense too. You’re making a choice and extending trust that that person will engage professionally and it really has to be gauged on the relationship as it stands, which is so situational. It’s hard to advise on.

Brandon: Is email the best way to communicate?

Molly: That’s a good question.

Brandon: Meetings? Is there some other format? Walk around? What do you do?

Molly: I think in a lot of cases when we’ve done key employee transitions with a runway like this and sometimes without a runway but a quick company stand-up meeting is a great idea for an organization that doesn’t have a lot of remote employees. In my case, with Xenium here, almost 30 of our employees out of 88 are offsite. I have relationships with those folks and so I didn’t want the communication to come piecemeal. That’s one of the really important pieces of this is focusing on the communication coming both timely, meaning we have our plan. So we’re not scrambling, but we’re not waiting too long because word gets out, but also making sure that the appropriate parties are notified out of respect.

For instance I called my one direct report and told her verbally versus sending an email and having that land in her inbox. That would have been, I think, very jarring. So I think it’s little things like that. Unfortunately, when things are moving quickly, you don’t have the time to think it through and be very methodical about it, which can be a challenge.

Brandon: True. What’s the feeling like when you send out that email and you know it’s just hanging out over you? People are obviously thinking about it. But you don’t know exactly what they’re thinking and we have an all-team meeting and we discuss it with 40-some people sitting in a room. Is it awkward for you? What’s the feeling of that whole situation?

Molly: I will give you two answers. I am an incredibly emotional, open book person. I’m pretty transparent.

Brandon: I think most people are here!

Molly: Yeah! So for me, I have a really hard time keeping it bottled in. Anne even mentioning it in an all-team meeting the week after I sent my email or the same month that I sent my email. I began to tear up. I know that my last all team meeting will be very emotional for me at least.

I will tell you that when I sent that email, I was surprised. I expected that the leadership team would want to control the communication a little bit more in the sense of having a plan for when the team would be notified and I really respected Alishia, Tana, and Ann saying sooner is better.

Brandon: One of our promise statements is communicating openly, honestly, sincerely and direct and timely.

Molly: Yes. I was not prepared to send that out that day, so I was surprised by that. That said, I was sitting in my cubicle when I sent it out. I was here in the office. So I could hear it hitting people’s inboxes and person after person came over. At some point, I had to leave because I was becoming so emotional and didn’t want to distract from the team. Unfortunately, this is embarrassing, I have 33 unread emails in my inbox of people who responded to me, yourself included!

Brandon: Yeah, I didn’t get a response! What’s up with that?

Molly: You didn’t because I literally can’t open it to this day. I start crying in my cubicle if I see that. I am going to respond but I mean it just shows you that I think part of what you do when you’re in that transition mode is compartmentalize to be at your best for your clients. I mean they still have things going on. We delayed the communication to the clients for a while so we could make sure we had a plan in place about who was going to help support them from here.

There was a weird kind of feeling of very close personal relationships of mine that I’ve developed over 10 years at Xenium, of not telling them and needing to keep my head in the game and be there to support their employees and the team.

Brandon: So your whole transition, it’s going beautifully, right?

Molly: I feel like it.

Brandon: It seems like from the communication to now.

Molly: It’s getting hard.

Brandon: Yeah, you get antsy at some point and probably distracted.

Molly: For me, it’s harder because the details are getting more real and the pace is picking up a little bit in terms of how now it’s actual transition work. Then what’s also harder is we deal with people and there is no beginning or end point. It’s not like when I finish this report, it’s done, I’ve done that project. Most of my work is in supporting people. I have several situations that I’m midstream in right now where we’re working through some really tough situations where I want to be there to support these employees ongoing, or this manager or this company, and I know I’m not going to see it out. I mean this baby isn’t due for three more months or this person won’t be back from leave until after I’m gone. There’s a lot of unfinished business because people are people and being able to let go and trust that at Xenium we’ve assembled an amazing team to pick up the reins and run with it is something that I’m coming to terms with. But it’s hard to let go.

Brandon: Let’s talk about when it doesn’t go so well. Luckily, we have like such a great leadership team here and hearing about it first isn’t that important to people probably. I know my cousin, and not hearing it first probably wouldn’t have bothered her.

Molly: It didn’t even faze her.

Brandon: Yeah, it didn’t faze her! But what happens when a manager learns through the grapevine that this person is leaving, a key employee, and they didn’t hear about it first?

Molly: I actually have had that happen in several scenarios and in many cases, there’s a personal shock.

Brandon: Like how dare you.

Molly: Unfortunately, I’ve seen some managers react to that and march to the employee and confront them.

Brandon: It’s not about them.

Molly: Well, and demand their resignation on the spot. So we’ve had some transitions that have escalated because of a personal offense, and that’s rare. I think most of the time, people are willing to work through it. But when that comes up, there may be a variety of factors that are going on for that employee in terms of what they’re not communicating or when they’re not communicating.

I think as a manager, finding out first of all from the person who’s telling you, do you have a sense of what this employee’s timeline is? We heard that Dave is leaving, that he is interviewing with another company or that he may have given his resignation to you verbally, a coworker. But he hasn’t said anything to me, his manager.

Brandon: You mean like a coworker being like a trusted friend or somebody who they’re just chattering to.

Molly: Yes, haven’t actually resigned, just told them Hey, I’m resigning soon.

Brandon: And the manager catches wind and says, what’s up with this?

Molly: Right. So finding out from that person, the gossip mill, if you can, when Dave is intending to notify you is a good way to start because it may be that hey, I’ve been in meetings all day. He mentioned it to a coworker because he couldn’t find you, that kind of thing. But if it’s not that and this person is interviewing or there’s no communication timeline that we’re aware of, I think as a manager, if you have a good relationship going to that employee and saying, Hey, there’s a rumor going around that you may be leaving. I just wanted to talk with you openly about that. I want to support you if that’s the case. Is that true? This is not me confronting you. This is me just looking out for our relationship and authentic communication and of course I am concerned about making sure that we’re strategic about the work that you do.

Brandon: That’s a good way to handle it though.

Molly: If this person is in a client service role, I want to make sure our clients are served. And it’s awkward. If you’re not intending to resign yet and the word is out there, people could either not be truthful or be defensive or apologetic. I mean there’s a whole host of responses, but I think the manager leading with open and non-retaliatory communication is important.

Brandon: Starts from within, it really does.

Molly: Right, and then hopefully that’s going to open that door and not slam it shut, basically.

Brandon: Do you find that a lot of managers do react that way? Like the open, authentic approach?

Molly: It’s 50-50.

Brandon: Yeah, I mean it’s crazy to me that they’re in a management role. Human beings are irrational. We know that, right? We’re emotional.

Molly: Well, and there are some positions where it’s more difficult. If I have someone who is a critical member of the leadership team, I’m the CFO and I’m thinking of leaving. There’s a panic response because there may be no one else who’s trained to take my role or there may be the fact that I’m handling very sensitive, confidential, timely information that needs to be dealt with. Maybe I’m a healthcare provider with a patient load. What’s going to happen to those people?

So I think that the more respectful the manager can be, even if the communication hasn’t been particularly proactive on the employee side, the more control we have in terms of making that a positive transition all the way around the better. But it’s difficult.

Brandon: Put on your HR hat for a second, or your manager hat. What needs to happen in between the time that communication goes out to the time that you actually transition? Obviously we’ve talked about how the time will vary based on the transition, whether or not it’s amicable, all those things. But what needs to happen in between?

Molly: My comment earlier about this is such a difficult spot because we’re usually given so little time. We’re usually given two weeks and if we have to recruit to refill that position, that two weeks is a drop in the bucket.

Brandon: You need to train people, too.

Molly: Right, exactly. So for your key positions, have a transition plan in place or an SOP around transition. For example, at Xenium, we have a key account transition worksheet that your cousin, Alishia, who has such a great process mind helped us create, that talks about everything –  who is their broker, when do they have open enrollment, when was their handbook most recently updated, who are the key contacts, how do they like to be communicated with – so it has the soft side of things as well, what have been the biggest challenges in working with this client, what are the rewards, how do they like to have team meetings, how frequently do you expect to see them.

Some of this, we now are at a point where we’re more sophisticated. This is largely due in part to our CRM system, we have some analytics that we didn’t have previously which is really helpful to give us utilization information. But there needs to be a process and a format, truthfully, a sheet, an old-fashioned sheet for a brain dump of this is everything about that client. And bless her heart, Alishia spearheaded a task force a number of years ago where the team worked really hard to create a transition sheet. And that gets used when maybe a client has requested a transition of key account managers. So maybe no one is leaving, but we’re transitioning this account because someone is changing their role or what have you. It’s a really helpful process.

That kind of handles the process side and whatever that looks like, it doesn’t have to be customer service, it could be this is my job, looking at the job description again, going back over that. That’s important. Or, thinking about what kinds of communication are going to be necessary throughout that conversation.

For me, there was a lot of time spent going back through my pit of a desk! Does Xenium need this? Should I just recycle this? For us, with client information, we archive that. So getting that process rolling so somebody is not inheriting my mess.

Brandon: Data dump!

Molly: Yeah, data dump, exactly. So kind of figuring that piece out to the last few days. So coordinating a good-bye party. We are so intermingled now technologically as employees, our personal and our private are so intermixed. My cell phone is my only cell phone and it’s not my cell phone. But it has been for 10 years!

Brandon: So you’re going to keep that number, I assume?

Molly: I don’t want anything to do with that number, Brandon!

Brandon: Oh, you don’t? That actually makes sense! You’re ditching it and it means all your friends, your family. Now you have to get a new phone.

Molly: That’s an important piece of this is realizing that. For some employers, many say you can take the phone, you can take the number, that’s fine. Coordinating that and thinking about what that looks like is important. When will the email be turned off, what will the email say, and all of that good stuff, right down to, Gosh, what documents do I have that Xenium needs? I did all my work on my laptop, which is a company laptop, so I don’t have to worry about that. But if people have brought things home and worked on their personal desktops, making sure that we get all of the intellectual property back and that we’re not leaving that employee hanging. We’ve unfortunately had terminations where the employee’s phone was a company phone. We take that phone and they have no way to literally even call their spouse when they leave work.

Brandon: Interesting.

Molly: It’s painful. You know, keys, credit cards, all that good stuff. That’s kind of classic for any transition and of course with an amicable transition, with notice, you have time to think that through.

Brandon: I’m glad you made that point. This has actually given me anxiety! If I ever had to transition, my personal credit card is tied to all of this marketing stuff that I do.

Molly: All of my personal contacts are in my Xenium phone! My calendar is in Xenium Outlook.

Brandon: I’ve got a solution for you! This is thanks to technology. I have an iPhone. Luckily there are a lot of nice integrations with different software, but I have all my contacts in Gmail.

Molly: That’s smart.

Brandon: And all the contacts will sync back and forth, and you can choose what syncs and what doesn’t. But anytime I make a change on Google Contacts, it syncs right to my iPhone.

Molly: Perfect!

Brandon: My phone is my personal phone now, I actually moved to personal. But if you ever had a work phone, you could do the same thing. Just push it right to your phone.

Molly: Right. I will have to do that.

Brandon: That way, if it gets taken away, you don’t lose anything.

Molly: One of the first things I did when I actually resigned was to go out and get an actual physical, old-fashioned calendar, a planner, because I will not be purchasing my own cell phone until early June. You know, my last month of employment, and right now, everything from – you know, Liam has a birthday party. All of that is going in my work calendar right now. So it’s thinking about unraveling that.

I’ve also seen companies lose control of the social media. Not all social media, the one I’m putting in this category would be LinkedIn. A lot of employees forget to update LinkedIn. So it will note that they’re still a member of that company.

Brandon: Well, a lot of times, it’s tied to their work email and that’s probably not a good idea because then you move and you can’t access that email anymore.

Molly: But really asking people as part of that exit process when it is amicable to hey, remember to update your LinkedIn and note your final day here or your final month here. And that’s really for their own career search as much as anything else. You’re still employed two years after you left your job, that’s not looking good. So we want to make sure that’s active. So thinking about that and then also having a really well-thought-out exit interview process. We learn so much that way, unfortunately.

Brandon: I’m so glad that you said that. It’s a very good opportunity for somebody like yourself, having been with the company 10 years, you have valuable feedback.

Molly: Absolutely.

Brandon: And so does a person who has been here a year.

Molly: There’s a trend towards stay interviews which I really respect which is when you come to an existing employee and you say, We love that you love it here. We want to know what you love about this place or we want to make sure that you love this place and that we’re aware of what keeps you here, what motivates you prior to you leaving.

Brandon: There’s a certain level of like, I don’t know if people could be authentic in those. I think they’re valuable, don’t get me wrong. I love those surveys because I’m pretty authentic with feedback. But I always feel like people are afraid to give 100% authentic feedback because like maybe their job would be on the line if they said something critical of somebody or something.

Molly: No, you’re right. We hear different things. I mean I’ve done exit interviews with people three weeks after a stay interview and the answers are completely different! They say, I felt like telling you that I was leaving when we met but I couldn’t yet because I hadn’t gotten my final offer. But let me tell you how I really feel.

Brandon: Unreal!

Molly: And boom, here it all comes, and please don’t send this until 5 o’clock on my last day.

Brandon: That’s interesting.

Molly: So that’s a piece around the emotional intelligence, kind of reading what this employee might have to say and the timing around the exit interview. Really important.

Brandon: I think there’s a solution for that and, correct me if you think I’m wrong about this, but like something that we’ve done here to kind of bypass that because I think people are pretty authentic, is we make sure it’s integrated in our behavior statements, the things that we want people to do. So authentic feedback, timely, open communication, all those things.

We ask for feedback a lot. When we get results back, we put it up on PowerPoints or whatever in all-team meetings and say, here’s what you said, here’s what we’re going to work on. I think people are more likely to give critical feedback knowing that hey, they’re actually working on it.

Molly: Absolutely, yeah. A lot of people feel like what’s the point of an exit interview? Who sees this? That’s usually the first question I get asked.

Brandon: For most companies, it probably sits in a drawer somewhere, if they even do it.

Molly: Right, right. Yeah, they often want to know who’s going to see it and when. If I’m meeting with you two days before your last day or in the morning at 9:00am of your last day, is this going to be emailed to my manager right now? Will I have a chance to review it before you send it? Because you’re taking notes, but what if you don’t get me quite right or what if I change my mind? There’s a lot of thought that needs to be put into the how, the why, the what, and the when of an exit interview, absolutely.

Brandon: The labor market is completely bonkers right now. People are moving fast, they’re transitioning quite a bit. There’s a lot of high skilled jobs available it seems like or employers are trying to find high skilled employees to come work for them, poaching from different companies. People are transitioning quite a bit, so this is an issue. This isn’t just isolated to you or to Xenium every once in a while. We don’t lose very many employees but it hurts when we lose somebody like you.

Molly: Yeah. I think it will become a bigger issue. Looking at my favorite statistic, and people who come to my trainings are sick of hearing it, but by 2025, 75% of the American workforce will be 35 years old or younger. We’re looking at the departure of the baby boomer generation for a whole variety of reasons, encore careers, volunteer careers, retirement, whatever the reason. Often they’re taking consulting roles, which is freeing but sometimes a loss for the company. So we really need to be thinking not just about succession planning but transitions, and when they come up, having a plan in place. I think it starts from day one of hiring someone and creating that open, authentic, and trusting relationship where you can share with me if you’re thinking that you might be leaving well and advance of your departure. We’re not going to have a kneejerk reaction. I mean a lot of my family said you can’t tell Xenium so early that you’re leaving. They might fire you because they need to get someone in there to – that’s going to be there. They might accept your notice early.

Brandon: But you know us.

Molly: I trusted and it has not done me wrong at all and it has been so freeing to be able to be open and honest about what was going on for us on the family side. Not everyone is lucky enough to work in an environment like that and we do the work of trying to create environments like that, but it does come down to individual relationships between managers and employees at the end of the day. Do you want me here? Do you want to be here? I mean that’s the question we both ask each other every day in an at-will relationship. Do you want to be here and do you want me here? We hope the answer is always yes, but when it’s not, for any reason, we hope it can be a graceful transition in that process.

Brandon: This podcast is likely going to air after the fact that you’re going to leave. I think you’re going to leave on June 9?

Molly: It’s up in the air a little bit, yeah.

Brandon: We’re recording May 3rd, and this will probably go out sometime mid-June just based on our schedule. What do you want your last day to look like?

Molly: Oh boy.

Brandon: Have you even thought about that?

Molly: I have not thought about that!

Brandon: I’m going to force you to think about it right now.

Molly: Yeah, I can’t. I think it will be pretty emotional. So much of the HR Business Partner role is spent out of the office, in the field, running between clients, sitting at a coffee shop to check email momentarily. I imagine by that point that my clients will be pretty much handed off and off and running with their new partner, so I really hope it is time spent in office wrapping things up and hopefully with a big box of tissues somewhere close at hand.

Brandon: You will find a box in my office here!

Molly: Thanks Brandon!

Brandon: Because I will probably need it too! What about a party, anything like that?

Molly: We are talking about doing some kind of a send-off in June at some point. We’re hoping for the weather to get nice and it looks like it’s cooperating today at least!

Brandon: We’re supposed to have 80 degree weather. But it rained yesterday, it poured yesterday, the weather is crazy.

Molly: It’s Portland!

Brandon: And you’re going to Michigan, it’s even more crazy! It’s very seasonal though, right?

Molly: Yeah, they have the actual four seasons although my mother-in-law and my in-laws there are fond of telling me that they actually had a milder winter than Portland did this year! So we miss the snow. We’re going back for snow partially, though we’re giving up a lot here.

Brandon: You are giving up a lot. It’s tough. I’m really thankful that you came on and talked about this.

Molly: Thank you.

Brandon: We haven’t even really discussed this in person besides this podcast.

Molly: No. I knew I would get emotional, yeah. This has been the greatest privilege of my life, this career and this home.

Brandon: We are going to miss you big time.

Molly: I will miss it and I will always be a fan.

Brandon: Well, luckily for us, if you’re open to it, we can always have you on the podcast!

Molly: Oh, I would love that. Oh good!

Brandon: I do most of my interviews via Skype nowadays, which listeners probably don’t even know that.

Molly: I promise to create interesting material for you after I leave!

Brandon: There you go. Yeah. You’re going to have to come on so listeners can figure out what you’re up to because you’ve been on – what? Six or seven podcasts by now, something like that.

Molly: It’s an honor. I love it, I love it. One of the great privileges of my career will be being able to look back and see where Xenium goes from here because we have such an amazing team, such amazing clients, and we’re doing such incredible work. It’s something I will always be proud of.

Brandon: Isn’t that interesting as a transitioning employee? You’re like, I’ve been here so long. It’s like a baby to me. I helped grow it. Then when you’re leaving, you just get to say, I hope it just keeps on growing without me.

Molly: It will. No doubt.

Brandon: It’s going to make you feel pretty good.

Molly: It does, it does. We’re leaving in a great spot.

Brandon: Yeah. Well, good. Anything else you want to cover, Molly? I mean this has been a lot of fun.

Molly: No. I think I’m about to lose it, Brandon. You better cut me off!

Brandon: Well, hey, if you want to stay connected with Molly, I’m sure you’re on LinkedIn. You can connect with me on LinkedIn as well. Thanks for the download today. This has been a lot of fun, and thank you Molly.

Molly: Thank you all and good wishes to you.

Brandon Laws

As Director of Marketing, Brandon Laws leads all marketing efforts for Xenium, providing oversight on all marketing campaigns, digital marketing strategy, events, sponsorships and public relations. Brandon brings a positive energy to every aspect of his role at Xenium—from internal initiatives around culture and wellness to industry thought leadership through the Xenium podcast and other social efforts. Active within the HR community, he currently volunteers on the board of the Portland Human Resource Management Association as the Director of Marketing & PR.

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