What To Do When A Superstar Leaves

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You may not need to look any further than your own front door to confirm what many industries surveys are saying at the moment, which  is that voluntary employee turnover is currently high as a result of ambitious employees striving to move up the career ladder. This is affecting businesses of all shapes and sizes, but the truth is that some of the voluntary turnover will be welcome turnover, coming from staff who are not really working out – a kind of two way cleansing process. Win-win.

But, every now and again, you’ll lose what you consider to be a superstar – and this can send the organization into a panic and spin. And in these circumstances, what should you do? Below, I have outlined several steps to take when your superstar leaves.

1.Accept it. Its a fact of life; the job for life no longer exists and employee tenures are shortening. True superstars will want new challenges. But, while its a fact that superstars will leave you, its also a fact they’ll leave your competitors too, so you’ve got plenty of opportunity to plug the hole with someone better.

2.Don’t panic; you have plenty of options such as making a quick interim hire, temporarily dividing up assignments to other team members etc…

3.Consider it an opportunity. The presence of a superstar or spiritual leader can inspire others but it can also suppress other talent. When that superstar leaves and there are new opportunities to shine you may be pleasantly surprised to find a pool of nascent talent ready to emerge and take up the mantle. It can also be an opportunity to change or modernize the department which may have been set in an established direction by the former superstar.

4.Manage the departure announcement. Perhaps have the person leaving take responsibility for writing and communicating the departure announcement. The message should serve to thank the team but should instil confidence in the team that they can continue to be successful in the superstar’s absence.

5.Reassure the remaining team members. Have your leaders sit down with the remainder of the team and give them a motivational talk, which: shows that the company has faith in their abilities, outlines the interim plan and outlines the succession plan, e.g. recruitment/restructuring etc…

6.Remind the departing star of their non-compete and non-solicitation constraints

Many managerial superstars, especially in the sales arena will have a non-compete and non-solicitation clause and make sure to remind them of it. Don’t be too bullish, just let them know you have not forgotten about it.

7.Identify new potential stars to replace the outgoing star

Make interim plans to deal with the departure and then plan for a permanent replacement. Its an opportunity to find a new starter from the external market-place or to promote a rising star from your own external ranks and provide a career development opportunity in your business. Remember, research shows that internal recruits outperform external recruits to the same role, so don’t ignore internal hires.

8 Exit Interview

Do exit interview your departing superstar to find out why they left and also to hear their views on any potential emerging stars in their team who could step up in your absence.

9. Boost morale with a team outing

This is the fun bit. Make sure to have a fun company excursion, team building day or dinner to show everyone the company is still a great place to be and that the company cares. This will also allow the employees to process the changes in a more relaxed setting

10.Stop talking about the dearly departed

Once the superstar leaves, try to stop talking about them or referencing them. It can be demoralizing for a team to keep looking into the past when they should really be focusing on the future.


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Kazim Ladimeji is a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and has been a practicing HR professional for 14 years. Kazim is the Director of The Career Cafe: a resource for start-ups, small business and job seekers.