The world of advancement is a small one, and its talent market is tight. Yet working in this field is an honor – we inspire people’s most generous instincts and make incredible good possible.

In this context, it’s clear we owe our employees meaningful and positive journeys in this field – even when they may be leaving us. When I came across this blog by Richard Riche about off-boarding employees, its implications for our profession were clear.

Richard points out that by focusing on a positive transition for employees who leave our teams, we create brand ambassadors, encourage job applicant referrals, and may even see the best of these employees return.

If we managed our employee transitions with these possibilities in mind, and an understanding of the institutional knowledge they hold, how would we approach them differently? We could change these experiences for the better if we:

  • Acknowledge that we cannot always provide the best fit or next opportunity at our own institution, and transition in these cases is natural.
  • Invite our team members to be an active partner in creating their transition plan and even weighing in on job posting language.
  • Discuss knowledge transfer, and how we might share their greatest accomplishments, programs, processes and relationships with new staff
  • Ask them to walk us through key donor strategies – the nuances, processes and recommended next steps. (This applies to more positions than just the frontline team … prospect research, stewardship, communications, admins, etc.) Then apply this process to important internal relationships (deans, physicians, etc.).
  • Seek honest insight – what worked and what didn’t for this position? Lead an exit interview dialogue that reflects a true desire to learn.
  • Recognize their impact, acknowledging specific accomplishments and outcomes your departing team member was a part of.
  • Stay fully engaged with our team member through their last day, and offering to stay in touch post-transition.

With a thoughtful approach to off-boarding team members, our former employees can become advocates for us in the competition for advancement talent … and in the larger community as well.

I’d love to hear what techniques you use to make this happen – please share in the comments!

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