This article was originally published in Forbes.
When an employee is unhappy, there are usually a few telltale signs. Dental appointments, sudden illnesses and car trouble become more frequent as the employee sneaks off to job interviews. The time he used to spend working on company projects is now devoted to overhauling his LinkedIn profile.
This begins a two-way spiral because when an employee begins to disengage from the workplace, it’s natural for his work quality to suffer and for trust to deteriorate. After all, you’re frustrated, even angry, that all the time and trust you invested in that employee is not being reciprocated. This negative cycle continues until the employee inevitably submits his two weeks’ notice.
This isn’t just a costly inconvenience; it also wreaks havoc on employee morale. When employees give the standard two weeks’ notice, the rest of your team has to pick up the slack until a replacement can be found, and a hasty transition can diminish the quality of client service.
Rather than simply accept the problem, consider offering a transparent transition policy to create an open and honest environment that’s different from the status quo.
Open Transitions Are Better for Everyone
I believe that open transitions — where employees and employers become partners in finding the best possible solutions — create a healthier work environment, reduce anxiety and allow for effective planning so both parties can seize new opportunities.
To borrow a nugget of business wisdom from Jim Collins, a company has to find the right seats for the right people. It’s no good trying to wrench an employee into your set of core values or a position that isn’t a good fit for his personality and skill set.
We launched a program called Mindful Transition at my company to create an environment where employees feel free to share their plans for the future — even if those plans involve leaving our company. We’ve found that this culture creates a healthier and happier workforce with more trust and communication that has made two weeks’ notice a thing of the past.
Here’s how to make open transitions work for your company:
Regularly Reaffirm Core Values
If you’re always clear about your company values and what you’re trying to achieve as an organization, that message will spread to new recruits and employees. By living your values in everything you do, you’ll attract the right people to work for you.
When we found out that one of our employees had quite different core values from ours, we had to make a difficult decision together. We developed a three-month transition plan to make referrals and gradually transfer his responsibilities, which allowed us to avoid a potentially toxic situation and part ways amicably.
Make Time to Listen to Every Employee
We believe employees are much happier if they feel heard by their team and boss. By asking for feedback from employees on a weekly basis and scheduling formal one-on-one meetings quarterly, you’re able to notice problems quickly, find solutions and make every member of your team feel important. These meetings are great opportunities to make sure every person is in the right seat. Waiting until the end-of-year review to discuss these issues is too late.
Change Seats When Necessary
Even if an employee shares your core values, he might be unhappy because he’s in the wrong position. If employee feedback reveals that a seat change might be needed, don’t be afraid to switch people around, offer a different position, or adapt the job description to make your employee happy. If you know you can’t find the right seat for that person, it might be time to work together to find a new opportunity elsewhere.
Broach the Taboo Topic
An employee might love your team and feel valued, but it’s still possible that the environment may not suit him. People work best when they’re in the right system, where their personal goals can flourish alongside team goals. Bring up this taboo topic, and assure your team members that you want them to be in the right situation. Simply being transparent about this will make your employees feel more relaxed.
My company recently had an employee bring up our open transition policy because she wanted to start her own business. We worked with her to form a tailor-made transition plan, and the employer-employee relationship changed naturally into a positive collaborator-mentor dynamic because she felt secure enough to come forward with her plans.
So say goodbye to the two weeks’ notice routine, and start opening the lines of communication with your employees. Your workplace will soon start to feel collectively happier with everyone moving in the same direction, and you’ll be able to focus more on business and less on recovering from the latest employee departure.