Internal Recruiting & Workforce Planning, Onboarding

Should Employees Train Their Replacements?

Do you have a succession plan in place? If not, you may want to consider one, as turnover is a fact of life for any business. Whether due to an employee retiring, leaving for a different opportunity, or being promoted or moved to a different position, businesses frequently need to fill roles due to turnover. Some industries (i.e., hospitality) experience very high levels of turnover; for hospitality, annual turnover rates were over 70% in 2017.

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Meeting Ongoing Onboarding Needs

A constant in- and outflux of employees obviously requires ongoing training, which can be cost- and time-prohibitive. Companies are, understandably, constantly seeking ways to maximize the impact and minimize the costs of these efforts. One area of exploration: involving departing employees in the training process. To what extent should the employee leaving the position be involved in training the employee entering the position?

Obviously, this is not always possible, depending on the nature of the situation; however, assuming there is the opportunity, here are some important factors to consider when determining whether, or to what extent, departing employees might play a role in the onboarding process.

Attitude

The first thing to consider when deciding whether to engage the current employee with training efforts for the new hire is his or her attitude toward this role. The context of the transition clearly plays a role here. An employee who has been involuntarily terminated is not likely to be a positive influence and is not likely to go into the process with positive intentions, as this letter to Forbes by an employee in this exact situation illustrates.

On the other hand, an employee who is planning for retirement may be an engaged training partner and feel like he or she is adding to his or her legacy. Again, though, each specific situation will need to be considered; some retiring employees may have “checked out” and will turn in only superficial effort.

If the outgoing employee is being promoted or taking another role within the company and sees the transition as a positive, he or she will likely have a much better attitude.

Experience vs. Bad Habits

After considering attitude, two primary considerations for whether to engage the current job holder in training his or her replacement are experience and the risk of imparting bad habits. These factors need to be weighed against each other to see whether the engagement is likely to result in a net positive or negative impact.

Obviously, the outgoing employee is likely to have some experience in the position; however, that experience may also include negative habits that have developed over the years. Depending on the context of the separation, having the outgoing employee involved could cause more harm than good.

An overarching factor that companies and their L&D staff need to consider is the extent to which employee-driven onboarding efforts can be handled consistently. If too many departing employees do not have the right attitudes or experiences to handle the role, the company may not wish to invest time and effort here.

Companies rarely want to see employees leave, but it happens frequently enough that they should be prepared with a succession plan, and that plan should include who will be involved in training the new position-holder.

The outgoing employee can be a great resource, but there are important factors to consider before bringing him or her in. The bottom line: Those first few days and weeks in a new role set the stage for both the employee and company experience; you want to get it right.