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Replacing Retiring Long-Term, Trusted Employees (Conclusion)

“I have a long-time, trusted employee who’s planning to retire this year. I’m concerned about losing that experience with today’s labor market. What steps can I take to smooth the transition and get the right person on the job?”

Commercial Laundry: Lee Baldauf, Superior Linen Service, Tacoma, Wash.

Lee Baldauf

Lee Baldauf

Our employees, whether you are a manager or an owner, are our biggest assets, but also our biggest liabilities.

When you have a person who has proven their ability and value combined with the loyalty of time, well, it is a sobering feeling when they announce their upcoming departure.

My department, being small, has not one of my originally inherited people left in it. Attrition happens. In today’s labor market, people are being promised the greenest of pastures to jump ship.

On the engineering side, it is hard to find people willing to make the investment in time to learn the trade. Heck, it has become hard to find someone to apply for any position in this current environment.

If you have some time to plan (e.g., an employee announces they are retiring in 18 months), there exists the opportunity to have other bodies shadow this person. It would be a really good idea to make sure you understand their job.

A more challenging issue is the two-week notice, or, God forbid, a death. Now you only have time to realize how prepared, or ill-prepared, you are to see this person’s duties are fulfilled with minimum impact on others.

The best companies in the world, with the best pay, best break room, and best atmosphere, must deal with retirement and death.

In my time running my department, I can think of two painful and stress-inducing examples of a valued member divorcing the machine.

The most recent one was a person who was promoted from within the company and invested in considerably—great learner, reliable, trustworthy and capable. He thanked me for the training when he turned in his notice so he could take a job making more money. I was sad. He was my horse.

I was also frustrated that the company invested financially, and I invested time, to create his path to another venue. A lot of people are jumping ship for what they see as greener pastures. With the labor market being so competitive, there exist many “over the top” desperation offers. This, too, shall pass.

At the end of the day, the sun will rise after any of us die. Sometimes, as my owner has reminded me, it shines a little brighter. Cross-train when and where you can, and try to remember that laundry isn’t cancer or combat.

As tough as transition and change can be, all voids will be filled.

Equipment Manufacturing: Al Adcock, B&C Technologies, Panama City, Fla.

Al Adcock

Al Adcock

Losing a valuable long-term employee to retirement will definitely present challenges, but before we address them, congratulations on keeping a valuable employee long enough for them to retire!

This is a happy story at its core and deserves celebration. Definitely involve the impending retiree in the game plan moving forward, as they will be able to supply pertinent information as you begin to search for a suitable replacement.

Hopefully, they can provide some valuable insight into a possible replacement from within the ranks of your current employees or even someone they might be familiar with outside of the organization.

Once you’ve decided on someone to hire, do your best to work with your retiree to properly onboard and intentionally train the new employee.

It’s also a great time to sit down and review the position and formally outline the job duties and responsibilities of the position so there is no confusion about what the new employee’s responsibilities are as they begin their work in a new company.

This not only benefits you going forward, but also helps to ease the transition from the retiree to the new kid on the block and provides the new hire with an actual list of required duties and skills and reduces tension during the transition.

If possible, keep your retiring employee on a brief retainer for a few months so that you can call and ask questions without feeling like you’re taking advantage of your long-term loyal employee.

Finally, have a blowout celebration for the person that stuck with you for the long haul and let them know exactly what they meant to your organization and truly show your appreciation for a job well done! Again, congratulations!

Chemicals Supply: John Schafer, Diversey, Fort Mill, S.C.

John Schafer

John Schafer

Long-time, trusted employees are often the backbone of your business. Losing one can cause issues if not properly prepared for their departure.

I would first thank your long-time employee for their service and ask them if they can help with conveying their knowledge and experience to your other employees.

I would then have this employee work with your other employees to share their knowledge and expertise. Have them work with all your employees to ease the transition and pass on their knowledge. Have that person share their insights of what they’ve learned over their years of service.

You could also consider having them mentor one or more of your better employees. You could also ask this employee to put into writing a playbook of what they’ve learned to share with your entire team. Whatever you can do to have that employee share their insights will be helpful.

You also need to start looking for their replacement. Perhaps this person knows a good candidate. Perhaps your other employees know someone.

I would offer an incentive to anyone who suggests a good candidate that you hire and stays employed for a period of time (usually three months). Consider a going-away event for this employee when they do retire.

Click here to read Part 1 with advice from healthcare laundry, consulting services and hotel/motel/resort laundry experts.

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].