When Key Workers Leave

Good workers are the key to success in the amusement industry. We lean on our best workers to assure that all runs well. When good leaders decide to leave, a myriad of concerns surface. What steps should be taken?

Why Are They Leaving?
• Meet with the employee and find out if they want to go, if they need to go, or is there a chance that they might return or stay.
• Ask if an adjustment could be made that would allow them to stay? Workers may be afraid to approach you with a concern, so they decide to leave. Have the actions by you, other employees, or those of the company prompted their departure?
• Ask the departing employee to make a list of all the tasks they perform on a regular or occasional basis. Your employee may have taken on duties that are unnecessary or that you are unaware of. A list will help you to decide which replacement candidates would be a good fit for the existing job. You may want to make changes to that person’s job duties, which could alter your employee replacement decision.
• Find out if your departing employee has been training their replacement without your knowledge.
• Learn how other employees feel about the departing person’s job and how the employees feel about the company? This will tell you which current employees want a job with more responsibility.

Allen F. Weitzel

The Next Step
When a great worker leaves, what can be done to create a smooth adjustment?
• Ask the departing worker if they know of a suitable replacement for their duties. Listen to their ideas. To avoid hard feelings among the staff, ask the departing worker to keep your discussion confidential.
• Observe your crew and note employees who want to learn more about your facility or the industry.

Looking Ahead
Even when the operation is running smoothly, you should prepare for the loss of good workers.
• Always watch for (and maintain a list of) replacement candidates for key personnel. Do the opinions from other key personnel or managers match up with that list?
• Publish a review and pay range schedule. Provide annual reviews to employees, even if immediate pay raises/bonuses are not possible. Let the staff know how they can do better, so they will be candidates for raises when the time comes. In my experience, employees appreciate receiving performance reviews.
• Let your staff review your performance in an informal way. Ask what you or the company can do to make their job easier or more efficient. This shows your staff that you value their concerns. Merely listen. At a later time, discuss their thoughts with them. These steps improve teamwork.
• Keep all personnel job descriptions up to date. Maintain a task and goals list for your staff and department. When you lose a key employee, use that time to implement any new changes.
• Give your staff new and interesting assignments.
• Cross train as needed. Do not cross train because an employee is bored.

Additional Tips
• Ask your replacement candidate which parts of the job they do not like. Those tasks may be the parts of the job that you need done well.
• Ask other department managers what skill sets or pros and cons they would like to see or not see in replacement staff and why.
• Know and follow the labor laws for your state. Simple employment mistakes are the toughest to solve. Ask the HR department to review your employee hiring, fact-finding, and departing questions. Once you have an internal candidate in mind, refer to HR to learn if you must also interview other company or outside candidates.
• Completely train your new replacement employee to be sure they are comfortable with daily operations. Do not throw the new replacement employee into the fire unprepared.
• You will be judged on how well you handle new staff transitions.
• Be honest with employees.
(Allen F. Weitzel is an amusement industry veteran with decades of management experience. Reach him at weitzel@witent.com.)

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