Educational Equity Newsletter – June 10, 2021
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Building a strong offboarding process
As we wind down the school year and prepare for summer, many of us are working through transitions on our teams: leadership exits, planned and unplanned staff departures, and team members switching roles. It’s easy to underplay these transitions, especially in a remote or partially remote context and with our time and focus already stretched thin, but how we transition colleagues and their work has long-term impact on the results and culture of our organization. As leaders, we’ve got to make the time to do this well.
A strong offboarding process includes the typical HR components you’d imagine (exit interviews, processes for transfer of equipment and technology, restricting account access, completing paperwork, etc.) but it doesn’t stop there. Building a robust offboarding process also includes knowledge transfer, work handoffs, and transitioning relationships well.
When people (and especially leaders) leave, organizations typically lose a ton of institutional knowledge. Files aren’t saved in the right places, context stays in the departing staff person’s head, and hard lessons learned are forgotten. But it doesn’t have to be this way—we can build structures and systems that help our organization learn and retain knowledge before our colleagues depart.
- Create a knowledge transfer plan inclusive of the different buckets of knowledge and context you need the employee to share, in what medium, and on what timeline. Where possible, establish measures of success for each of the major areas of knowledge transfer.
- Work with your team member to ensure they set aside time to transfer knowledge and complete this plan, especially as their last day approaches.
After the prerequisite knowledge transfer, it’s time for your departing team member to partner with you to transfer their work to others. Determine on the front-end who is getting what work, on what timeline, and what they’ll need to deprioritize in order to take it on. Then, support both team members in the knowledge and work transfer process by being a little more hands-on than you normally would to make sure work transfers smoothly.
Note: In our sector, it’s common to have people doing two jobs for a month or more while we hire for a replacement role. When this happens, the equitable move is to either: 1) de-scope one or both jobs so the workload is reasonable, or 2) compensate the staff member or offer comp time when the hire is made if both jobs will need to be done at 100% for a period of time.
Transitioning Relationships Well
When well-loved leaders or long-time staff leave, their colleagues and staff feel it. Giving people a chance to celebrate and recognize their colleagues and managers when they leave allows your team to close well and to process some of the emotions they’re feeling as leaders depart.
Another reason to get this right is because how people exit is the last memory they have of working for your organization. If they’ve had a good experience, they’re more likely to promote your organization in the future. If they didn’t, their experience may keep talented friends and colleagues from applying to your roles. With these ideas in mind, here are some ideas for transitioning relationships well when people leave:
- Don’t guilt-trip or pressure the person departing to give more than they can. In our sector, it’s too common for leaders to use emotional manipulation to get departing staff members to give more than they can. Set respectful boundaries for what’s expected and honor those boundaries.
- Allow team members to lead the charge. Colleagues often have creative ideas about the best ways to recognize their leaders and teammates. Within reason, let those with the most passion and the closest relationship to the person lead the charge to plan their goodbye (with yourself as a consulted/light approver on the process).
- Don’t disparage a departing team member—no matter what. It’s easy to feel a personal sense of loss or frustration when a key team member leaves, and especially if their departure also sends shockwaves through the team. It’s really important that you keep your own emotions at bay and avoid expressing displeasure with them and their departure to the rest of the team. Leaders who do this communicate that the organization is a place where backlash happens when you depart, making it less likely that team members will be forthright with you in the future when it’s their time to go.
- Protect time for close-out conversations. If your exit interview is held by an HR team member, allocate additional time to have a closing one-on-one with the team member. This is a great place to thank them for their work, hear feedback from them about your leadership, and wish them well for the future. Encourage them to plan these conversations with their immediate team as well.
Some transitions on our team at TMC…
As with many of you, our Ed Equity team is also going through a few major transitions.
This month, two team members on our Ed Sector team—Shawna Wells, our Senior Partner and Head of the Ed Equity Sector, and Melanie Rivera, a Partner coach—will also be transitioning from their roles. We are so grateful for the work they’ve done for our clients and our team over the last several years. Our team welcomes Nancy Hanks, a beloved trainer at TMC and former Chief of Schools, as she takes the helm of Senior Partner and Head of the Ed Equity Sector.
With these transitions, we are winding down this newsletter as well. We started this newsletter a little over a year ago, at the onset of the pandemic, because we wanted to give you timely, useful advice and support at a time when our world was in turmoil. Thank you for tuning in—it’s been a pleasure to support you and your work through this newsletter. While we will no longer be publishing a standalone newsletter, stay tuned for more regular content for school leaders and other Educational Equity leaders in our main newsletters!