When someone departs a company or team, it’s hard. There is disruption, anxiety, maybe even some grumbling. And it doesn’t matter if someone left on good terms or bad, there is always fallout. Usually when we think about losing a team member, we think about all the negative things. Needing to replace someone. How will the extra workload be divvied up. IT turns out there is, however, a silver lining to the dark cloud of someone leaving—increased team creativity.
I’ll be first one to admit that this line of reasoning is absolutely counterintuitive to what we think should happen, but it turns out that (at least in the fashion and other creative industries) when someone leaves and maintains the connections with former co-workers everyone gains.
This article from HBR from Andrew Shipilov—Is Losing Talent Always Bad?—highlights that as people move on to other jobs, the new experiences and creative inputs are passed around their professional network and this has a net positive effect on everyone:
The phenomenon is not confined to fashion. McKinsey consultants famously stay in touch with former colleagues, who have left to to work for other firms, most of which are potential customers. The same thing happens in Silicon Valley where people change jobs across customers and competitors. To be sure, we are not talking about industrial espionage here. The positive effects of communication bridges on creativity come from friends catching up with friends in very general terms about what is going on in their professional lives
How You Can Help Transitions Work for You
The essential part of this HBR article is something we’ve all learned over the years—when you leave a job, don’t burn bridges, stay in touch, don’t lash out at the old job. Unless, of course, a person is departing on the worst terms possible (theft, wrongdoing, general badness), the smartest thing you can do for you and your team is to encourage everyone to stay in touch. Keep the lines of communication open so all of you can benefit from the new energy and excitement.
Five Tips to Stay Connected
Here are a few tips on staying connected with former team members:
- Connect on LinkedIn. Make sure that before a person leaves you’ve connected on LinkedIn. If nothing else it gives you a way to email the person when you don’t know their new email addresses. Why not Facebook? That might be a little too personal for many people. Keep it professional, stick with LinkedIn (unless you’re really great friends).
- Subscribe and follow the new company. Keep up on what is going on with your former colleague by keeping up on what is going on at their new gig.
- Plan a lunch or coffee in a month or so. The first few weeks at a new job is always crazy, so after a month or so, check in and see how it’s going
- Network at events together. Don’t ignore your old work buddies at social events—take the opportunity to reconnect with them
- Encourage your staff to do the same.
This Isn’t Spying, It’s Networking
Remember nothing about this about corporate espionage. This is about staying connected and networking. Give people a chance to stay in touch with former co-workers so they can get inspired and be exposed to new ideas. At some point we all get excited about something at work that we love (and can) talk about…so if you share that will the people you used to work with then everyone wins and the pain of departure is much less.
Who Are You Going to Reconnect With?
Take a moment now and think of a few people you used to work with or for who you’ve lost contact with, find them on LinkedIn (or Twitter) and take the first step. You never know what interesting things you might learn and what might inspire you.