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Listicle: Seven things to do when your star employee is leaving

Draw up an action plan so as to oversee the transition and retain her expertise

The best way to retain the expertise of a departing star employee is to maintain a relationship with her

When a valuable employee tells you she’s leaving, it’s understandable to be worried about losing her institutional knowledge and experience.

Here’s how you can oversee the transition and retain her expertise.

1 Make a plan Your first step is to lay out how you will transfer the knowledge, to whom you will transfer the knowledge and along what timeline. Buy as much time as you can.

Then you and the employee must work together to figure out the scope of information that needs to be transferred.

2 Motivate the expert The next step in the process is to encourage the person who’s leaving to share his knowledge. If he’s reluctant, find out why.

It could be that he’s humble, or unaware of his expertise. Or perhaps he doesn’t know how to teach others what he knows.

3 Create apprenticeships Dorothy Leonard, professor emerita at Harvard Business School, suggests creating an action plan where the “highly skilled, deep-smarts employee is paired with one or more replacements” so they can observe her in action, while learning and practising skills.

4 Emphasise team learning If you’re really short on time and you don’t have an identified successor, Leonard recommends holding a meeting in which the departing employee “shares stories with colleagues about how he handled problems and crises” that arose during his tenure.

5 Document selectively Leonard recommends that apprentices and team members trying to capture the expert’s knowledge keep “learning logs” of information that, in some cases, can later be “entered into a database”.

6 Focus on the relationship The best way to retain the expertise of a departing star employee is to maintain a relationship with her.

You might go to her with the occasional question, engage her as a consultant or hire her back someday.

7 Be prepared for the next time The off-boarding process goes much more smoothly if you already have tools and systems in place to ensure that knowledge is constantly being transferred from experts to their successors.

– (Copyright Harvard Business Review 2016)