July 10, 2018

Your HR person leaves: now what’s next?

When someone leaves your business, it’s usually human resources who tells you what to do next and sets up the processes for finding their replacement. So what happens when an HR person themselves walks out the door? And, worse still, what if they’re you’re most senior HR person or perhaps even the only HR person you’ve got.

Most businesses will set about immediately searching for and recruiting a like-for-like replacement. That means, if there were any problems within the HR function, the same patterns will probably keep repeating themselves – leaving you in the same position you are now.

A better approach is to treat this as an opportunity to redefine and build your HR function so that it does exactly what it’s capable of and propels your business forward.

Here’s our six-step guide to achieving just that:

1. Take a breath

The best business owners and managers are doers, not ditherers. So when an HR manager leaves their first instinct is often to waste no time in finding a replacement. The ink on the employee’s resignation letter hasn’t even dried before there’s a new job ad looking for someone to take their place.

Sometimes, however, there’s benefit in waiting. And this is precisely one of those times. So fight the temptation to act immediately. Instead, take a deep breath and give yourself a couple of days.

2. Find out why they’re leaving

One of the first things you should do is to find out why your HR person is leaving. The easiest way to find that out is to ask them, or at least conduct an exit interview with them. You want straight answers here, not platitudes. So when you do this, make sure the employee is comfortable and that they know there will be no ramifications for anything they say.

Ask them exactly what they found challenging about the role, what they liked and didn’t like and get to the bottom of what’s pushing them out. Was the work too challenging? Was it not challenging enough? Are you paying too little? Are your conditions not up to scratch? The kinds of answers we often here are that they got bogged down in admin and recruitment and had no time for proactive HR implementation.

Whatever the reason, listen to what they say and if you need to act, do it.

3. Perform an HR audit

Before you hire anyone else, you also want to know how your HR function is performing. The exit interview probably gave you some insight. But there’s nothing like a good HR audit for getting to the bottom of this.

An HR audit should examine every aspect of your HR processes: your recruiting, your hiring and onboarding, your performance management and incentive processes, the lot.

Look at these and find out the scope of what’s actually involved in your HR function. Then ask yourself which areas are performing well so that you can set and forget them, and which need work. Just as importantly, analyse what role your HR person played in each of them.

That said, a lot of business owners and managers find it hard to properly audit their own processes because they’re too caught up themselves. Often they operate through their knowledge of personalities rather than through logic.

So, if you’d like an impartial and rational HR audit of your business, get in touch here.

4. Match roles to your findings

Chances are the functions you’ve found run the full gambit from simple and administrative to complex and strategic. Now that you know that, look at who you have – or who you used to have – performing those functions.

If you’re like a lot of business owners, one person may be performing everything from processing pay runs – a relatively straightforward task – to making key hiring decisions that affect the way your business will perform – something that shouldn’t be straightforward at all. Often we see the HR person performing only some of the HR functions while the rest fall to owners or other managers.

Now think about ideally who you would like performing each function. Is it really just one person? I doubt it. Most likely it will be a combination a few: a more junior, organised employee to carry out the administrative parts; perhaps a mid-level employee with sound interpersonal skills for the recruiting and day-to-day HR enquiries; and a senior, big picture person for the strategic stuff.

5. Look internally

Now that you have some idea of what you want, think about who you have on hand already to fill the gaps.

If you have a junior HR person and there’s senior work that needs to be done, is it time they stepped up? Do they have the skills and ambition to do so? Could they get there with a bit of coaching, mentoring and training? Or, is it simply not going to happen.

Generally, having a senior person leave can be a good opportunity to give someone in the team a bit more responsibility. It’s usually a cost-effective approach too and, as you know them and they already know the culture of the company, you already know whether or not they’re a good fit.
But, the problem often is that there may be too big a leap. At times, you may also be sacrificing quality for convenience. Also, you may be forcing someone to wear too many hats as they keep their old tasks and take on new ones also.

6. Look externally

If that’s the case, you should be looking externally too. That could mean a recruitment drive – one where you’re looking for someone to perform those functions you’ve identified from the HR audit rather than one where you’re looking for a like-for-like replacement.

Alternatively, it could mean outsourcing some, or all, of your HR function.

After all, outsourcing – or virtual HR – gives you the opportunity to perform all of the functions of an HR team without needing to invest in all the employees you’d have to take on to make that happen. You can get everything from the day-to-day to strategic, and from people management to administrative, often for a much lower cost.

And finally…

Remember, when someone leaves, there’s always a reason. Sometimes it’s personality-based but just as often it’s the scope of the role.

By performing a proper HR audit and taking a logical approach to your business’s human resources function, you can turn their departure into an opportunity.

Want more?

If you’d like to know more what to do when you HR person leaves, or if you’re interested in exploring the possibilities of outsourced HR get in touch with the Catalina Consultant team here.

say hi to our author

Merilyn founded Catalina Consultants in 2012 on the belief that all organisations, regardless of size, should have access to top quality bespoke HR services. She enjoys working closely with her clients and believes that the best results are built on relationships of rapport, trust and authenticity. Growing up, Merilyn had her sight set on stardom and dreamed of becoming an actor. She also sang and played the piano, but ended up studying accounting and HR. Whilst she hasn’t won her Grammy just yet, she still loves a good karaoke night. Merilyn loves to travel with her family, with South Africa being one of her most memorable destinations.

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