exiting with purpose

Paying Attention to Personnel Logistics

Countdown to Sunset

Careful and intentional management of personnel matters, such as exit dates, retention incentives, benefits, and contingency plans, has been a vital component to our organization’s sunset. To begin, we established clear employment end-dates (based on the requirements of each person’s work or role in the organization) and committed to notifying each staff member at least six months in advance if his or her termination date changed.

In keeping with our values, we prioritized continuing comprehensive health care coverage in order to care for co-workers and their families holistically during a time of change.

To keep our staff members on until their end dates, we crafted retention incentives and based these on a set formula tied to specific end dates. As of mid-2015, 70 percent of our team has remained until planned exit dates, though we cannot know which co-workers would have left early had retention packages not been offered.

To help mitigate the risk of premature departures, we also developed back-up strategies for each co-worker. We considered engaging consultants to fill in critical gaps so the organization would have sufficient capacity to achieve our programmatic and operational goals prior to the sunset, but as yet, we haven’t needed to do that.

One great irony of trying to retain staff members is our knowledge that in order to sustain the foundation’s work in the community beyond the sunset, we need to support our coworkers, simultaneously, in identifying and pursuing new job opportunities. Doing this is a way to expand our reach in the sector beyond the life of the foundation and leverage our significant investments in our people for continued community benefit. To that end, we engaged an outside HR professional to offer a resume primer; we offer peer and management resume review; and we accommodate co-workers’ time out of the office for networking, job interviews, professional development, and consulting opportunities.

Interestingly, our staff members requested open conversation around issues of job searches and end dates, and help moving on to future employment. While somewhat unconventional, speaking candidly among coworkers about career explorations and job pursuits aligned with our culture. Yet despite our best intentions, the goal of balancing openness with privacy has been harder to maintain than we had hoped. At best, we have awkward conversations on the topic, at worst, loyalties have been questioned. Additionally, many coworkers find that they could be competing for the same jobs in the community, so a conflict of interest exists in sharing leads, forwarding referrals, and otherwise helping each other in the job search.