Much has been written about what to do when a high-performing employee gives notice. Should you counter, dig for insight during the exit interview, or simply wish them well and up your talent game in hopes of avoiding a repeat performance? But what happens when your rock star is talking break not break-up?
Some situations like maternity, disability, and even sabbatical are clear cut and governed by law and/or company policy. Other times, the rationale for the requested time away is not so simple. Granting the break may be at the discretion of the manager, department head or company leadership and could have implications for benefit and role continuation upon return. Regardless of which category the request falls into, your first stop should be with your HR partner who can help you navigate the basics and remain legally compliant.
Of course management takes more than coloring inside the lines. You’re in the role to ensure work gets done and it’s doubtful that your expected output will be lessened because you’re down a team member. Still, there’s no reason to panic. With proper planning, a long-term leave situation can be a positive occurrence for your talent management strategy. Instead of rushing to hire an expensive contractor or burdening remaining staff with extra work, look outside your department for employees who are interested in taking on a temporary rotational assignment. The set up will enrich the company’s talent pool and potentially identify high performers.
If the position is junior you could also look to the local early talent pool, by hiring a college intern. Both options offer the additional benefit of infusing your department with a fresh perspective and a back up plan in case the long-term leaver does not return.
Managers manage work, but leaders lead people. As you sort though the specifics of the situation focus on people more than process and try to orchestrate a situation that is best for all parties. Once you demonstrate that you have employee development and well-being in mind, people will flock to work with you
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