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Optimum Talks Blog

The Case for Executive Career Transition Support

by Richard Bucher

Severance is one piece of a separation settlement. Another critical component for the departing executive is transition support. Managing an executive level job search is not an intuitive exercise. Many presume the exiting leader must have a substantial network and healthy financial reserves; and therefore, requires no support to land a new role. While a strong network assists a transition, it can be a hindrance if mismanaged, which is quite likely to occur with the unitiated. On an emotional level, no amount of money can dissolve the impact of losing a job. For many, the role and its accompanying title, are how they are known and how they define themselves. A well-structured executive career transition program is mutually beneficial and should account for the following:

  • Organizational Reputation: For purposes of this discussion, your corporate brand is what exiting employees will say about the way they were treated upon departure. While a generous severance is typically seen as prudent, it offers no guidance or support to navigate a transition. It is  the combination of severance and transition support that engenders positive feedback.
  • Respect and Dignity: Affording the support of an experienced executive advisor upon exit optimizes the likelihood of a smooth departure and helps to manage the emotional reaction of a departing executive.
  • Survivor Productivity: The inevitable communication between the departed leader and his or her team can have a significant impact on engagement and productivity among your remaining talent. With well-conceived and comprehensive transition support the former leader is more apt to talk about how well he or she is being treated.
  • Mitigated Attrition and Increased Attraction: Amongst the surviving team, knowledge that a former colleague is receiving fair treatment decreases the “abandon ship” tendencies – the inclination to aggressively look for job opportunities outside the organization – and forms an attractive element to candidates considering joining the team.
  • Mitigated Litigation: Most employment lawyers will attest to the fact that fair and equitable treatment of the departing executive pays dividends in the short, medium, and long term. Any perceived saving by offering minimal severance, and little or no transition support is a false economy.

The presumption that executives are insulated from the effects of forced transition by the content of their employment contract or the severance they are offered on departure, that as an executive they are or should be better equipped to cope with an unexpected transition, or that they have ample money and will thererfore be fine, is flawed thinking. All the research would argue to the contrary. “My former employer treated me extremely well. The support I was provided through the transition was exceptional. I appreciate all they did for me” is the message you want coming from your departing executives. It strengthens the organizational brand, engenders confidence in the remaining team, and meaningfully mitigates the negative impact of these types of changes.

Richard Bucher is Vice President of  Career Transition at Optimum Talent and  a regular contributor at the CBC.