Imagine someone has worked for your organization and your cause for 25 years. Or maybe for the same cause in different organizations. Or for the same organization but different causes or regions. As he or she approaches retirement the organization will not only loose the workforce that will leave when the person leaves, the 8 or so hours a day that s/he puts in. But also the 25 years and all the network knowledge gathered over this period of time. You can easily find someone for the 8 hours, but they won’t have the 25 years.
In an ideal scenario you would have some kind of apprenticeship time where the old and new employee work side by side and the new person learns the ropes, get introduced to all the long standing partners, to be able to take forward both the formal and informal relationships, that our old employee has developed. In reality, there will rarely be the time and resources to do that.
What I would propose instead is more of a one day instead of a one year activity: Invite your experienced leaving expert and maybe 3 of the people who will work in the same area in the future (or do so currently) for a facilitated one day institutional knowledge sharing exercise. The core activity of the day is that the old employee draws a Net-Map of all the actors that s/he sees as influential for this cause / organization / position. Make sure that they include individual contact people and the names of movers and shakers where ever possible and take the time to document the details about both formal and informal relationships and specific characteristics of the different actors. Allow a lot of time for questions from the new position holders. Develop some strategic plans together, looking at who the core partners are, what specific untapped opportunities are, what stumbling blocks and old mistakes to avoid and which focused activities could help ease the transition. Maybe there are specific actors that are very crucial or very difficult to access and the old employee would be a perfect door opener.
This activity would not only smooth the transition from one to the next, but is also a great way of showing respect to an “elder statesman” of your organization.
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