John Lacy
John Lacy

One of the biggest pain points for agencies is when an employee leaves on two weeks’ notice and the agency’s management is forced to quickly notify clients and change staffing to adjust for the departure.

Likewise, no employee likes to be terminated or laid off with just two weeks’ notice before they must take their place in the unemployment line.

If such a short notice period is an inconvenience for both employees and employers, why do we keep doing it this way? Isn’t there a better alternative?

It turns out there is.

Respectful Transitions

At Idea Grove, we take what we call a “hire slowly, fire quickly” approach to our team. What does “fire quickly” mean to us? The answer might surprise you.

Back in 2015, I came across this excellent article by Robert Glazer of Acceleration Partners, and I was really moved by his thoughts on how “two weeks’ notice” is bad for the employee, the employer, and potentially the clients of the firm. He followed up that piece with another article in the Harvard Business Review, and with this compelling Tedx Talk.

We know there are times when an employee is not performing up to expectations, or when the employee is no longer engaged. So, what do we do then? At Idea Grove, we have implemented a program called “Respectful Transitions” based on Glazer’s ideas.

This program starts with open communication between leadership and employees, on how the team is doing and what issues we might have in the organization. We use a tool called OfficeVibe, which sends out a weekly survey to our employees enabling them to provide feedback on 11 key area including overall engagement, their relationship with their manager, recognition and personal growth. This is our early warning system to understand if we might have anyone on the team who is not fully engaged with the firm.

The program continues with a Performance Improvement Program (PIP). While many people view PIPs as a negative thing, we see them as a sign of caring. Why would we spend valuable nonbillable time developing and communicating areas for improvement to an employee, if it’s easier to simply terminate them? It’s because we care about every member of our team, and we want to do everything possible to help each person succeed.

What happens if, despite our best efforts, the employee still isn’t a fit? Or what happens if the employee isn’t happy in their role and wants to go somewhere else? We work to address these issues as early as possible, by providing our team members with “psychological safety”—meaning we want them to know that they can be honest with us without provoking a punitive response.

Ending with a Win-Win

We tell our team members that if they wish to seek a new opportunity, or if we no longer think they are a fit, we will give them time to transition to their next job. If both parties maintain trust and professionalism with one another, a transition period can extend well beyond two weeks. This makes life easier for everyone, including the agency’s clients.

We genuinely want every employee to have a great experience at Idea Grove. From the onboarding process of a new employee, to their day-to-day experiences, to the last day of their employment with the firm. The only way to accomplish this is through mutual respect.

When we say “fire quickly,” what we mean is that we need to be able to quickly identify when an employee is becoming disengaged and have that open communication about what that means for both the employee and the company. Then, we either help get them back on the path to success at the firm --or we help them find success elsewhere.


John Lacy is president and COO at Idea Grove, a unified PR and marketing agency for B2B technology clients.