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Net-a-Porter shows how to break up in style

Nicola Wensley is business director for fashion executive appointments at Page Executive.

It was Mark Sebba’s last week as chief executive of Net-A-Porter at the end of July and on his final day he was given the ultimate send-off. A choir singing Aloe Blacc’s The Man greeted Sebba as he arrived at his offices, while his staff, co-ordinated in black-and-white outfits, carried placards showing his name and face. Samba dancers, acrobats and staff from the distribution centre, and teams in New York, Hong Kong, Shanghai and New Jersey appeared on video links, all saluting Sebba’s final day following his decision to retire.

In recruitment, I deal with people resigning from their position every week. This is a tough and emotional time and the responses from soon-to-be-ex-employees range from sadness, to anger, through to animosity.Sebba’s final day in the office was of course an exception, and he is retiring rather than
join another company. However, businesses should take heed of Net-a-Porter’s approach and try to make the departure of a member of staff at least a
neutral experience.

Often the longer the employment, the more leaving the company feels like a relationship break-up with their boss. The instinctive reaction is a defensive one. As a result, the employee is in danger of finishing what may well have been a great working experience with a feeling of distaste - they focus on the final, bitter few weeks, rather than the preceding 20 enjoyable years with the company.

Sebba’s departure day was streamed across the press and has almost 4,000 views on YouTube alone. This is fantastic employer branding and Net-a-Porter
will continue to be a top choice of employer as a result.

Many companies should learn from Net-a-Porter in how they manage resignations - not by shooting a video, but by making it clear how much they value their employees’ contributions. Those that do will retain more people and may even see some of them return later in their career, with more experience to add to the business.

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