How to effectively handle a resignation
There is a wealth of information geared at employees on how to resign gracefully, how not to burn bridges, but it is just as important for employers to get the resignation process right. A badly handled resignation can have a wider impact and cause ripples throughout a team, department or organisation. So how do you effectively deal with an employee resignation?
- Don’t panic and keep it professional – whether it’s a long-standing employee or someone that’s only been with you a short time. On receiving a resignation you will no doubt be thinking ‘what are we going to do without them?’ ‘How are we going to find someone else?’. Don’t panic – while for some the instant reaction is to try and keep them by making them a counter-offer. Make sure you assess the situation first. Do you think they’d accept a counter-offer? Would you want them to stay if they did? While there are pros and cons, it is sometimes better to recruit a new motivated employee than to retain an unengaged member of staff. Make sure you’ve looked at it from every angle before jump in with any offers of increased salary/responsibilities. Remember, it isn’t personal, keep it professional and try not to let your personal feelings, whether positive or negative, impact your decisions and handling of the matter.
- Communicate – if you received the resignation verbally, ask for a formal written letter stating their last day of employment. Make sure that you have everything formally agreed and in writing, including; their last day, responsibilities they can/can not do during their notice period, as well as your expectations on their behaviour, what to do with company equipment (such as mobile phones) upon leaving, remaining annual leave entitlement etc. Once you have an agreed leaving date make sure you communicate to those remaining employees who will be affected. Often resignations are kept officially ‘hush hush’, while being the main topic of conversation around the water cooler. It is best to formally announce a resignation as soon as possible, so you can answer any questions or concerns of remaining employees rather than allowing it to become the subject of office gossip.
- Handover process – even for those with extended notice periods of 3-6 months it is highly likely that there will be a period of time when the departing employee’s duties will need to be covered. Have a clear plan of action on who will be doing what. Request a detailed hand-over document from your departing employee, that includes information on key projects and processes, contacts details for both internal and external clients, supplier information and the status of current projects. If the person resigning manages a team, they should also provide information on their team’s projects and upcoming deadlines.
- Start recruiting – whether you plan to promote internally or recruit externally start the process as soon as possible. If you plan to promote a team member, speak to the relevant people and kick start the process quickly and allow enough time for some job-shadowing and a gradual handover of responsibilities. If you need to recruit externally then speed is of the essence. It can take upwards of 6 weeks just to reach first interview stage, if you then add a second stage plus a notice period of 4-12 weeks, you could be looking at the recruitment process taking 3-5 months.
- Ask why? – when any relationship ends it’s good to find out why, so you can learn from your (or their) mistakes. As standard you should conduct exit interviews, whether these are formal face-to-face affairs, a written questionnaire or simply an informal chat over a coffee. Find out why they’re leaving and use the information to improve the working environment for your current and future employees.
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