Published: 4 May 2023

In the current employment world, where the demand for workers often outstrips the available candidates for the roles, resignations are bound to happen. They are often not what you wanted for the business but, if done right, they can have some redeeming features.

Resignations are a part of business life

When an employee resigns it can be a very difficult time for everyone concerned. Emotions can be running high, the workplace can be disrupted, there is the future to think about and, of course, the inevitable paperwork to be done. While they are often not something you wanted to happen, they are a fact of life.

The first thing to remember then is that both sides of the table, the employee and the employer, are dealing with a difficult situation. For the Employee perhaps, you could argue that things are a little easier in some ways because they have already made a life changing decision. Where the employer is dealing with and often unexpected and potentially disruptive problem, the employee has already done the difficult part by making the decision to move on. That said, it is important for the employer to remember that resignations are rarely taken lightly and often require some real soul searching (or worse still they are the result of a problem) for the employee. Therefore, they could be emotionally unsettled and that will need careful handling.

So as the employer it is important to meet not only your legal duties, such as providing a P45 and so on, but also to try to make the best of the situation.

Stay calm and control the process

This may sound obvious, but it can be more difficult than you would expect. In some cases, you may feel as if you have taken the time, effort, and money to invest in an employee and they have then taken those skills elsewhere. It’s probably worth keeping in mind that the decision they made was not personal and probably quite difficult for them. The important thing is to remain calm so you can control the offboarding process effectively.

Start the process immediately

As soon as possible after the resignation has been accepted set the leaving date, alert your payroll team to the situation, and make sure HR know and are starting the process of replacing the employee by contacting your recruitment partner. When you inform the team may need careful handling though.

Try to find out why the employee is leaving

You would be surprised how often we hear a candidate who resigned tell us that nobody bothered to ask why. While salary is, of course, often a deciding factor there can be many others. Some, such as a change in personal circumstances may open a door for you, others may point to systemic issues in the company or other work related problems. An exit interview can be very informative but be prepared to hear things you may not like. Toxic workplace environments, management issues, a lack of career progression, workload complaints and poor leadership are very common reasons for leaving. They may not be what you want to hear, but do you really not want to know if they are happening?

Start to plan for a smooth transition

In an ideal world there will be a cross over period where the old employee can hand over the job role to the new person. However, that isn’t common so you may need to ask the leaving employee to help smooth the passage by creating job specification, customer profiles or perhaps even a video record of specific tasks. They can also arrange the distribution of work temporarily among the existing team and resolve current projects and workflows. These have the double effect of making the transition easier for the new person, as well as showing that you valued and respected the leaving employee.

To counteroffer or not?

There is sometimes a gut reaction to counteroffer for key employees. Be careful with these because they can muddy things and even be done in anger at the employee’s decision. A counteroffer should not be a result of a feeling of being blackmailed or a knee jerk reaction. The sad truth is that most employees who accept a counteroffer end up leaving within a relatively short period anyway. So, it’s best to take a few days, assess what will be needed to replace the employee (including if your current salary and benefits are market ready – call us, we are happy to chat about that) and only then make a decision about whether to match the leavers new offer.

Ask for their help in finding a replacement

One often missed opportunity with key personnel is to ask if they can suggest a replacement. If they can, let us know and we will see what we can do.

Offer support to build your employer brand

Remember, your ex-employee is taking your brand with them when they leave. If you offer support in the form of exit interviews, understanding, references, a thank you for their service and similar small displays for respect the will leave with a positive impression. That will only enhance your employer brand.

When it comes to an employee resignation it is all about the process being followed, learning what you can to help improve things for the next employee and maintaining respect and understanding throughout. It may not be a process you want to go through, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be any more difficult that necessary. In fact, it could turn out to be very useful in the long run.