How to Deal with Resignations

Giving people time to think can be a dangerous thing for businesses. And, with many employees taking a full two weeks off over the festive period, there’s plenty of time to take stock. Come the new year, organisations experience an uptick in the number of resignations and a load of letters giving notice. To help you prepare for the inevitable, here’s our guide to dealing with the fallout.

It’s Emotional

Being told that one of your team is handing in their resignations can be a shock and it’s not impossible that you’ll find yourself doing a goldfish impression for a couple of seconds. Try to remember that this is a stressful situation for both parties and act accordingly.
Respond by letting your employee know how you feel; it’s ok to say you’re shocked or that you had seen this coming. Although, if you’re pleased to see the person leave, it’s probably best to keep that reaction under wraps.
Ask what’s prompting their resignations, what job they’re going to and where and remember to congratulate them on their move. If the split isn’t amicable, suggest that you would like to find a way to work together for the remaining few weeks or months for everyone’s benefit.

Refer to Your Recruitment and Succession Plans

Once you’ve got over the niceties, it’s time to refresh your memory of your HR recruitment and succession plans. You’ll be glad you have these strategies in place, particularly when you’re under pressure to fill a higher number of vacancies than usual.
Start by checking your leaver’s notice period to give you an idea of the timescales you have to secure a new hire. And you don’t always think outside the box; your succession plan could identify suitable internal candidates to fill the role. If there isn’t anyone suitable, you will need to advertise and recruit externally.

Start Recruiting

Job descriptions can quickly become outdated, particularly in fast-paced sectors so ensure the job description is up to date and accurately represents the role. Your job advert should be well-written and targeted at the type of candidates you want. This will reduce the number of CVs you need to sift from inappropriate candidates and save you a whole lot of time.
Prepare your interview questions off the back of your job description review to ensure you drill down to the right information. And, once you have a shortlist of CVs, write down any specific questions you want to ask each candidate. Your recruitment policy might specify the way your organisation prefers to interview, for example using behavioural questions or competency based interview techniques. If there’s a preferred style, ensure your questions are written in this way.
Don’t forget that new hires will also have to work a resignation period so you may not get someone in before your existing hire leaves. If you can’t cope with a gap in cover, look to recruit people who can start quickly like people who are currently unemployed or on fixed term contracts that will be ending shortly.

Consider Cost

While getting someone in quickly means you can have a handover period, you’ll also incur additional cost with double wages for the duration. Alternatively, if your resignee was underpaid, you may have to find more money to attract a new employee with a higher salary.
If the person who has resigned is someone you want to keep hold of, and pay is the main reason for leaving, you could make a counter-offer. This isn’t always a good option if your colleague is already mentally halfway out of the door. But if their departure signifies a major disruption or loss of specialist knowledge for the business, asking them to extend their notice period could be an option. Depending on the individual’s circumstances this could be a possibility and will buy you more time to recruit.

Transfer Knowledge

Before your soon-to-be ex-employee leaves, you need to get them to put all their knowledge and expertise down on paper. Ask them to update project plans and provide a summary of where all their work is up to. They may need to create a detailed handover document for their replacement or upskill existing team members to plug any gaps in knowledge when they leave.

Let Others Know About Resignations

Ask your leaver to keep their resignation confidential for the time being. This is particularly important for leadership roles or if you have a number of people leaving at the same time. Big changes can cause uncertainty and discontent among other employees and there’s a possibility you could be faced with more resignations.
It’s likely that rumours will circulate. While you can’t control gossip, you can control the messaging when you announce the individual’s resignations. Many leaders do this once they have secured a new hire so they can calm nerves and give the remaining team confidence that the change is being managed.
Keep your announcement upbeat, let people know when their colleague will be leaving and thank them for their service. You may decide to tell the individual’s local team first before making a company-wide announcement.

Understanding Resignations

Employees can leave for a variety of reasons but if there’s a particular factor causing people to flee, you need to understand what it is. According to a survey from Glassdoor, the most common cause for leaving a job is low salary with a need to feel challenged and boring work the next two most popular reasons for leaving.
The good news is that all three of these issues can be addressed. Reviewing your rates of pay to ensure you’re competitive can help resolve the salary issue. If you’re losing more people than you’d like in a particular role, you may need to adjust the salaries of existing employees to ensure you secure their continued service.
Boring work and the need to feel challenged can be resolved by training managers to have more open and honest conversations with employees. This will help your leaders to identify flight-risks and find ways to rearrange work or include people in more interesting or challenging projects long before they think about resigning.
If your business needs recruitment support, get in touch with Tercus HR for pragmatic, hands-on help. Call on 0330 555 1139 or email at