How to deal with an employee resignation

By Robert Half on 5 August 2022

You never want to see a good member of your organisation hand in an employee resignation.

But the reality is that it is going to happen.

Employees can choose to leave jobs for family, health, more work-life balance, a better-paying job, or better benefits – and this has exacerbated even more since the pandemic with the introduction of hybrid-working environments in Hong Kong.

It is important to know what you can require when someone resigns from their position, what you can politely ask for, what to tell the rest of your staff, and what happens if the agreed-upon time frame is too long — or not long enough.

Here are five tips for how to deal with an employee resignation.

1. How do I respond to the resignation notice?

While there are always expectations for an employee to resign from their position in a professional manner, that courtesy extends equally to how you as the employer responds to that resignation notice.

Some employees will choose to submit their resignation notice via email as an electronic record. For employers who want to know how to respond to a resignation email, the important factor to remember is to ensure your acknowledgement is respectful, no matter what the circumstances may be.

Similarly, if the employee chooses to resign face-to-face, show your gratitude for what the employee has done for the company thus far and be gracious when accepting their resignation notice.

Related: Why is employee engagement so important?

2. What is important during the handover period?

Managers can require outgoing employees to keep working full steam ahead during their final days. However, workers' motivation often wanes as employment begins ending.

The time after giving notice is most effectively used as a "handover period," which should involve the following:

  • Have exiting employees update their existing job descriptions
  • Work with them to delegate their duties and determine what projects they will need to complete before leaving
  • Immediately remove departing employees from sensitive or confidential projects, especially if they are headed for a competitor

3. What if the employee wants to depart immediately?

If an employee wants to quit immediately after giving notice, you have the right to require them to honour the period dictated by their contract.

Despite this, it may be difficult to keep them productive or prevent disruption.

In this situation, it is best to give the employee a cooling-off period to process emotions. Ask to speak to them the next day and explain why everyone would benefit from them staying through a set notice period.

Related: The benefits of good staff morale

4. How do I inform the rest of the organisation?

Do not wait to tell the members of the departing employee’s department about the upcoming exit.

You can call a quick meeting to announce that their co-worker’s last day is in two weeks, ask for help to fill in before a replacement is found, and let them know about any changes in responsibilities — and an estimated timeline — because of the employee resignation.

You can notify other employees with a brief email, and if you plan to hold a good-bye party, you can include those details. You should also notify customers, clients or suppliers who may be affected.

Related: 7 key employee engagement factors that really matter to staff

5. What if there is not enough time during the handover period?

As an employer, if you need time to delegate duties and recruit a suitable replacement, you can negotiate with employees to extend their tenure at your organisation.

Clearly, you will want to do this as soon as possible. But remember that they are free to decline your request or may have already committed to starting a new contact shortly after leaving.

Next steps

For the employee who is leaving, hold an exit interview to obtain information about what your company is doing well, and what you need to improve.

Do not bother making a counter offer to entice the employee to stay. Counter offers are not long-term remedies, and they can backfire or have a ripple effect among other employees.

Related: What is a counter offer?

How to deal with an employee resignation

Resignations are an inevitable fact of business life, and you may see more of them as job hopping loses its stigma.

Regardless of the reasons people choose to leave your organisation, it is important to stay on good terms with them so you can both achieve your objectives over the final days and beyond.

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