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What to do When an Employee Resigns

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When an employee resigns, you may experience plenty of feelings. If the employee plays a key role in your business or has been with you for a long time, you may be faced with feelings of surprise, sadness or fear. What will you do without them?

Or if you are facing a talent drought, or competition for good talent (as many businesses are as a result of The Great Resignation), those feelings of worry might come as a result of wondering “How will I replace a good employee?” 

But you can’t keep all your staff. Any resignation is hard not to take personally. As a manager, you might be experiencing thoughts of ‘What went wrong?’ or ‘What could I have done better or differently to make them stay?’

 Employees leave for many reasons, so don’t take a resignation personally. However, how you react and what you do next counts. 

You don't have to accept a resignation straight away - quote on branded background

Find Out Why the Employee has Resigned

You don’t have to accept a resignation straight away. The first question you should be asking an employee who has just resigned is ‘why?’. 

Your relationship with the exiting employee is important. A trusting relationship means the departing employee may be more willing to give honest feedback on why they chose to leave. Implementing this feedback may be a way to encourage the employee to stay, or it may be useful for your remaining employees. 

If they cite personal reasons, then it may be hard to make a case for them to stay. However, given the current trend of hybrid working and stronger focus on work/life balance, your business may want to consider negotiating to keep a quality employee.

Similarly, if they have recently upskilled and are taking a job that lets them use their new skills, consider if there is scope for their current role to use some of their new skills. Admittedly, this may not be possible if their upskilling is in a completely different field. 

A third reason why an employee may resign is down to being headhunted and made a better offer. If this is the case, you may wish to consider a counteroffer. 


A counteroffer may or may not be right for your business or your employee. But, if your employee’s decision to leave is too much to bear and you don’t want to lose them, then an offer of higher pay or different working conditions may be enough to make them stay. 

When an employee leaves, it isn’t easy hiring someone new to replace them. Sourcing a new hire takes time, resources and funds. It sounds counterintuitive, but you may save money by offering a departing employee more money to stay.

Be warned however, Hays Salary Guide consistently finds around 46% of employees who resign yet accept a counteroffer, leave around the 12-month mark.

If you suspected the resignation was coming, and feel that a counteroffer is a lost cause, here are some tips to set your exiting employee up for a smooth transition out of your business and ensure you depart on good terms. 

Accept the resignation text on branded background

Accept the Resignation

While you may accept a resignation with a heavy heart, accepting it and offering congratulations on a new role secured, is a great start to the departure process.

Find out how many weeks notice the employee has given. Ensure it is in line with the requirements of their employment contract. 

More senior roles tend to have longer notice periods. If your employee plays a key role in your business, you will need to ensure the notice they have given will be sufficient enough to cover all of their handover. 

Always ensure to receive a letter of resignation in a written format with their last day clearly stated. This will be useful for payroll purposes and for mapping a handover process.

The relationship between yourself as a Line Manager and your exiting employee is important. They may hope to use you as a referee. Remember that current employees are your best advocate for future talent.

Keep your exiting employee involved to mitigate any loss of motivation as a result of their impending departure. 

While you may think a departing employee should be focusing purely on their handover, don’t exclude them from tasks or projects that they were once responsible for. Especially if it can be completed in their remaining time. 

While some employees lose motivation, others will happily fulfil their responsibilities up until their last day. Take advantage of that drive and experience to make the most of your exiting employee’s experience before they leave. 

Take some time to look at the Terms and Conditions of your departing employee’s employment contract. They may need to return any equipment or pay for training you may have subsidised. This can make a good starting point for the handover. 

Communicate to relevant parties text on branded background

Communicate to Relevant Parties

When an employee resigns, it is your responsibility to create an employee departure announcement. 

If you run a small business, or the exiting employee has a key role that will impact many stakeholders, you could send a company-wide announcement email. 

Or, if your organisation is larger your exiting employee could communicate their resignation and intended departure date during a team meeting, letting those who will be directly impacted know. 

In all cases, be clear in communicating who will be the point of contact once your exiting employee leaves. 

HR professionals in your business will also need to be informed about your departing employee as they will be responsible for conducting exit interviews, organising for equipment to be returned and facilitating the process for hiring a replacement (if necessary).  

When you announce an employee is leaving, there is likely to be many questions. You and the departing employee need an action plan to cover their workload. This plan should inform the handover process and is a pivotal part of your offboarding. 

Offboarding- text on branded backdrop


Offboarding checklist with 6 key steps on branded background

A successful offboarding process, also known as an employee exit procedure, will include:

  • Creating a checklist for who will take on certain tasks once your departing employee has left
  • Detailed handover notes of how to do certain tasks, written by the departing employee
  • Having an exit interview
  • Enjoying a farewell
  • Ensuring equipment is returned
  • Removing access from cloud software
  • Forwarding emails to another team member

The key to a successful offboarding plan is that you and your team feel supported in this period of change. 

Handing Over - title on branded background

Handing Over 

Handing over is usually a lengthy process. All the knowledge your exiting employee has accumulated over the course of their employment with you, has to be shared. 

Tips and tricks they acquired during their time with you, should be passed on to make their role easier to execute.

No one knows their role better than your exiting employee. During the notice period, it is ideal for your leaving employee to transfer their knowledge to someone who is staying. 

Alternatively, is you are lucky to rehire within the resignation period, your exiting employee can hand over directly to the replacement. This means there is less likelihood of knowledge being missed. 

Step 5 Exiting on branded background


Once tasks and knowledge are shared, and the employee’s final day is arriving, you can ask your Human Resources (HR) team to get involved. 

Your employee may need to sign a non-disclosure agreement to ensure they aren’t going to utilise certain sensitive company knowledge in their next role.

HR can assist the exiting employee to complete an exit interview and ensure company assets like laptops and credit cards are returned. 

Exit interviews are a crucial part of any employee offboarding process. Well thought out exit interview questions can provide valuable insight into an employee’s time with you.

An exit interview can help you understand:

  • Your employee’s goals, 
  • If they would return to your business 
  • If they would recommend your business to someone else 
Sample Exit Interview Questions text on branded background

Here are Some Examples of Exit Interview Questions:

1. Why Did You Start Looking For Another Job?

While everyone’s reason for leaving may be different, this question can help you detect common themes.


2. Did You Share Your Concerns With Anyone At The Company?

This question reveals insights about your company culture. If you believe the company culture as open and honest but the departing employee didn’t feel comfortable to express their concerns this may be a reason to investigate further. 


3. How Would You Describe Our Company Culture?

This question reveals overall trends. You may get some outliers but, over time, you’ll start to see your company culture.

4. Were You Comfortable Talking To Your Manager?

Use this information to develop the Manager who still works for your company.


5. Did You Feel Equipped To Do The Job Here?

This question will give you insight into training new employees or make changes to retain your current staff. 

These questions give insight into how your employees perceive your company. Over time, you learn the good and the bad aspects - to know what to promote for future employees and what to change. This can subsequently help with long term employee retention. 

Finally, as your employee departs, you can offer a reference and HR can facilitate the final pay process including any exit documentation. 

Departing Thoughts

Leaving a company can be challenging for both sides. But, employee resignation does not have to be a sad or stressful time. A strong employee exit management process will create a good experience for your departing employee, which in turn will prove positive for you.

In fact, allowing an employee to leave, yet still maintaining a positive professional relationship, may open the door for their return. Known as ‘boomerang employees’, these employees are valuable because you know them and they know your company. Boomerang employees are forecast to be on the rise in the near future as The Great Resignation plays out. 

Should you hire a boomerang employee? After all, they left you once. That’s a topic for another day.

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