Feature article

What to do next after an employee quits

There’s no changing their minds, so what is the process?

Your employee has quit. What’s best practice for handling their exit smoothly?

Nat Milne, founder of The People Place, a professional services consultancy that specialises in Human Resources, gives her tips on handling the situation.

What are the best practice next steps after your employee has resigned?

I would talk with them to make sure their decision is final. I recently asked someone leaving our organisation: ‘Is this a resignation where you’d like me to fight for you, or is this a scenario where your mind’s made up and it’s my job to support you as you enter a new chapter?'

Be gracious. There’s no such thing as a lifelong employment agreement. Nobody signs up to work with you for life. When people join your team, you should start the journey knowing that their career will almost definitely extend beyond your organisation.

Is the notice period set in stone? Or can I ask them to stay longer if they’re a key member of staff?

If someone is ready to leave, it can be worse, culturally, to have them around any longer than necessary and it can be best for them to go as soon as it’s practical.

If it’s a business-critical role, I would only ask them to stay on longer than their notice period if they didn’t yet have their next role lined up so I wasn’t asking them to inconvenience their new employer.

In terms of what you’re looking for from them before they go, It’s very helpful for both of you if you can outline: “Please complete ‘x piece of work’ before you go, and have full handover notes ready by an agreed date.” The clearer you are about what you need to make the transition a success, the more likely the departing employee is able to help you get there! Remember: clear is kind.

How soon should I tell the rest of the staff about an employee’s resignation? Should I wait until I have a replacement?

Absolutely not. A typical recruitment process ranges from three to four weeks and a notice period is usually four weeks. Even if you’ve run a very speedy recruitment process, the potential new hire will usually have their own notice period, so it can very easily be two months from the resignation before you have the replacement arriving. I recommend telling their immediate team in the next team meeting, and the wider business via your regular internal newsletter, or the next business-wide communication you put out.

How do I organise and manage a handover to other staff in the interim?

Communication is key. Sit down with the people involved and talk to them about what the business needs. You’ll cover:

  • This is the situation we’re in.
  • This is the work that needs to be managed/distributed.
  • Who can help? How?
  • If the business can afford it, do we need to bring in a temp to support us in the interim?
  • How can we work together to make this as seamless as possible?

Bonus tip: Reward your team appropriately for taking on the additional work and responsibility even if it’s for a short time. Only you will know what sort of reward is possible and/or appropriate. Somewhere between a simple ‘thanks so much for chipping in’ to financial reward/compensation are your likely options. Regardless of what you chose, front footing your appreciation goes a long way.

What admin do I need to get done before they leave?

Your offboarding checklist should cover the administration tasks that need doing before your staff member leaves and these will usually loop in finance and IT leaders. You’ll be taking back system access, swipe cards, codes and tech equipment, and you’ll calculate the final pay. The more organised you are, the more smoothly this will all go.

Should I re-examine the need for the role before recruiting?

It’s always a good idea to look critically at the needs of the business and how they may have changed since this employee was hired. Some good questions to ask are:

  • In losing this employee, where are the gaps in our business?
  • Are there other new gaps we should consider and could they be incorporated into this role?
  • Does that make the role bigger or smaller than it’s been previously?
  • What does this mean for the role scope, in terms of tasks, responsibilities and remuneration?

Talk to your team about this and get their input.

Are leaving parties still a thing?

I advocate for the gracious farewell. What this looks like will vary. It might mean a meaningful card and a gift or a party depending on the business and the person leaving. This should be about ensuring that your staff know that you value people’s contributions and you can both thank the employee and wish them well.

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