What Employers Should Do When an Employee Resigns – Ask #HR Bartender

A couple months ago, I wrote an article about how to properly resign from your job. Shortly after, I received a note from an employer about a challenge they’re facing, and it reminded me that organizations need to know what to do when an employee resigns too. Here’s the reader note:

As an employer, I had an employee who was working on an important project that didn’t even resign, they just left and never responded.

Three weeks later, my current team planned a get-together where this employee was invited. After dinner, they came back to the office to chat and hangout. I happened to stop by the office and saw them sitting there. I didn’t speak to the employee.

Afterward, I asked my team not to socialize with former employees. I realized after I said it that it wasn’t the right thing to do. What should I have had done in such a case?

Now, I must admit, the reader’s note is pretty specific and I’m not sure every company will face the same type of situation. But there are a few things that organizations need to keep in mind when an employee resigns.

  1. Have a policy about guests visiting the office. This is just a good policy to have in general. Offices are work environments. Companies might want to have guidelines about employees “hanging out” when they’re off duty. And they might want to have a policy about guests visiting the workplace. That includes family, friends, and former employees.
  1. Follow-up with employees who do a “no call, no show”. It’s possible that an employee who doesn’t call or show up for work is in fact tendering their resignation. It’s also possible that the employee has been in an accident or had a family emergency. So, companies should try to contact employees who do not show up for their scheduled shift.
  1. Don’t make current employees choose sides. Whether an employee resigns voluntarily or involuntarily, they still have friends inside the company. Don’t make employees choose between their former co-worker and the company. Treat employees as adults and hold them accountable for conducting themselves in a professional manner.
  1. Wish the employee well. Regardless of the circumstances of the employee’s departure, always wish the employee well. Even if they were the worst employee you’ve ever hired, let them leave with as much dignity and respect as possible. I’ve run into employees in the grocery store that I fired months earlier and they stopped to say “hello”.
  1. Discuss goals for the notice period. If an employee resigns and is providing a two-week notice, find time to talk about current projects. Figure out what can be accomplished before the employee leaves. Talk about having debriefs so the exiting employee can transition work tasks smoothly before they leave.
  1. Explain offboarding. Employees do not know what happens when they tender their resignation. They just know that they’re leaving. So, they will have questions about their vacation balance, health insurance, 401(k), etc. Make sure that employees know the company will answer their questions.
  1. Schedule an exit interview. Often, exit interviews are conducted by HR or an external third-party. Sometimes they happen during an employee’s notice period or they happen a couple of weeks after an employee leaves. However your organization conducts exit interviews, let the employee know. And encourage them to give honest feedback.
  1. Talk with HR and department managers about workload. Chances are the company is going to be a few days weeks months without a replacement hire. That means the company needs to figure out how the work is going to get done. Organizations can pay employees overtime, hire a freelancer, or look at other options.
  1. Don’t hesitate to call your employment attorney. At any point in this process, companies should call their legal counsel if something doesn’t feel right or they have questions. That’s why HR pros develop a relationship with an attorney. Instead of taking action and regretting it, spend an hour and talk it out.

The way an employee resigns says a lot about them. The same holds true for the company and how they handle exiting employees. Both the employee and the organization have obligations when its time to part ways. If you like this list, feel free to bookmark it for future reference and share it with your managers, so they handle employee resignations properly. The job market is way too challenging right now not to have a strong offboarding program.

Images captured by Sharlyn Lauby