More staff hand in their notice in January than at any other time of year. If you need help managing resignations, from handling employee buy-backs to minimising disruption, here’s our top tips for this week’s Employer Blog…

You’ve started 2019 with plans for growth. Recruitment is high on your agenda and you’re already got new starters lined up. Just when you start to feel excited about fresh hires for your team, one employee hands in their resignation letter. The following week, another follows suit and before you know it, you’re back-filling their roles rather than adding more. So, what’s first to consider when you’re managing resignations?

Counter Offers and ‘Buy Backs’

The first thought may well be encouraging them to stay. Employee ‘buy back’ or counter-offers are a common prospect in a competitive labour market where good staff are hard to find. In addition to the loss of knowledge, experience and potentially revenue (if customers or sales are involved), there’s the general disruption and instability a resignation can cause.

The advantage of buying back an employee is to minimise these risks but you should also consider the potential consequences. You may have to offer a salary or promotion that’s not wholly deserved, the employee’s loyalty will be called into question, and it may even let others know that the threat of resigning gives them leverage.

Whilst 70% of employees who are ‘bought back’ leave within the following six months, if you decide this is the best or only course of action (even in the short term), here’s how to handle it:

  • Make sure you understand their reason for wanting to leave
  • Find out more about the opportunity they were motivated to take on
  • Discuss what would entice them to stay
Managing the Transition

If you can’t reach a mutually beneficial solution, you may have little choice but to let them go. In which case, the priority becomes minimising the disruption. Assuming the employee is going to be working their notice period, there’s a lot you can do to make the transition run smoothly.

Use the opportunity to review their role, including key responsibilities and any goals / KPIs. This will help you map out a short-term replacement or advertise the vacancy externally, but it will also help you to plan an effective handover. Assign employees to pick up on ongoing projects, make introductions to customer contacts and give them the time/resources to accommodate the additional workload.

Communicating with Staff

How you communicate the resignation to existing staff is also incredibly important. Start by telling those who’ll be most affected whilst ensuring the departing employee is happy with the information you’re passing on. It’s likely close colleagues will know that staff member was unhappy and they’ll want closure when they know they’re leaving. Treating employees well right until them end sends a powerful message about the type of employer you are.

Make sure you hold an exit interview to identify areas for improvement. Ask about their reasons for leaving, but also use the opportunity to find out their thoughts on the training provided, management relationships, likes/dislikes about their role and any advice for their replacement. Remember that criticism can be a helpful driver for positive change.

What’s next?

Before you begin to replace the lost employee, make sure you think about who / what your business really needs. It can be a good opportunity to review what changes you’d make to that particular role or what skills, qualifications or experience you think is necessary. Don’t just look for a replica of the previous incumbent. If they were in situ for a while it could be that the job requirements have changed.

Now’s also a good time to put staff retention higher up on your employer agenda. Take a more proactive approach to preventing good staff from moving on and avoid losing valuable and long-standing employees. Make sure you have:

  • Continued opportunities for training and career advancement
  • Competitive compensation and employee benefits
  • Effective leadership and quality management
  • Strong organisational values and employer brand


If you need help managing resignations, negotiating counter-offers or replacing valued employees, get in touch with the team at Grassroots. We advise on all aspects of the recruitment process and are experts in resolving hiring problems.

Next week’s Employer Blog is all about Retention Strategies, so don’t forget to click subscribe!