As managers or owners, we’ve all been there. A key performing employee resigns, and you feel personally affronted. In this article, I share the best methods to handle the situation.
It can be easy to let this become a personal emotion. Many managers or business owners may immediately feel angry or betrayed when an employee resigns, or they suffer the emotion of being let down, and feel that the employee has become a traitor.
Retaining your dignity and staying mature is the best way to deal with it. Here are twelve important steps you can take to cope with this difficult situation.
Understand it’s not likely personal
People change roles, better offers come along, or the need to try a change can be strong sometimes. Just because you are sticking it out, doesn’t mean you should just assume others around you will.
Don’t offer to match the pay in a knee jerk reaction
Sure, it may come down to pay, however there may be reasons besides just pure compensation that has caused this situation. If they haven’t approached you about asking for a raise recently, its unlikely money is the only motivator.
Dig deep into the reasons
When an employee resigns, it is important to speak openly and candidly with the person and try to get an understanding from their perspective why they are leaving your organization. It can be difficult not to feel resentment, however its best to consider this a ‘pure business’ discussion.
Don’t treat them badly
Just because they have given their required notice, doesn’t mean you should throw that positive culture and employee care straight out the window.
Don’t march them out of the building or throw a hissy fit; it achieves nothing except resentment on both sides of the table.
Remember the saying, ‘One door closes and another opens’
When an employee resigns, it may turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
Perhaps there wasn’t enough work for the role, in which case you may be able to avoid replacing them, or indeed you end up hiring a replacement who is far more engaged in the role.
Thank them openly
Be aware that other colleagues will look to you for how you handle the situation. Be mature, and stay positive in front of others.
Make a point to thank them in front of their peers, and list why they were so good in their role.
Ask for honest feedback
Finding out why they’re leaving is important, however it need not stop there. When an employee resigns, find out what they least like and most like about their role, team and the organization.
Ask them for honest reviews – even if it is negative feedback – remind them they have nothing to lose by being blunt.
Remind the team that life goes on
It won’t be just you affected by the employee leaving; often their close colleagues will also start considering if they should do something similar.
Be sure to stay upbeat and remind them of the great reasons they are there. Reaffirm the company mission, your values and the importance of their roles.
Consider the role
This could be a great opportunity to consider combining roles, or changing the role they were in. Is it possible to share the workload in the medium to long term without overburdening their colleagues, or does the role need changing to suit the current climate?
Just because that role had been filled previously, doesn’t necessarily mean someone needs to fulfill it into the future.
Create a hiring plan
It is worth starting this process of hiring as soon as practical. Look at what knowledge, experience and attributes a successful employee in that role would need to possess. Consider asking colleagues for contacts, or indeed consult a recruitment company or consultant, to help fill this role.
We recommend you also read our article, How to Hire Employees for Cultural Fit.
During the exiting employee’s notice period, set up a solid process to try and transfer knowledge, starting as soon as possible.
This could be done in a variety of ways, from having another employee “shadow” the person, and document what they do, or indeed if you still trust the person, ask them to create a series of handover documents, which explain common tasks and how they are completed.
It is always worth asking, in the case of a gap in knowledge, could you or a colleague be OK making contact for an explanation. You’ll find that most reasonable people don’t mind a period of transition.
Review your employee induction process
Now is a great time to review your new employee induction process before you find the right candidate. We’ve written 10 great ways to improve your employee induction process, which is a must read in this situation.
Continue to include the employee
Whilst the employee is serving their notice period, don’t suddenly start ignoring them or leaving them excluded. Its important to continue, after an employee resigns, to have them involved in team meetings and events.
Now, more than ever, they may have valuable thoughts or knowledge to share. It is not something you want to make them uncomfortable about; they are human after all.
People change jobs every day, it’s not a personal attack, and your reaction will have repercussions if dealt with badly or immaturely. When an employee resigns, it is a great time to get on with reaffirming to the team that they are valued, to find a suitable replacement and to work hard not to let knowledge loss occur.
I wish you the best of luck during this difficult time!
15 Employee Retention Strategies for Keeping Top Talent
Keep your employees happy with flexibility, strong communication, and an inclusive environment.
With millions of employees quitting their jobs in droves throughout 2021 and 2022 as a part of the Great Resignation, companies across industries have needed to invest time and resources into retention strategies to keep their employees from leaving.
What Is Employee Retention?
Employee retention is a company’s efforts to keep talent by fostering a positive work environment that prevents talent from wanting to leave their jobs.
“Strong employee retention is key to company productivity and the morale of current staff,” said Leslie Tarnacki, senior vice president of human resources at WorkForce Software. “If team members see high turnover, they may begin to question why others are leaving and be tempted themselves to look elsewhere.”
A company’s retention rate is calculated by dividing the number of employees on the last day of a given time period by the number of employees on the first day. Built In offers a calculator that companies can use to determine their retention rate.
Why Is Employee Retention Important?
When an employee leaves a company, they often take institutional knowledge with them, and the company will need to dedicate time to getting a replacement up to speed. Retaining employees helps a company to grow faster by having consistency of talent, and creating a supportive environment allows a company to benefit from the work of high performers for as long as possible.
“Retention is important for keeping a company moving forward and for that organization to make strides within its respective industry.”
“Retention is important for keeping a company moving forward and for that organization to make strides within its respective industry,” Tarnacki said. “When it comes to retention, the onus is largely on HR teams and all business leaders to make sure a company maintains a positive culture, that employees feel valued and that they understand and recognize the impact they have on the business’ results.”
Retaining talent saves companies both time and money. Searching for new talent can be an expensive process, with the Society of Human Resource Management estimating that recruiting a new employee costs an average of $4,683 per hire. August 2022 research from Kantata shows that senior executives at professional services organizations spend 40 percent of their time each day dealing with employee turnover, and 53 percent struggle with hiring full-time employees.
Benefits of Employee Retention
Companies benefit from increased morale and better team dynamics when their employees stay. When a company faces a lot of turnover, there’s a tendency for other employees to start thinking of leaving, which takes a toll on the company culture.
“Employee retention is one of the main foundations that you should incorporate into your overall organizational culture, and it should be intentional. It should not be an afterthought,” said Timothy Brown, director of people and culture at WorkReduce.
Retaining employees allows companies to be more productive and able to dedicate their time and resources to work that will grow the business, versus spending lots of time and money on recruiting replacements.
15 Employee Retention Strategies
Create a Positive Workplace Culture
Workplaces that offer work-life balance and a supportive environment for employees stand to keep talent around longer. Employees want to feel valued and trusted in their work.
“One of the best retention strategies is to provide a healthy culture in which employees feel trusted and empowered and have the flexibility to manage the right work-life balance for themselves and their families,” Tarnacki said.
If an employee doesn’t fit with a company’s culture, they’re more likely to leave the organization. “The culture is really going to help you to understand is this the right organization for me? Is this the best fit for me as I’m working throughout my career?” Brown said.
Employees desire salaries that are competitive with the market rates and reflective of their experience.
“Top employees want to receive quality equitable pay based on their skills, experience and educational portfolio,” Brown said.
Conducting market analysis will help a company to understand if their salary offerings are fair.
“You always want to make sure that they feel like they’re getting the best bang for their buck,” Brown said. “We ensure that it’s done by doing market analysis throughout the year and making sure that we’re staying on top of our game as far as on our HR side to provide those competitive salaries for employees.”
Offer Robust Benefits
Comprehensive health care, generous paid time off and strong retirement matching are baseline benefits that employees care about when considering job opportunities. WorkForce offers employees additional benefits like half-day Fridays in the summer and remote work in an effort to retain its talent base.
At WorkReduce, the company surveys its employees to find out what benefits matter most to them, and the company will go to market to get more competitive benefit offerings when needed.
“That’s all based on what are the employees saying? What do they need?” Brown said. “One of the biggest things that we’re focusing on now is just revamping our overall insurance plans.”
Support Employee Wellness
Offering benefits to support both employees’ physical and mental health is crucial to a person’s overall well being. Some companies provide health and wellness reimbursements or subsidize health expenses like gym memberships and equipment.
Companies can offer mental health benefits too like therapy support or mental health app subscriptions to help with stress relief. Emergency financial assistance or employee assistance programs can also make the difference in how an employee feels about their job.
Provide Flexible Work Arrangements
Employees often want work schedules and workplace arrangements that allow them to succeed both in their personal and professional lives. Remote work and flexible schedules are common benefits offered at tech companies.
“Providing employees with flexibility and purpose not only improves their quality of life, but also increases their productivity in the workplace, which is key to retention,” Tarnacki said.
For example, some parents might desire a job where they can leave work a little early in order to pick up their children from school. Other employees might be seeking remote work in order to travel and work from different locations.
“Providing employees with flexibility and purpose not only improves their quality of life, but also increases their productivity in the workplace, which is key to retention.”
“In the tech industry, many employees expect a lot of flexibility in terms of hybrid work environments and flexible working hours. The tech industry is also known for setting precedent in terms of perks and benefits, so people in these roles will generally expect a lot from their employers,” Tarnacki said.
Not every job is designed for remote work, so for employees whose jobs require an in-office presence, companies can offer additional perks to help retain them.
“For these workers, other benefits like access to better technology to help them do their jobs, training and career advancement opportunities, and better pay will be important for employee retention,” Tarnacki said.
Invest in Strong Leadership
Employees want to work at companies where they feel they can trust their leaders — from the C-suite down to their direct manager. Oftentimes, an employee will leave a job because of a bad boss.
“We have an open door policy, so all employees can come to me and chat about anything, whether it’s work-related or personal, and it will be treated in confidence,” said Gareth Hoyle, managing director of Marketing Signals, via email. “It’s imperative that senior members of staff ensure that they’re not an absent manager. For some businesses, there might be a lack of face-to-face contact, but that doesn’t mean you can’t develop a formal structure that makes regular contact a priority. Ensuring every individual at each location has what they need to be successful, whilst making yourself available when they need additional support is vital. This will ultimately help keep employees autonomous and ensure they feel supported and heard, which is essential for employee retention.”
Communicate and Be Transparent
Employees who feel in the dark about their employer’s direction or the stability of the company might be inclined to leave.
“Creating and sustaining an environment built on transparency and openness is key,” Tarnacki said.
Frequent and open communication from all-staff meetings to manager check-ins help an employee understand the outlook for the business.
“Scheduling one-on-one meetings with a preset agenda, skip-level meetings for business updates and having consistent communication methods such as weekly, monthly, quarterly newsletters and corporate meetings allow employees to stay in the know and make informed decisions concerning their career future,” Brown said.
Prioritize Mentorship and Employee Resource Groups
Create opportunities for mentorship within your company so employees can learn from each other and have an ally in their career growth.
Employee resource groups also allow employees with shared backgrounds or life experiences to support and learn from each other. WorkForce Software has numerous ERGs that focus on educating each other on topics that are important to their colleagues, Tarnacki said.
“It’s a place to be their authentic self and build trust with people and feel safe at work,” Sasha Robinson, head of people operations at Trainual, told Built In in May 2022.
Let Employees Be Heard
Employees want to know that their work and ideas are making a difference at their company.
“Employees need to feel recognized and heard, and leaders must make sure they’re fostering an environment where people feel like they can make mistakes, learn from them and share ideas without judgment,” Tarnacki said.
WorkReduce conducts an annual employee experience survey in addition to scattering pulse surveys throughout the year to get a pulse on what employees are feeling about their jobs.
“If you understand that your voice is heard, you’re going to do the best you can. You’re going to show up everyday to work and be that rockstar employee.”
“We make sure employees’ voices are heard, and that’s really through annual surveys, or if it’s just little small ad hoc surveys that we ask about demographics for our organization, just to understand what's going on in their day-to-day feel,” Brown said.
There are other frequent listening opportunities at WorkReduce through affinity groups, employee experience conversations and even social events, Brown said.
“If you understand that your voice is heard, you’re going to do the best you can. You’re going to show up everyday to work and be that rockstar employee,” Brown said. “If you’re listening to what they’re saying, responding to them and having them really have that seat at the table for them to be able to speak, you’re going to have a bunch of star employees.”
Recognize Good Work
If an employee feels underappreciated in their work, that might push them to leave for another job. Employees want to be recognized for their good work — whether it’s through providing praise, career growth opportunities or compensation reflective of their hard work.
“It’s really top down and side to side, so we want to ensure that our employees are rewarding and recognizing each other but also that our leadership is making sure that they see what the individual employees are doing and that we call out those wonderful positive things as well,” Brown said.
Share Constant Feedback with Employees
In addition to being praised for their hard work, employees want to hear feedback — both positive and constructive — in order to succeed in their roles. Feedback from across the organization, not just their direct supervisor, is helpful too.
“Whether they’re talking to their day-to-day manager within WorkReduce or their manager within the organization that they’re functioning in or even talking to our executive leadership, we thrive on consistent feedback,” Brown said.
Encourage Career Growth at the Company
In addition to providing feedback about their work, managers should also be frequently speaking with their employees about their career goals. If there are opportunities for an employee to grow at their current employer, be sure to make them aware of those pathways. If an employee doesn’t see themselves continuing to grow at their employer, that might push them to leave.
“Learning and development opportunities, succession planning, professional growth structure and management of employee expectations can be the determining factor for retaining top talent,” Brown said. “Leaving these factors up to chance may leave your high talent with the impression that they are undervalued and spark them to look for employment elsewhere.”
Give Continuous Learning Opportunities
Companies should invest in constant professional development opportunities for employees from online learning to workshops and group training.
“Every employee at WorkForce has access to LinkedIn Learning, and we share top classes with each other to keep our skills sharp,” Tarnacki said.
Learning stipends typically allow employees to purchase conference registrations, classes, software and learning materials to help them learn new skills or advance in an area of the job.
“Understanding what needs to be done, if there are growth opportunities, what trainings I may need, what additional education I may need, that is very intentional on our side,” Brown said.
Use the Latest Tools and Technology
Don’t make an employee’s work harder than it has to be by keeping antiquated tools or sticking with inefficient processes just because time and money have already been invested in them — that’s sunk cost fallacy, and it can push employees away.
“In an industry that is continuously evolving, employees value organizations that keep up with technology advancements and provide opportunities to continue their education,” said Gina Hartigan, chief people officer at Kantata, via email.
Especially in tech, using modern software and tech tools can play a significant role in how an employee feels about their work, and ultimately, whether or not they’ll stay long-term.
“Positive experiences with workplace technology can directly impact workforce morale, and a lack of technology can push workers to look for jobs that offer better experiences,” Tarnacki said. “Companies lacking decent tech tools are ultimately putting their employee retention at higher risk.”
Build a Diverse Work Environment
Employers need to make concrete efforts to not only diversify their workforces but to create environments that are safe and supportive for people of all backgrounds — from inclusive educational opportunities to employee resource groups.
“Diversity and inclusion should be ingrained into the organizational culture and encouraged through all levels of the organization.”
“An intentional strategy for diversity and inclusion is a must for high performers and should not only be focused on the top executive level,” Brown said. “Diversity and inclusion should be ingrained into the organizational culture and encouraged through all levels of the organization.”
At WorkReduce, the company is proud to have 62 percent of its workforce identify as women, 52 percent identify as BIPOC and 56 percent are ages 35 and older.
“The biggest thing is our talent are from all backgrounds, and we really have a very diverse team. It's important to us,” Brown said. “We really thrive on providing opportunities to all.”
To create an inclusive workplace environment, companies should also prioritize feedback from employees, mentorship and resource groups, as well as workshops and training around topics like reducing hiring bias or creating a safe work environment.