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What to Do When an Employee Resigns

An employee’s resignation can be a delicate situation, and handling it with the proper authority, attitude and knowledge can make all the difference in the smoothness of the transition. To handle the situation with the utmost professionalism and grace, it’s critical to fully understand the legalities and technicalities involved.

Employee Resignation: The Proper Steps

It’s important to always keep a professional attitude and follow the appropriate steps through human resources. There are two areas of an employee’s resignation process that deserve attention: standard outgoing procedures and transition plans to consider in the wake of the resignation announcement.

Standard Procedures of the Resignation Process

Most standard organizations’ outgoing procedures require the following steps:

  • Notify HR and other managers: Employees should directly notify HR managers, as well as any other leaders within the team. Managers should request a formal resignation letter to be kept in the employee’s file, if it was not initially produced. It is standard for the employee to give a two-week notice and that should be formally agreed upon by all parties.
  • Tell the Team: If the employee worked every day with certain team members or within a single department, it is courtesy to send a formal email or memo notifying the team of the employee’s departure. This allows team assignments to be finalized or instructions given in plenty of time to pass the torch within team projects.
  • Alert the IT Department: Unless you consider the employee a risk to company information or safety, there is no need to cut off his access to the company server or other shared document drives. However, you should give the IT department plenty of notice so that the employee’s email can be removed and his phone re-routed to the proper individual after the official last date of employment. It’s also best to decide who will be receiving those routed calls and emails in their absence.
  • Take an Inventory of Company Property: Many organizations provide their employees with expensive computer equipment, including laptops to be utilized remotely, so it’s critical to assure that each of these items is returned. Many large corporations invoke a ‘walk-out’ with security on the last day, to assure no property is stolen. While this may seem too extreme for a smaller business, it’s still a sound idea to make a short list of items and check them off before the employee leaves.
  • Establish Any Payments of Unused Paid Time-Off: If the organization offers payment for any unused paid time-off (vacation, sick or personal days), the amount should be settled on or before the employee’s last day. This also includes any unused expense accounts, if this aligns with company policy.
  • Assure that the Employee is Fully Informed of Benefits: Most organizations must comply with COBRA laws, which offer extended benefits following voluntary termination from employment. It is crucial to assure that your employee receives all pertinent information about their rights under the law. This way, if they haven’t accepted a new position yet or if their new position does not offer benefits, they have the option to extend and pay for their current health insurance coverage.
  • Remind the Employee about Confidentiality: Some organizations require employees to sign a non-compete agreement during the on boarding process, but if this is not part of the company’s policies, it should at least have a confidentiality agreement in place that forbids employees from sharing insider company information. When an employee resigns, this is a necessary opportunity to remind him about the importance (or legal requirement) of confidentiality.
  • Hold an Exit Interview: An exit interview provides an excellent opportunity to learn more about the strengths and weaknesses of an organization from a departing source. Many employees will exhibit a higher degree of honesty during an exit interview, providing candid responses to questions regarding processes, workload, compensation and managerial staff. This is a beneficial way to prevent future turnover within the workforce.

A Transition Plan

When an employee resigns, it’s important to begin building a plan of transition, whether in the interim before someone else fills the position or as the position moves in a different direction. Transitional steps include:

  • Evaluating the position: This is a good time to consider the value of the employee’s position held and if it should be altered moving forward or removed entirely.
  • Ensuring all current work is covered: Assign other team members to the employee’s existing duties and projects, careful to assure that nothing gets lost in the shuffle.
  • Reaching out to clients: Touch base with any of the employee’s client contacts, alerting them to the change in guard and offering assistance whenever they need it.
  • Wishing the employee well: How an employer reacts at the time of an employee’s resignation can leave a profound effect on the employees who are remaining with the company. It’s in the best interest of all involved for the employer to act professionally and kindly, wishing the employee well on his new ventures and, if deserving, offering to act as a reference for future employers.

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