Handling Employee Resignations: The Secrets to Making Them Want to Come Back!

Lots of new employees resign

New employees are particularly prone to handing in their notice. Their old boss might call them and sow doubts in their mind (a tactic I discuss further on page XX), or they might get cold feet and realise that the grass isn’t greener.

Research by https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/mx/Documents/about-deloitte/Talent2020_Employee-Perspective.pdf>Deloitte (2020, pg3) goes further to suggest 34% of employees intend to leave their job within the first two years. This once again illustrates the importance of effective inductions and performance management.

In general, people leave jobs because they don’t like their manager, don’t have an opportunity for development or are attracted by more money. This shows that employee retention is more than an HR function, it is also driven by business leaders. That’s why its worthwhile honestly answering the questions:

  • “Am I a bad manager, am I part of the problem?”
  • “What do I need to improve and remind myself of, so this rarely happens again?”

When someone resigns, don’t feel personally snubbed. Resist the temptation to clear their desk and escort them off the premises! A resignation shouldn’t turn an employee into an enemy. No employee promises lifetime loyalty, just as no business promises lifetime job security.

Instead, reflect on what’s best for the organisation and the remaining staff.

Is the role still valid?

You may remember my Six Tests of Recruitment:

  1. The only reason a business should undertake more work is to add more value for customers.
  2. You can create more value with an efficient process that has Measurable Outcomes.
  3. Repetitive processes might be better automated, not staffed.
  4. Outsource non-core tasks to a specialist who can deliver more value, or has skills, processes or infrastructure that you don’t have.
  5. Develop internal staff to reduce risk and create a win-win for everyone.
  6. Recruit externally to build a valuable and resilient business, not an overweight one.

If the role isn’t worth keeping, that’s great! You’ve just saved yourself a lot of time and effort recruiting for it, not to mention the fact that profitability should increase.

Make a counteroffer if appropriate

If you decide that the role is still valid and you want to make a counteroffer, ask, <span class="is-speech">“What can we do to improve your life and keep you?”</span> Notice that I don’t recommend asking <span class="is-speech">“How much extra pay will make you stay?”</span> because you should never assume that it’s about the money. Your counteroffer might involve a change to working hours, an increased holiday allowance or even moving to a new role. Unfortunately a higher salary is often required and it is best to pay them not only according to how hard they work, but how hard they are to replace.

Unfortunately, the success rate of counteroffers is low because whatever caused them to leave may still be an issue. Think of counteroffers as a way of buying time to get yourself

Don’t give them more reasons to leave

If an employee’s departure is inevitable, accept their resignation gracefully. This itself might encourage them to reconsider, and if they leave on great terms, they might want to return in future.

In the final few days, I see many departing employees treated as if they’re “dead to me”. This will only give them even more motivation to leave (and possibly to compete against you), and make them less likely to want to return. Also, you need to keep a departing employee onside so that they will be candid in the Exit Interview.

Give them reasons to come back

You always want the option to rehire someone. You’ve often invested in their induction, training and know how they perform. Rehiring an ex-employee is often a cheap and effective solution. That is why I recommend you keep giving them reasons to come back:

  • Continue performance reviews, giving them praise.
  • Invite them to team events, so they are reminded of the personal and professional relationships they are breaking.
  • Tell them with great sincerity “if things don’t quite work out for you, please call me first as we’d love to have you back.”

This scenario happened recently to a car manufacturer I was consulting for. An experience mechanic was leaving for a competitor. His line manager was furious, taking it very personally, and began treating the departing employee as a ‘dead man’. Having calmed the line manager down, asking him to consider the option of rehiring later, the situation calmed down and the employee was asked to come back if it didn’t work out. Three months later I’m back at the car manufacturer walking through the production line and I’m delighted to see the ‘prodigal son’ had returned!

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Geoff Newman has dedicated his entire career to recruitment. He has consulted for many well-known international brands, and worked with over 20,000 growing businesses. He has helped fill over 100,000 jobs.

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We literally wrote the book on...

The secrets of great recruitment

The Secrets of Great Recruitment is a top-seller. It is easy to read and wastes no time in giving powerful actionable strategies you can use straight away.

Book cover for The Secrets of Great Recruitment