Thursday, December 25, 2008

Coping with Resignations - HR practices

With the current recession growing in intensity by the day, no one will question an organisation for laying off employees. Another instance when no questions are asked is when employees retire and leave a company. But eyebrows are definitely raised when employees leave on their own accord. Then, an organisation's human resource policies come under the scanner, their managers under the microscope and their recruiters under cloud!

Even when employees leave for personal or 'uncommon' valid reasons, the organisation will face some flak if the number of individuals resigning in a given month or week is large. An organisation can no longer afford to ignore how the job market or job seekers react to mass resignations. Therefore, it is becoming important for organisations to manage resignations in a way that it does not harm their employer brand.

The impact

When an employee resigns, those left behind are affected in different ways. Here are some typical reactions:

  • If an employee resigns because of feeling redundant, others begin to question their role in the organisation. This triggers a feeling of job insecurity.
  • If an employee resigns before the appraisal results are out, those left behind grow skeptical about HR policies.
  • If more than a few top performers leave for personal reasons, their team members feel uneasy about their worth.
  • When a senior employee leaves in the middle of an assignment or project, employees grow wary of the top management.
  • When a C-level executive leaves all of a sudden, the message sent across the organisation is that all is not well. If such resignations happen in the wake of an economic crisis, retaining employees, especially top performers will become the biggest challenge.

Managing the exit

Regardless of how well an employee has been treated or how long he has served, no manager is a mind-reader to forecast when the employee will resign. As long as managers are prepared mentally for this contingency, they will not be caught off-guard. If the news is sudden, a surprised manager can mismanage the employee's exit and those who are left behind.

A great advantage of a resignation is that employees serve a notice period. This gives an organisation time to calm nerves, address apprehensions and most importantly ensure undisrupted functioning. This time period should also give surprised managers time to collect themselves to better manage the exit! However, a better way to manage employee resignations is to be proactive than reactive.

Managing the lower rung

Managing team members and mid to lower levels resignations is definitely easier. This however, does not mean that the job can be left to when the employee resigns. Here too, given the possible aftermath of a resignation, managers need to be proactive. In short, regardless of which cadre the employee resigns from, managers must take the following measures:

Knowledge sharing and cross-functional training:

All seniors should be made in-charge of passing on their experience and expertise to their juniors. The whole process should be 'informally' formal to ensure that while employees enjoy the learning experience they also take the initiative seriously. For instance, each team should conduct a meeting each week to hear a senior speak for an hour on a project he just worked on. Additionally, cross-functional exposure is a must to ensure work does not stall. The additional benefits of cross functional training include:

  • Work continues when a team member is absent
  • Work quality is not affected when a new employee is inducted. Assistance from other members helps the new employee get over teething issues.

Keep your eyes open: A manager should always be looking for replacements within a team. He should also have an action plan for dividing an employee's responsibilities in case it takes longer to find a replacement. A smart manager has a list of successors for every role. Even if these successors do not match the job requirements exactly, having an internal person with an aptitude for the task is better than recruiting a new comer.

Exit interview: This interview should be conducted the minute an employee resigns to figure out why he is leaving. This gives an organisation a chance to mend or bend things before others leave for the same reason. For instance, if an employee is leaving for better perks, offering those who are behind a better deal can prevent further resignations.

A manager's smartness in managing resignations has a huge impact on retention. Being caught unawares when practically everyone recruited is a rolling stone will reflect poorly on any organisation.

Ref: TheManageMentor

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