Posted May 3, 2012 by Scott Reed 

Managing the Process When Employees Resign

Planning for this inevitable possibility that a staff member will resign can make the transitions for both the departing employee and incoming employee much smoother. Supervisors know that these times will come sooner than later, as it is hard to always retain star employees. Having a plan for personnel transitions is vital to moving forward toward organizational success.

First, for the transition of the departing employee, I always look at staff resignations as an opportunity. Starting with that mindset alone puts me on a positive path to help our organization progress. Though we may have mixed emotions about losing a great employee, or possibly losing a not-so-great employee, looking forward positively is a great beginning toward betterment. Once receiving the official letter of intent and taking care of the applicable human resources paperwork for officially ending the employment, we are ready to gear up for two simultaneous action areas. These areas include sending off the departing employee in appropriate style and preparing for the future position.

When developing the preparations to send off a departing employee, several factors need to be considered. Initially, several things need to be asked directly of the employee that I have found helpful to incorporate. These include:

  • Do you want a farewell program?
  • If so, at what level?
  • Who do you want invited?
  • How do you want this announced? Do you want to announce this yourself or should the supervisor handle it? Maybe a combination is applicable.

All of this information helps me develop a plan of action for sending out the employee with respect to their desires and comfort level. With introverts and extroverts, their farewell program interests vary from only sending out an email to a retirement party inviting their family and friends. Whichever way it goes, with their input, it usually works out well with a positive, respectful farewell program.

The second item to address when an employee resigns is forward thinking for the incoming replacement. Other than my personal action of always updating the position description for posting, developing a search process plan, and consulting on any strategic options for the position direction, dependent somewhat on the notice period given, I request the following of the employee:

  • Get their feedback on the position description update
  • Arrange for an exit interview for candid improvement feedback
  • Have them update the functional area “manager's manual” before leaving
  • Develop an area resource package for an incoming employee
  • List the top 10 things a new manager should know to be successful in this role
  • Arrange a closing meeting with supervisor, usually on the last day of employment
  • Conduct staff transition meetings for any staff they supervised
  • Assure that their files and resources are accessible for reference after leaving
  • Develop an outlined transition plan for all current projects/initiatives

Of primary importance is the needed strategic planning around the position direction and how it benefits the organization. There will be not better timing for implementing significant organization change than to strategically change duties or direction through the new posting. In addition to these areas, strategies for budget impact are important to consider. In some cases, we may have salary savings until someone new is hired. In others, we may need more wages for a temporary hire or for student coverage. Either way, upfront knowledge and communication of these financial factors are necessary.

Lastly, I consider adequate coverage for the employee. Other than me generally assuming the role temporarily, we may need to seek volunteers, shift some parts of the role to another staff member, or hire more student coverage. Any combination of these options may be applicable but having a plan to maintain service or program level is vital.

In summary, two main planning areas need to be considered when an employee resigns to improve transition. Planning for both a respectful, tasteful farewell program, along with preparations for the new person, can make the process for sending off and replacing employees significantly easier.


Scott Reed

Scott Reed is the Associate Director of Student Centers and Activities at Virginia Tech.

Scott oversees and directs services, operations, and facility management needs for four student center buildings. Through this role, he has overseen renovations, served on the campus sustainability committee, led safety planning for the union, and is currently co-chairing a facility management software transition team. A long time member and volunteer for ACUI, Scott received his bachelor’s in sports management from Western Carolina University and his master’s in kinesiology with a concentration in sports and recreation management from James Madison University.


Nicely planned Scott. My favorite part is the "List the top 10 things a new manager should know to be successful in this role." Sometimes the culture is as important to adjust to as the job responsibilities.
Michelle Smith
Comment posted 05/04/2012 8:52 AM
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