Hold on to your pants, your key staff has just tendered his resignation — your worst nightmare as a manager! Once the dust settles and the panic subsides, you begin to ask yourself, what next?
Staff retention is a major problem in the current job market in Singapore. Our economy is doing well; our job market is red hot. As a result, new job offers are becoming increasingly more irresistible. At some stage, someone you work closely with — be it your staff, your boss or a fellow team member — is going to hand in that dreaded letter to HR. Handling resignations with tact and grace is no longer merely a desirable quality, but an essential corporate skill today.
We do have some general strategies to deal with resignations. The first step is to assess the motivation behind the career choice. Is it money? If so, a counter offer is usually successful. Counter offers (both making them and taking them) are considered ineffective and in poor taste. At least, executive search firms insist that they are. But then, they would say that, wouldn’t they?
If the motivation behind the resignation is the nature of the current or future job and its challenges, a lateral movement or reassignment (possibly combined with a counter offer) can be effective. If everything fails, then it is time to say goodbye — amicably.
It is vitally important to maintain this amicability — a fact often lost on bosses and HR departments. Understandably so because, by the time the counter offer negotiations fail, there is enough rancor on both sides to sour the relationship. Brush those wounded feelings aside and smile through your pain, for your paths may cross again. You may rehire the same person. Or, you may end up working with him/her on the other side. Salvage whatever little you can for the sake of positive networking.
The level of amicability depends on corporate culture. Some organizations are so cordial with deserting employees that they almost encourage desertion. Others treat the traitors as the army used to — with the help of a firing squad.
Both these extremes come with their associated perils. If you are too cordial, your employees may treat your organization as a stepping stone, concentrating on acquiring only transferable skills. On the other extreme, if you develop a reputation for severe exit barriers in an attempt to discourage potential traitors, you may also find it hard to recruit top talent.
The right approach lies somewhere in between, like most good things in life. It is a cultural choice that an organization has to make. But regardless of where the balance is found, resignation is here to stay, and people will change jobs. Change, as the much overused cliche puts it, is the only constant.