How to avoid surprise resignations

Recognising the early signs of employee dissatisfaction is becoming increasingly difficult in a remote work setting. As teams lose the human connection, the biggest danger for managers is resignations coming ‘out of the blue.’     

Experienced recruiter and co-founder of SRM, Rory MacSween, talks us through his top six tips to reduce the risk of surprise resignations.

Don’t assume people aren’t moving 

It’s tempting to believe that people aren’t moving jobs due to the pandemic but that simply isn’t the case. In most recruitment markets, the best candidates are still very focused on career development and are open to moving. 

Conduct health checks with each team member – regularly 

It’s much easier to pick up early warning signs of dissatisfaction in the office and to have candid conversations face to face. But you can pick up the signs remotely and so avoid surprise resignations if you make time, listen and ask smart questions. 

Dig deeper for honest feedback to avoid surprise resignations

Ask for honest feedback and be prepared to listen. Questions like: “how do you think we’re managing as a company” can open up the dialogue for a more meaningful conversation. In the UK, bear in mind we don’t often complain and we favour politeness over openness so don’t be afraid to ask real questions about people’s true intentions.  

Scheduling time for informal ‘coffee break’ video conversations with individual team members can also work effectively to break down the distance. 

Plan headcount in advance

There’s no point in investing and growing the team if you are replacing half of your existing team in the next three months. If you haven’t already, plan your 2021 headcount following honest conversations or risk the knock-on impact of multiple resignations.


“At one client, 50% of the tax team tendered their resignation within three months. I’ve lost count of the recent conversations where hiring managers had no inkling the resignation was coming.”  

Rory MacSween, Director, SRM Recruitment

Ask a specialist recruiter about market conditions 

If you’re unsure about the demand for certain skillsets within your team, or how difficult it might be to replace specialist talent, talk to a recruiter who knows the market well. Be prepared and aware of how long you may have to wait to fill roles – don’t assume it’s a buyer’s market.

If you were in my shoes what would you do differently? 

Despite your best intentions, you receive a surprise resignation. Now’s the time to act to prevent this impacting the rest of the team. Diarise some time to talk through the reasons behind the resignation and ask what you could have done differently as a manager. Be prepared to act on the feedback and talk to the rest of the team quickly to allay any fears that they’ll be left with an onerous workload.

Get in touch if you’re looking to hire

If you’ve received a surprise resignation and are looking to hire the very best talent in tax, finance or accounting get in touch with me, Rory MacSween today on +44 (0) 20 3637 7808 or connect with me on Linkedin. Alternatively, if you’re planning your headcount or want impartial advice on the current market, please do get in touch with me.

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