The Ultimate Guide to Employee Offboarding

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Saying goodbye is never easy. When employees leave, farewells can be sweet or turn into disasters. Companies understand the importance of onboarding, having a warm welcome for new staff, but often stumble when they say goodbye and offboard their employees. By using innovative automation like talent management systems and standardizing the process, it’s easier to say “au revoir” when employee offboarding.

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Employee Offboarding Checklist

HR teams spend significantly more time onboarding than offboarding, according to research from SBI. How much more? Eight times, to be exact. Since there’s a huge disparity between these two processes, it’s time to talk. Keep reading to learn how good offboarding can mean the difference between happy ex-employees or a major security breach.

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What is Offboarding?

Employee offboarding or exit management is the process that occurs when a staff member departs from the company. It lays out the protocol for situations such as a voluntary resignation, layoff, an expiring contract or firing.

Termination happens because of performance issues, misconduct or redundancy. However, this could also be a result of budget-related layoffs, roles that are no longer needed or if the business goes bankrupt or is liquidated and must sell off its assets.

Why does onboarding get all the attention and care when offboarding is just as important? Let’s compare to understand better.

Onboarding vs. Offboarding

The phrase onboarding started being widely used in the 1970s. Business is like a ship and welcoming employees is like guiding passengers on board. Onboarding and offboarding are two sides of the same coin. It’s the beginning and end of the experience.

Trying to attract and keep top talent is hard in the corporate world. Effective training during initiation can cut down on stress and make for better, happier, healthier experiences for all team members. It’s also good for avoiding the scariest word in recruiting: turnover.

Sometimes, it’s just not a good fit. However, consistent staffing problems are financially devastating. Data from the Work Institute’s 2017 Retention Report estimates that turnover costs up to 33% of an employee’s salary. Avoiding turnover and having invested, engaged people is worth pursuing.

Here’s where excellent exit strategies can help. Workers who are no longer relying on you for their income are more likely to be honest. By giving them a safe place to discuss problems, you can know what to improve. Onboarding helps reduce stress while offboarding acts as a postmortem.

The biggest through-line to this process paperwork. Entering and exiting employees require forms for compliance to keep everyone’s ducks all in a row. Now that we’ve covered the fundamentals, it’s time to look at the best practices for technical and interpersonal offboarding.
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Technical Offboarding

The goal of technical offboarding is to remove an employee physically and digitally from an organization. Both require a meticulous procedure and many companies automate as much of this strategy as possible with talent management, recruiting or HR management software, ensuring a consistent exit strategy and reducing errors. This is important because ignoring it can have significant financial consequences.

Offboarding from a Technical Perspective

Offboarding software can help administrators from missing important steps.

For example:

  • Companies continue to pay for benefits long after eligibility has ended.
  • Forgetting or neglecting to update a worker’s security rights and restrictions to the company’s network allowing for a costly error to a business. In fact, a Dell End-User Security Survey found that 72% of employees said they’d share confidential business information.
  • A sloppy offboarding process makes an organization more vulnerable to wrongful dismissal lawsuits. If a former staff member sues for unfair dismissal under the Family and Medical Leave Act, defense needs an accurate and uninterrupted audit trail of events leading to the employee’s termination. By getting the proper paperwork in order and communicating, an organization safeguards against potential strife.

The security and financial risks are significant and therefore worthy of the attention of an astute business manager. Technology can go a long way by standardizing many of the administrative tasks. It can also help ensure compliance consistency by revoking the rights and privileges of the user identity of the exiting worker.

The following are some additional steps to consider when creating the framework for an offboarding strategy:

Communicate Important Info

Notify HR and payroll with the staff member’s last day, notice period and any other necessary information to get started. Start accessing exit workflows, interview questions and checklists.

Compliance Processes

Confirm their final pay, contact insurance to end benefits as appropriate and revoke their access to key systems or company assets to ensure cyber security. For large organizations, identity management software can make this easier.

Recovering Company Property

Retrieve and close accounts for mobile devices, tablets, laptops, keys, ID badges and credit cards or other accounts. Keep an up-to-date master asset list with IT or HR to make this smoother. Assign this task to someone within the organization. Don’t put the onus on the exiting employee.

Documentation for Termination

You’ll need a signed and acknowledged letter of resignation or termination; nondisclosure and non-compete agreements (if required); benefits documents (i.e. an explanation of ongoing benefits, retirement plan transfer, unemployment insurance, etc.); and tax documents. Make sure this includes information for PTO, sick days and other financial info.

Arrange an Exit Interview

Don’t skip out on this essential step. It’s a convenient segue to interpersonal offboarding. Get good feedback and do your due diligence. We’ll discuss this more below. Above all, be sure to get them before they leave. They’re unlikely to help after their departure.

Final Steps

Forward all calls and emails to the interim or new employee. Remove the former worker from all systems. Clear out their work station. While it’s good to remember former staff members fondly, it’s important to give their successor a chance to grow into the role in their own personal way.

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Interpersonal Offboarding

Technical offboarding usually gets the most focus. Everyone knows the importance of getting employees out of the system and squared away. Unfortunately, the more nuanced and complex HR procedures get ignored. This is an oversight with serious ramifications.

That’s why the process must be effective, and part of a talent management and retention strategy. It’s good to have strategies to keep your best workers and attract top talent. Improvising your offboarding can have a negative impact.

Here are the important points to remember when designing interpersonal offboarding processes:

Interpersonal Offboarding

Make sure your departing employees feel valued.

Communication

Whether a staff member quit or got fired, communicate their last day and relevant information before rumors start. Misunderstandings can breed contempt. While it’s important to keep a lid on sensitive or personal information, you should be clear about the employee’s position and discuss who will take over their responsibilities. If the worker is in a customer-facing role or is a senior executive, it may be necessary to inform the public. Include only the necessary information and give them a safe, anonymous way to share their feelings on the matter privately.

Exit Interviews

Don’t make exit interviews a thoughtless formality. Use them to gain valuable insights about your organization. Analyze your strengths, weaknesses and areas for improvement. An employee should feel comfortable expressing herself or himself freely. This information will also be helpful in creating an up-to-date job description and weighing candidates better. Especially if you’ve already identified potential internal hires with succession planning software.

Here are some suggestions for exit interview questions:

  • What was the most rewarding thing about your job? What were the biggest challenges?
  • What were your daily, weekly and annual work tasks? What was the most important thing you did? What smaller tasks do we need to pay attention to?
  • Would you encourage a friend to apply to our company? Why or why not?
  • What could have gone differently? Is there something that would have made you stay? Are there processes you would improve on given the choice?
  • Which members of the team were especially helpful during your job? Did your team members, leadership or others make your job more difficult? Who stood out as an outstanding coworker or manager?
  • Do you feel the job adequately matched your expectations going in? Did you have enough support and resources to accomplish your tasks?
  • What systems and technologies does your successor need to be fluent in? Is there a program, application or tool that would make this role easier?
  • What was the biggest priority in your job? What are the top hard and soft skills your successor needs to complete this position?
  • Did you feel your compensation and job title were fair given your workload? Were their perks or changes to compensation that would have enticed you to stay?
  • What’s the biggest thing we could do to improve?

Employer Brand and Recruiting

Employees, whether past or present, are a strong promoter of a company’s brand. Every interaction builds that brand. Will your business broadcast care and kindness? Or do people come away with a less favorable impression? Today’s interrelated social networking environment creates multiple opportunities to reinforce a positive reputation or contribute to a harmful critique.

Employer Brand and Recruiting

By properly monitoring the employee lifecycle you maintain a positive employer brand.

Your employer brand affects your recruiting. One vindictive person trashing you on Glassdoor or Yelp can hurt your recruiting efforts. Especially bitter workers could leak corporate secrets and do long-term damage that takes years to recover from.

On the flip side, staff members with positive experiences become the biggest advocates for your company. They’ll recommend the job to friends and is a tremendous boost to recruiting efforts. Burning bridges doesn’t just hurt the employee. Don’t lose valuable networking opportunities.

Transfer Knowledge

The knowledge and expertise gathered over time by the incumbent is a valuable business asset. It’s important to maintain this knowledge and expertise in-house for continuity and stability between the new and old. By having them provide documentation and SOPs, the transition is much smoother.

Celebration

If the parting is amicable, celebrate! Get a gift you know your worker loves like a cake, flowers, gift cards or something personal. Plan a party or happy hour and pay for it. Not only is this good for future networking, but it keeps morale up. Show you care about the people who work for you and they’ll be more engaged and productive.

Keep in Touch

This applies to both friendly and nasty partings. If the break was nasty, at least keep tabs on their LinkedIn account to make sure they aren’t trashing your company. Keep an eye out for suspicious reviews that could be from an angry ex-employee and keep on top of your reputation management.

For amicable departures, invite them to join a networking program for ex-workers or subscribe to the business newsletter. That way they’ll still get news and job openings. This can be helpful for attracting re-hires and getting referrals.

Encourage Returns

Leave the door open to valued staff members in case things change. By ending things on acceptable terms, you encourage re-hires also known as “boomerang employees,” to connect or work with you somewhere down the line.

The stigma around rehiring has dissipated as the increasing gig economy sees more people job-hopping. A survey from Accountemps found that 94% of senior managers are open to rehiring former team members. This is affected by the growing skill gap which makes it harder to find qualified hires. Deloitte reported the possibility of having 2.4 million unfilled roles between now and 2028. The report goes on to say that this loss could cost up to $2.5 trillion. Rehires are a better alternative.

Tie Up Loose Ends

Update your company’s organization chart and make sure you’ve completed all the paperwork. Store exit surveys, SOPs, how-to guides or other compliance documentation in a content library through an LMS or HR management software.

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Best Practices

Now that we’ve walked through the process, it’s time to look at what separates a phenomenal experience from a living nightmare. Here’s what to consider:

Employee Offboarding Best Practices

What to do and what to avoid in sending off employees.

Do Be Consistent

While each employee is different, having standardized exit interview questions compares apples to apples while exit management checklists cut down on errors. Maintain a high level of warm gratitude for voluntarily departing workers and polite professionalism for those leaving involuntarily.

Do Validate Their Feelings

There’s nothing worse than feeling ignored, especially if a staff member is leaving because of a lengthy line of grievances. Take their concerns seriously. Give them every chance to voice their opinion. Listen intently to ensure the parting conversation is positive.

Do Act Compassionately

No one wants to feel like a cog in a machine. Don’t forget the person behind the process. Whether they were a perfect worker, saying goodbye is hard and no one enjoys change. Show compassion and be empathetic.

Do Use Third-Party Meditation (When Necessary)

During a termination or contentious end, it may be necessary to bring in a neutral third-party. If you’ve decided to document the conversation with an audio or video device for legal reasons, inform the employee immediately and check local laws regarding recording. Communicate sparely and deliberately. Keep emotions in check. Above all, cover all your bases.

Common Missteps

For every heartfelt going away party with delicious cake, there’s an emotional meltdown and ugly departure. Here’s what not to do during your worker’s last days:

Don’t Be Defensive or Rigid

It’s impossible for things to improve without receptive leaders. Remember, you want to know why people are leaving and give them the space to express that. Especially if you’re losing them to competitors or realize a specific gender, race, sexual orientation or gender identity are consistently feeling isolated or unwelcome in your workplace. There’s no sense in patching leaks if your boiler is about to explode.

Don’t Be Sloppy

In the hectic rush, it’s easy to forget important steps. Don’t forget important paperwork or benefits information.This is the last impression you make on your employee. Make it special. Don’t forget to pass cards, buy a cake or arrange a party. Pay attention to any food allergies or preferences they may have. Don’t neglect them.

Don’t Lose the Big Picture

Having all the automation in the world doesn’t help if you don’t learn from mistakes. Notice when a departing staff member is echoing widespread problems. Root out toxic coworkers, managers or other problems that drive people away. On the recruiting side, review job titles and hiring practices if you’re consistently getting employees that clash with your culture.

Remember, there are serious consequences to bad offboarding. Even less malicious employees can cause security threats if your treatment is sloppy and demeaning. This can lead to a high turnover rate, rumors spreading like wildfire, demoralization among remaining staff, compliance issues, nasty reviews and reputation hits or even just a drop in productivity as you scramble to fill the position.

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Final Thoughts

Offboarding is a necessary part of the employee lifecycle. To make this successful, understand the value of outgoing staff members and how their advocacy contributes to its ongoing success. Publically appreciate outgoing workers and encourage them to return if they see an opportunity. Overall, make the last impression positive, be careful about retrieving property and revoking access and don’t forget to always cover your you-know-what.

Technology helps tighten and improve offboarding. Talent management software automates and ensures employers don’t miss crucial steps, a learning management system stores the necessary forms for easy access and succession solutions line up the new talent for upcoming vacancies and promotion opportunities.

It’s hard to find qualified people. Organizations know the importance of an attraction and retention strategy. So, when good performers leave, execute an effective offboarding strategy that reinforces your talent acquisition strategy.

There are plenty more fish in the sea, but they’re not all trained in your industry. Cultivate your offboarding process and see what you can catch.

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Let’s Hear from You!

What was the best or worst offboarding you ever experienced? What changes have improved recruiting efforts? What are the best talent management, recruiting or HR solutions you’ve encountered that successfully assisted with your employee offboarding activities? Let us know below.

Grace SavidesThe Ultimate Guide to Employee Offboarding

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