Offboarding done well is like a divorce on good terms where the ex-lovers remain close friends. It’s a process that deserves (almost) as much attention as onboarding. In this article, we’ll zoom in on employee offboarding; what it is, why it matters, how it differs from onboarding, and what an offboarding process looks like. We’ll also share a useful employee offboarding checklist that you can download and use for your organization. Here goes!
What is employee offboarding? A definition
Offboarding and onboarding: what’s the difference
Why is offboarding important?
The employee offboarding process
Employee offboarding checklist (PDF)
On a final note
What is employee offboarding? A definition
Employee offboarding is the process during which an employee parts ways with the people and the organization they worked for.
The purpose of an offboarding period is two-fold: on the one hand, it’s meant to help the organization grow wiser in hiring and employee experience and to keep the impact of the departure on the business to a minimum. On the other hand, it is used to shape the critical last impressions employees will have of the company – and the image they’ll portray to the outside world.
Offboarding and onboarding: what’s the difference?
Employee offboarding and onboarding are two processes at the opposite side of the spectrum. Where we’ve previously called onboarding the workplace honeymoon period, offboarding is more like a divorce on good terms where the ex-lovers remain close friends.
Onboarding is about making sure that people become familiar with the organization, the people, and the culture of the company they’ve just joined. It’s about building the foundations for a strong, lasting relationship.
Offboarding is the process during which people leave their colleagues and the company they work for in a structured manner. While onboarding focuses on a smooth integration of new hires, offboarding is all about saying goodbye and giving employees an easy, stress-free exit.
Why is offboarding important?
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why employee offboarding matters. While certain benefits may be obvious, others perhaps less so.
1. Former employees can become future employees
If we stick with the relationship analogy, then this one is a bit like two ex-lovers getting back together. People leave companies for a myriad of reasons. Some leave because of a lack of growth opportunities, others because their company doesn’t offer them the possibility to work remotely or simply because they’ve got a better offer financially speaking.
What I’m trying to say here is that people don’t always leave a company because they don’t like the company – or its culture. This is exactly why some of them ‘boomerang’ right back after a certain period in another organization. Provided that they had a positive offboarding experience, of course.
From an organizational perspective, rehiring former employees has its advantages. It’s cost-effective since your ‘new’ hire will be operational and productive faster, and you know that they fit from a company culture point of view.
And since recruitment times are tough and the talent shortage still growing, most companies today won’t say no to a boomerang employee.
2. Former employees are ambassadors
First impressions are important as they tend to last. But so are last impressions. The way you say goodbye to people, both personally as well as professionally, is something you remember forever.
During your time at a company, your employee journey, there are several ‘moments that matter’. These are events that stand out in your memory and that you probably won’t forget about. Think for instance of your first day at work, fun team events and, indeed, your offboarding.
Now if you have fond memories of your final days at a company, you’ll speak highly of your former employer. Yes, you don’t work for them anymore, but when people ask you about your time there, you’re likely to be positive. This, in turn, will have a positive impact on the company’s Employer Brand and, by extension, on its appeal to candidates.
3. Former employees are customers too
Just like your candidates are often your customers, so are your former employees. This means that while your candidate experience is essential in making sure rejected candidates remain happy customers, your offboarding process is key in ensuring your former employees stay loyal customers.
Think of it for a second, what better advertising for your brand than a former employee who remains a customer even after leaving the company? They literally are the living proof of how you treat your customers: very well.
From a more practical point of view, a proper offboarding process is crucial for (data) security reasons. Because even if it’s something we don’t like to think of, if someone’s departure isn’t voluntary, they might act out of spite or desperation and try to hurt the organization. For example by deleting files or making the company’s client database public.
In fact, around 20% of organizations say they’ve experienced data breaches by former employees. When you know that at least one-third of ex-workers can still access company data, this is no real surprise. But it’s also something that should be relatively easy to avoid, by using your offboarding process to make sure people don’t have access to company systems and networks after they leave.
5. Compliance & regulation
This one is in line with the previous one. Depending on the industry you’re in, you may need to meet certain guidelines and regulations around, for instance, access and offboarding. Ensuring compliance with those rules usually is a lot easier if you’ve got a repeatable process – your offboarding process in this case – in place.
The employee offboarding process in 9 steps
What does an ideal offboarding process look like? The exact details will depend on the type of organization and role, but for most knowledge workers it will be something like this.
1. Thank the leaving employee
And congratulate them! That is if they move on to a new role in a different company of course. But in any case, when an employee is leaving, start by thanking them for the work they’ve done and the time and energy they’ve invested.
2. Communicate about the departure
While it can be tempting to hold off on communicating about an employee’s departure until you’ve got all the details, it is wiser to share this information right away.
The longer you wait, the more likely it is that people will fill in the details themselves, hence turning a voluntary departure into someone being fired. To avoid this kind of company gossip, managers should inform their team, department, and HR as soon as possible about an employee’s departure.
As with most things, it’s best to be honest; tell people someone is leaving and why and that you’ll fill them in on the details once you have them.
3. Ensure a knowledge transfer
Whether you hire a successor or not, you want to make sure you keep the leaving employee’s knowledge inside your company. Depending on their exact position the specifics will vary but here are a few elements to keep in mind:
- A clear overview of their daily routine
- What tasks have priority
- Access to all the systems and files they use
- Which people they work with, bot inside and outside the organization
- Is there anything (systems for instance) people need training on to use them?
Besides this information, it’s always good to ask people to create a handover document or video with useful tips for whoever is going to take over their role. In addition, if there are tasks that can be automated or fitted into standard operating procedures, the departing employee is the best one to do so. This will save you time and money.
An added bonus of staying on good terms with former employees is that if you find yourself missing certain knowledge after their departure you’ll be able to ask them to help you out which they’ll be happy to do.
4. Recover company assets
Onto the more practical part of the employee offboarding process now. Don’t forget to ask the leaving employee to hand in their company equipment: company badges, credit cards, uniforms, phones, laptops, a company car, you name it. This may seem obvious but reality shows that organizations often forget about their assets!
5. Revoke systems access
The same thing goes for the employee’s systems access, don’t forget to revoke all of them. This includes email and internal platforms, of course, but depending on someone’s role, plenty of other accesses may need to be revoked.
Think of CRM systems, the company’s social media accounts, content databases and access to sales dashboards for instance.
6. Hold an exit interview
When done properly, the exit interview can provide you with a wealth of information. It can give you insights into your organization’s strengths and weaknesses and how to improve the latter.
We could write an entire article about the do’s and don’ts of conducting an exit interview but for now, we’ll stick to a few bullet points:
- Since employees sometimes leave their managers rather than their jobs, you might want a ‘neutral’ person, like someone from HR, to do the interview instead.
- Take all feedback seriously and remember that the exit interview is one of those moments that matter, so how you go about it will be a big part of how the leaving employee will remember you as an employer.
In terms of the exit interview questions you should ask during the interview you can think of:
- If we could improve in any way, how would we do it? What’s not fun about working here?
- Who is really kicking ass in the company/ do you admire?
- What are we not doing that we should be doing?
- Is there anything we could have done to make you stay?
- Did the job live up to your expectations?
- Would you recommend our company to job-seeking friends?
- How was your relationship with your manager?
- What did you think of your onboarding when you first joined?
7. Update your organizational charts
A very practical thing to do but one that can prevent a lot of (internal) confusion. Once an employee has left the company, make sure to update your organizational charts and directories.
If there is a successor, include their details and if there isn’t include the details of whoever is taking over in the meantime. The same thing goes for things like brochures and the company website, if the former employee’s details are mentioned there, this needs to be updated too.
8. Don’t forget about the payroll!
I could hardly believe this, to be honest, but just like some companies forget to revoke a leaving employee’s systems access, they sometimes forget to take them off their payroll.
So even though payroll systems have this functionality built-in, you want to make sure that the final payment process is actually being carried out by payroll. To facilitate the process give them all the details they need; end date, notice period, possible holidays that need to be paid out, and so on.
9. Stay in touch
Think of this as staying in touch with an old friend. From time to time you ask each other how you’re doing and what you’re up to. Perhaps you meet up for a coffee.
When it comes to former employees there are various ways to stay in touch. For example via a talent pool or an alumni group. Both options allow you to send former employees the latest company news (and vacancies) so that they stay up-to-date if they want to.
But staying in touch has other benefits too. As we briefly mentioned earlier, it can be useful in case you’ve lost some knowledge only the leaving employee had. Or if their successor needs help with a specific task.
From the former employee’s perspective staying in touch has advantages too. For instance when they need a reference or a letter of recommendation. Or if one day they see a vacancy they find interesting and want to come back…
Offboarding tools and software can help you create a well-structured offboarding process. Most onboarding tools also have offboarding functionality. There are different types of employee offboarding tools, varying from checklists and free tools to specialized solutions and chatbots. We’ll give you a couple of examples.
Trello isn’t an official offboarding tool. However, if you don’t have an extensive budget, this is a good example of a free tool you can use to structure your employee offboarding.
The platform is primarily known as a collaborative project management application but you can also use it to create a template to help you offboard employees.
HR Cloud lets companies create the ultimate offboarding experience for departing employees with a company-branded exit portal. Their solution automates specific offboarding procedures and automatically sends required documents like final pay summaries while ensuring a memorable experience for the employee.
Yes, HROnboard is a provider of onboarding software but they also have an offboarding solution. It helps you structure your offboarding process, ticking all the boxes: the necessary documents, final pay information, exit surveys, and even a team farewell.
Click Boarding provides unique solutions for onboarding, cross-boarding and offboarding. You can think of them of experts in guiding employee movements, no matter where their career takes them. Their offboarding experience focuses on a smooth, positive transition with ongoing communication.
Employee offboarding checklist (PDF)
To give you a little something to use as a cheat sheet, we’ve created an employee offboarding checklist that you can use in your organization and that is, of course, free to download. It doesn’t include an exhaustive list of, for instance, all the company geat that employees might need to return, or all the system logins that need to be disabled, but it does give you a good base to work with when building your own offboarding process.
On a final note
Goodbyes are (almost) never easy. But when it comes to departing employees, a well-structured offboarding process can make things stress-and hassle-free. Offboarding done well allows you to tick all the ‘official’ paperwork and regulation boxes while at the same time giving the leaving employee a pleasant exit experience.
Employee offboarding is the process during which an employee parts ways with the people and the organization they’ve been working for.
Onboarding is about making sure that people become familiar with the organization, the people, and the culture of the company they’ve just joined. Offboarding is the process during which people leave their colleagues and the company they work for in a structured manner.
Having a well-structured offboarding process in place is important, among other things, because former employees can always come back, because they are ambassadors for your organization, and because often they are customers of your company too.
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