Employee Offboarding: Best Practices
Employees are the lifeblood of any organization and should be treated accordingly. This is particularly important during a period of record low unemployment levels, when HR and hiring managers must put added focus on optimal hiring strategies, as well as effective retention strategies.
Well-run organizations understand the importance of engaging, motivating, and rewarding the right talent to ensure their mutual growth and success. As a result, many have instituted comprehensive onboarding, training, and performance management programs to minimize turnover.
But, in spite of these best efforts, employees end up leaving. And in many cases, aside from conducting a cursory exit interview or two, and proffering various separation forms to fill out, companies don’t give voluntarily separating employees the same level of attention as new hires. This is a mistake, as departing employees, especially those in good standing, are important company brand ambassadors and prospective key players in a company’s candidate recruiting network. To harness these potential benefits, companies must implement a comprehensive offboarding process, similar in scope to their onboarding effort.
Employee Offboarding Checklist
To protect the company, and to respect current and departing employees, a few decisions must be made. First, management must decide how to announce the resignation and to whom, to minimize harm to the morale of remaining employees.
The second decision is whether the employee is in sufficiently good standing to remain on the job until their last day. Ideally, the organization would allow the employee to remain to help with the transition, but circumstances may not allow this.
The above decisions will impact the offboarding timeline and who is principally engaged in the process. But the key components of an effective offboarding process will generally include the following steps and tasks:
Assign Personnel to Oversee the Offboarding Process
Assign a dedicated company point person to oversee the offboarding process to ensure its smooth implementation. Whether an HR or department staff member, this employee’s responsibility is twofold: shepherding the departing employee through the process to ensure a positive experience, and confirming that all necessary administrative steps are completed.
Administrative Paperwork and Procedures
Employers should ask employees who decide to leave voluntarily to tender their resignation in writing. The resignation letter should indicate their reason for leaving and their final date of employment, and should be accepted in writing by a company representative. This protects the company from unemployment claims and other potential liability.
The employee’s departure date should be logged into the HR system to trigger offboarding alerts regarding remaining benefits, unused PTO, recovering company equipment and property, security procedures, and any other applicable issues.
Offer Career Guidance and Recommendations
It’s helpful for companies that have the resources to offer career advice to departing employees in good standing. This advice could include a complimentary career counseling session, introductions to industry contacts, or resume writing support. If possible, and if requested by the departing employee, provide them with a recommendation letter that conveys their strengths and skills honestly.
Conduct Exit Interviews
It’s important for company personnel to conduct thorough, informed exit interviews to gain insight into the reason(s) for the employee’s departure in order to make improvements going forward. For example, is the employee leaving to get away from a ‘bad manager’? Or, are they leaving because of a perceived dearth of career advancement opportunities? It’s crucial that companies understand what’s really happening on the front lines; departing employees present a unique window into daily, on-the-job realities.
Face-to-face exit interviews are most effective, though online questionnaires are an alternative for remote employees. Employees will be more likely to provide candid feedback if they know their words will be taken seriously by a positive and engaged interviewer.
Workload and Knowledge Transfer
Regardless of whether the employee is permitted to remain on the job until their last day, management must determine who will take over the departing employee’s workload and how the knowledge transfer process will work. Provisions must be made for training the replacement(s) so help them get up to speed.
Implement a Plan for Hiring a Replacement
The most obvious first step for finding a replacement for the departing employee is to ask them if they can recommend anyone. Otherwise, normal recruiting and hiring protocol must be implemented.
If the employee is welcome back, make them aware of this, in case they decide to return to an open position in the future.
Some companies facilitate an ‘alumni network’ of former employees to help with their recruiting efforts. Invite departing employees to join the group.
Employees in good standing who resign, for whatever reason, should be treated warmly and respectfully to increase the chances that they leave on a good note. The company should be as helpful as possible during the transition period. These efforts geared toward leaving the employee with a positive impression of the company are likely to pay off in the future.