One of the most challenging HR processes for companies to navigate is employee offboarding, especially for remote employees. In the final weeks at a company, employees are fatigued, tired, and (generally speaking) ready to move on. Yet both employees and employers alike should feel incentivized to make the transition as seamless as possible: less like a messy divorce, more like a “see you later.”
Believe it or not, improving the offboarding process can actually boost morale in the workplace and improve retention rates. If former employees feel cared for on their way out, they are much less likely to speak poorly of their experience to current team members.
Employees come and go, which is why you need a plan to make onboarding as seamless as possible for every departing employee.
Employee offboarding is the formal process of separation that occurs between a company and employee, usually due to resignation, termination, or retirement. But it’s also an opportunity to show your future former employees that your business values people, not just numbers.
In most cases, HR and managers have some time to prepare for the offboarding process. Offboarding begins as soon as a decision to leave the company has been made. Each step of the employee offboarding process should be planned out and clear to all parties involved.
As employees transition out of an organization, you will need to create a standard employee offboarding process and checklist for each employee, which includes:
Notifying the team
Communicating changes to clients
Deactivating rights and accounts
Turning in equipment
Scheduling and conducting exit interviews
Making final payments
Providing information for insurance, Cobra, and 401k
Update website, company org chart, and other documents
Creating a bulletproof offboarding process means that you can avoid needing to tie up loose ends after the termination date. It also ensures that your company gets crucial feedback.
Depending on the role, some employees may hold legacy or insider knowledge of the company that current employees don’t have. They also may or may not be performing tasks that no one else can perform. In either case, HR and the relevant department will need to:
Decide how to cover the gaps, usually through hiring a new person or working with temporary workers
Identify training needs
Prepare information, files, and documents that make the transfer of power easier
Create a to-do list for final projects and deliverables that are in flight
Decide what new hires you might need
The beginning of a new job is usually a reason for celebration or excitement. Because of this, the onboarding process tends to be an exciting time in which HR introduces employees to the team, culture, tools, and unique knowledge sources. People are eager to learn during employee onboarding.
With employee offboarding, those feelings of excitement are coming to an end. With departing employees, organizations need to navigate through the uncertainty together. The last thing you want to do is make your departing employees feel disrespected at the tail end of their tenure.
If an employee was fired or pressured to resign, he or she might be more tempted to leave a negative review on Glassdoor or even speak to a reporter anonymously about what has been happening at the company in terms of the employee experience.
Many times, difficult situations arise because an employee is no longer in a role that matches their interests or skill sets. They might go on to succeed in another position with a different company. Showing humility in these moments can turn former employees into advocates, not frenemies.
For the exiting employee, leaving a job can result in a complete identity shift. After giving their two weeks notice, they might be anxious about their reputation at the company, as well as what will happen in their next role. Ensuring that your employees feel heard, especially at the end of their tenure, will make it easier for your team to cover all of the necessary gaps.
Employees are privy to sensitive information, company secrets, and (in the case of HR) private employee data. You will want to carefully review all documentation, including signed resignation letters, NDAs (non-disclosure agreements), non-compete clauses, security agreements, and technology agreements. Be sure that you’re strictly adhering to compliance and security measures such as SOC 2.
Creating a list of exit interview questions is important. This is an opportunity to get a pulse check on the organization from the perspective of someone who is on their way out. Some common questions include:
Why did you decide to leave your current role?
What do you plan on doing next?
What is your perception of the leadership team?
What is your perception of your manager?
How would you describe your team?
What could we have done differently?
If you could implement one change at the company today, what would it be?
Did leadership provide you with clear-cut goals?
These days, HR is more interested in boomerang employees, especially when they return to a company with new skills and experiences. By ending on a positive note, you have a much higher chance of recruiting top talent for future open positions.
You will also need to create a plan to return company materials (don’t forget the cable chargers!). This will probably involve ID, laptop, uniforms, keys, parking permits, company credit cards, and other company property. Arrange to have your employee drop off materials at the office or at a local Fedex or UPS branch.
Ever left a job and still had access to company documents? I have! Yikes!
Once your employees are successfully offboarded, they should be promptly removed from Slack, collaboration applications, and company email to mitigate security risks. Reset accounts and forward emails to someone on the employee’s teams (email@departed) as soon as the employee leaves so you don’t need to recover company information later.
Whether you’re setting up severance pay and keeping someone on payroll for a few extra days or months, or simply delivering the last paycheck and paying out unused PTO, you will want to make sure that the final payment goes through without a hitch. Don’t let your employees wait for their final paycheck.
Something will always be left unfinished, especially if an employee has been with the company for a while. Be prepared to answer outstanding questions after the employee has been cut off from their company email.
If the person leaving has been a huge part of the company, throw them a farewell party on the last day. Congratulate them on their new job on LinkedIn. Don’t be afraid to send a simple goodbye gift or write thank you notes.
Offboarding will continue to be an important part of your organization's HR department. You might consider investing in tools like Trello, HR Cloud, HROnboard, and Click Boarding to streamline your overall HR experience.
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Each employee’s departure is unique, as is each resignation or termination. However, offboarding best practices include an exit interview, final payment, hand off of responsibilities, discussion of benefits, and even a celebration. This helps to ensure a smooth transition.
Offboarding is important because employees and organizations want to separate on good terms. This opens up avenues for future collaboration down the road. Former employees will also appreciate the kindness.
During onboarding, the beginning of the employee lifecycle, employees receive the resources they need to succeed in their new roles.
HR is responsible for ensuring that all offboarding processes go smoothly. Employee offboarding can make or break a company’s reputation.