It’s a rare employee these days who sticks with the same organization for the entirety of their career. People leave to take up new positions with other companies for a myriad of reasons: They’re looking for a career change, they’ve been offered more opportunity for growth, they’re moving to a different part of the country, and yes, they may have been promised a better salary and benefits package.
And while it may be disappointing and can even feel a little personal when a great employee, or someone who always seemed happy working for you, hands in their notice this is also a golden opportunity for you as an HR department or an employer.
Much has been talked about when it comes to onboarding new employees: After all, how else are you going to make new hires feel welcome and engaged from the very start of their journey with your company?
For example, you may well have an awesome onboarding experience in place that boasts new hire checklists for all of your different employees - such as your new hire checklist for interns to your new hire checklist for remote workers. You might also have a successful buddy program that helps newbies feel part of the team almost from the get go.
But are you missing a trick when it comes to saying goodbye to your employees? You see, onboarding definitely has its value. But so too does offboarding.
Why you should implement an employee offboarding program
There are any number of reasons how offboarding can add value to your human resources department.
Consider this: A popular and productive employee gives their two weeks notice. Everyone is pretty disappointed by this and lets them leave with an awkward team lunch at best and barely a civil goodbye at worst.
But suppose, for whatever reason, it doesn’t work out for that now ex-employee at their new place of work. They loved working for you - and you loved having them on staff. They’d be tempted to ask for their old job back - that’d be great for both of you - but the way they were treated when they departed has left a nasty taste in their mouth and they’re now viewing you in a different light altogether.
We know, it might be tempting to think “well they quit, we don’t want them back anyway.” But don’t forget, this person was once a highly valued member of your workforce - and could be again. They made a human error in thinking that Job B might just offer them a little more creativity or work life balance but it didn’t.
Read more: How NOT To Offboard Your Departing Employees
Do you really want to burn that bridge?
A poor leaving experience can taint your company’s image
If an employee who has left feels that they were treated unfairly, poorly or even wrongly during the period between handing their notice in and their final day, you can bet your bottom dollar they’ll tell people about it.
Even the most loyal of employees isn’t going to sugar coat it if their once awesome manager or coworkers are being rude, dismissive or cold towards them due to them having the audacity to find another job!
Not only will they tell their friends and family but word could get out around your industry or local area too. And that’s not going to make you look good, or make other applicants want to apply for your vacancies.
So those are two good reasons why you should implement an employee offboarding program. The next question is - how do you do that?
How to create an employee offboarding program
It may be fairly intuitive when it comes to creating an onboarding program: Send an engaging welcome email before the new recruit starts, make sure everything from technology to desk to passwords are set up ready for their first day, introduce them to everyone, and give them a copy of their new employee handbook etc.
But how do you handle it when you’re bidding someone farewell instead of welcoming them to the team? Firstly…
Arrange an exit interview with the person leaving
This should be a one-on-one conversation between them and you as HR, or them and their manager and it is your opportunity to learn from your people. You want to really dig into why they are leaving and see if you can gain anything from what they tell you. Some companies also like to send an exit interview to leavers.
Whether you’re meeting in person or sending a form to be filled in, really try and get some valuable answers - a good employee will answer these honestly and you should be able to collect some very meaningful feedback.
Questions could include asking them about their relationship with their manager. What they feel could be improved upon within the company. What they would change. What they most enjoyed and disliked about working for you. How they felt about their benefits and salary.
Points to cover in an exit interview include:
- Thank them for their hard work during their time in your company.
- Discuss why they’re leaving. What are your takeaways from this?
- In the event you’d love to retain them, ask if there is anything you can do, change or offer to convince them to stay.
- If they’re committed to leaving, wish them well in their future role and endeavors.
- Ask them if they would be able to leave you a Glassdoor review. (You might want to exercise judgment on this, depending on the employee and their reasons for leaving!)
Make sure they know what’s happening
Just as you want your new hires to understand what’s going on when they join your company, you want to do the same with your soon-to-be leavers. This helps pave the way for a smoother exit and makes life easier for everyone involved. Points to cover include:
- Confirm when the employee’s last working day will be.
- Make sure that the employee’s manager arranges a meeting to assess and hand over any projects or tasks.
- Let them know what they should do with any company equipment such as a laptop, phone and company car, if they have them.
- In the event that a manager is leaving, make sure the employees who report to them know who their new supervisor is.
Record the details of their exit
Whether you’re using a Human Resources Information System (HRIS) or a spreadsheet to document employee data (and we seriously recommend using a HRIS for your employee database!) you will want to take note of a couple of details:
- The employee’s full name, position and department.
- The date the contract terminates.
- The type of termination of contract - voluntary resignation, termination, redundancy etc.
- Whether you would rehire them - yes, no, to be reviewed.
- Their contact details for any correspondence that may need to be forwarded - and also job vacancies should you still have hope of hiring them back someday!
Tie up any loose ends and say goodbye
If you want to make a good impression and leave the door open for a potential return - and have the employee that’s leaving tell their friends, coworkers and associates what a great company you are to work for, you need to make sure to tie up loose ends neatly and in a positive manner.
Here’s what to cover:
- Make sure that the final paycheck and benefits such as left over vacation allowance have been taken care of.
- If they claim expenses, make sure the final report has been submitted and processed.
- At the end of their last day, ensure all swipe cards, keys, badges, parking passes, ID and entry cards etc. have been returned and accounted for.
- Also deactivate email and company chat accounts, and remove access to shared files, documents and other accounts.
- And don’t forget to arrange a ‘leaving do’ such as a team lunch or drinks after work.
Why you should implement an employee offboarding program: Conclusion
When you already have a hundred and one things on your daily HR to-do list, conducting offboarding may seem like the least of your worries. After all, no matter how awesome your outbound employee was, they’re soon going to be lending their talents to another employer, right? Possibly even one of your competitors.
That’s not really the right way of looking at it. Because, actually, an offboarding can give you deep insight into what your employees really think about your company.
You can find out if anything isn’t working so well - current employees might not want to rock the boat with complaints but an outgoing employee will be far more likely to tell the truth!
You will also make it more likely that excellent employees will come back to you - it can and does happen. And who knows, they might have gone away, learned some great new skills and gained more experience and you’ll be the ones who end up benefiting from that in the long run!