How NOT To Offboard Your Departing Employees

How NOT To Offboard Your Departing Employees

You know why you need to onboard your new hires. It’s fairly obvious to most managers and HR people that to get an employee off to a great start you need to make them feel welcome and part of the team from the minute they walk through your door on their first day.

Actually. Scratch that. You need to be making them feel welcome and part of the team before their first day. A welcome email containing all the information they need so they can hit the ground running will ensure they’re not only a productive and valuable team member from the get go, but it will also decrease the chances of them changing their mind about the job offer - which can, and does, happen.

Read More: Do You Need to Review Your Employee Reference Request Policy?

So you’re quite happy with working your way through your new hire checklist and making sure your new employees are taken care of, but what about those employees who have handed in their resignation and are on their way out of the door in a week or two?

sign on desk saying 'goodbye friends'

It can be tempting to think that the only people you should care about are those that have just joined your company and those who already work there. After all, why expend time and energy on those who no longer want to work for you, right?

Not so fast. There are a number of solid arguments for having an offboarding program in place. For example:

  • A poor leaving experience can damage your brand as an employer.
  • Not offboarding employees properly can burn bridges with great people who might have considered returning to work for you in the future.
  • An exit interview helps you discover why people are quitting - and what you can do to plug the gaps if it’s due to workplace issues.

neon blue exit sign
So if we agree that organizations should have an offboarding procedure, then the next thing to consider is what makes for successful employee offboarding. And, just as crucially, what doesn’t.

After all, employees hand in their notice for any number of reasons, and those reasons don’t all have to be negative.

Maybe something has changed in their personal life, maybe they’re taking a career break or a sabbatical, perhaps they’re relocating to another area, they could be starting their own business, and yes, maybe they’ve been offered a higher salary or an exciting new opportunity.

The point is, unless you’re firing someone and need to escort them off the premises with immediate effect, even soon-to-be-departed employees are worthy of your time as an HR professional.

two female coworkers walking down a corridor at work

After all, you never know who you will come across again in your industry - either as a potential re-hire or even as a customer, client or supplier.

(And if you want to be cynical about it, just consider it as an opportunity to learn why people are leaving, see if you can identify any patterns, and correct any issues. And to try and nip any negative reviews on Glassdoor in the bud!)

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the things you should avoid when you’re offboarding someone.

How NOT to offboard your departing employees

Mistake #1: Hiring the employee’s replacement before they’ve left the building

coworkers shaking hands

And then, of course, expecting them to train their replacement. This is not a great idea for two reasons: One, the departing employee may not be able to wrap up their work properly ready to hand over, and two it gives them an opportunity to share any gripes with the new employee. Furthermore, these complaints are likely to be exacerbated by the annoyance of having to train their replacement, creating both a negative departure and a negative start in one go.

Mistake #2: Giving the employee extra work at the eleventh hour

Along with asking them to train their replacement, it’s also not a great idea to swamp an exiting employee with last minute work. This too creates a negative leaving experience as the employee rushes to wrap up their work in time for their departure date. And if they’ve already checked out, mentally speaking, chances are the work won’t get done to the highest caliber either.

Mistake #3: Not conducting an exit interview

As we’ve already mentioned in this blog post, an exit interview is the only chance you’ll have to learn why your employees are leaving you for pastures new. A departing employee who has no intention of returning to work for you has nothing really to lose and is likely to be more honest with you. You may need to weed out genuine concerns and feedback from petty or personal issues, but this truly is a chance to learn and grow as an organization, especially if you are seeing patterns emerge.

person ticking the mediocre face on a feedback form

Mistake #4: Acting in a negative manner towards the leaver

It can be a little tempting to take it personally when someone wants to leave your organization - particularly if you are a small or medium-sized business. However, regardless of whether or not you can’t wait to see the back of someone, treating them poorly, with thinly veiled disdain, or giving them the cold shoulder is not the way forward for a professional HR department. Again, you never know who you might cross paths with personally or professionally. And again, this is a fast track to a negative Glassdoor review or social media rant.

Mistake #5: Not ensuring departing employees know what’s happening

Just because someone is leaving doesn’t mean that they should be ignored or kept in the dark about the procedure. Make sure your HR team has updated the employee and given them all the information they need once they have handed in their notice. For example, do they have any vacation to use up or will they be paid for untaken days? Have their final expenses been paid? Are other benefits taken care of? Do they know what their final salary will be, if different to usual?

Mistake #6: Not seeing if there’s anything you can do to make them stay

Okay, granted, you might be secretly relieved someone is quitting and have no intention of trying to convince them to retract their notice. But how about those genuinely great people? If someone is a real asset to the company, you should at least see if there is anything you can do to get them to stay. Sure, they might be motivated by a better salary - in which case would an appropriate raise convince them to stay? Or you might find that issues with a coworker or their manager may be the reason they’re leaving. Could a change of department or team make them happier? Employee turnover is expensive. You owe it to your organization to at least try and avoid it if you can.

two women talking while one takes notes

How NOT to offboard your departing employees: Conclusion

Onboarding and offboarding employees are two sides of the same coin. Put bluntly, you want both new hires and soon-to-be ex-employees to see your company in the best light possible.

For the new people, it’s so you can retain them and nurture them so they become valued employees. For the departing employees, it’s to create a positive image of your employer brand and to ensure they leave you with fond memories.

It would be naïve to think that every leaver is going to look back at their time with you with stars in their eyes and a warm fuzzy feeling in their heart, but if you can help the majority of people depart with dignity and respect it’s a far better way of doing business for everyone concerned, both on a personal and professional level.

Eve Jones
I'm a UK-based content writer here at Hezum. I've an interest in all things HR and company culture.
United Kingdom