When an employee abandons your company ship, either by resigning or being dismissed, it is important that you throw out a lifeline that keeps both them and your company well afloat. Where the onboarding process helps acclimate an employee to the job, the offboarding process must give the employee a respectful exit.
When you have a planned offboarding program, you send employees off well, protect confidential company information and data, and get unique feedback from the departing employee about your company. A well-planned offboarding program can therefore contribute to maintaining your company's reputation and positive corporate culture.
A successful offboarding allows the employer and the soon-to-be former employee to end a working relationship respectfully during the notice period and after you have said goodbye to your colleague.
We offer our take on what matters most when organizing an offboarding program below.
Keep track of the workforce—even before resignations and layoffs
It is vital that you have competence coverage under control through workforce management. This is so important from a risk management perspective. This means avoiding that employees exclusively hold such specific knowledge that no one else in the organization has access to it. Some knowledge may be distributed within the company, but there is often unique, learned, or unconscious knowledge concentrated in a few employees’ heads.
The offboarding process aims to create an overview of what needs to be handed over and who will be responsible for the tasks of the departing employee. Most employees want to ensure a good handover to colleagues, but this requires a standardized procedure—so everyone knows what to do in such a situation. When does the employee have to teach Louise about the system? Or transfer a customer to Jacob? And does Jacob know that he has to take over the customer?
It is a good idea to put the handover procedure into the system before any resignations or layoffs, so that you identify overlaps and gaps in the current workforce—outside the offboarding process. Systematize findings and solutions, making sure you have a clear plan for the workforce and associated procedures—and thereby reducing risks and maximizing productivity.
Get data to develop your business
An obvious question to ask yourself, whether an employee has resigned or been dismissed, is: What went wrong? When employees leave your company, you have a golden opportunity to find out why you are losing the employee.
Prioritize an exit interview between the employee who has resigned and a neutral person from HR. What is the reason? Could you as a workplace have done anything differently? What advice can the employee give you? Perhaps this is the fourth employee who has resigned in the same department within a year. Is it time to speak to the head of the department? It is not only an advantage for you, who get valuable HR data from the field that you can use to improve your company. The employee also feels listened to and you show that they had value. It often creates a better atmosphere when the employee leaves the workplace for the last time.
You can also learn a lot in the dismissal process. Look at why you had to let the employee in question go. How did this end here? And do we as a company also have a responsibility? Use the opportunity for internal reflection so you minimize such dismissals.
Send your employees off as good ambassadors
If you prioritize a good offboarding process, where your ex-employees feel properly treated, listened to, and sent off on good terms, you support their continued loyalty. The value of having former employees as good ambassadors out in the world cannot be overestimated. It contributes positively to your employer brand, company reputation, and culture. As a nice side effect, you also leave the door open for 'boomerang employees' who, after a few years, could find themselves looking to return to your company. Put another way: Offboarding employees is—if done correctly—good business.
Offboarding processes often differ from department to department and employee to employee. But there are some general rules to remember that will get you closer to a proper and respectful offboarding. Check out the five rules right here.
Speed up the communication to the organization, employees, and possibly to important customers
Do not sit on the information that an employee has resigned. In the worst case, it can lead to rumors and wrong conclusions that can damage the company's reputation.
Get the manager to inform the closest stakeholders as soon as possible. Communication should be short and precise, but with the opportunity to clear up doubts and questions among colleagues. State that the employee is leaving the position as of x date, and attach a personal thank you and/or note of displeasure about the situation. In some cases, the manager can also explain the termination and mention whether the company intends to hire someone new or who will take over the work tasks.
Plan the takeover of knowledge and tasks
Get the manager and employee to sit down together to make a good plan for the takeover of knowledge, information, and tasks. Some things can be handed over directly to a colleague, while others may need to be written down and saved until a new employee starts in the position. It depends on the role and responsibility of the employee. Technology and operation can be explained more easily on paper, while management processes or additional sales work can be more difficult to describe.
Often, such a handover takes longer than first thought. So set aside plenty of time in the employee's calendar, mostly for your own sake, so you are sure to retain all the golden information in the organization.
Get an overview of the employee's items to be returned and IT access
If the employee has been with the company for many years, it can be difficult to identify all the many working tools provided. Of course, the employee must return practical items such as keys, access cards, PC, and the like, but also remember to check up on books, subscriptions, travel cards or anything else in that form.
Also, remember to inform IT about the employee's resignation. Get the employee's access to email, folders, systems, and accounts deleted in time so that the employee cannot log in from home. These are necessary measures, as employees are the biggest IT threat to a company—and it would be unfortunate if forgetting to close a user account leads to serious consequences for cyber security.
Plan the resignation interview or out-placement process
An offboarding process can quickly become a handover of working assignments and practical tasks. But remember to get relevant and valuable insights from the employees before they close the door behind them. Book your calendars relatively early to make the most of the offboarding period. Most employees want to make you smarter by sharing their perspectives.
If you have laid off an employee, you can consider starting an out-placement process. This can be some comfort and a welcome helping hand for an employee in a work crisis, but it can also help you to feel better about the situation. Ensuring a good departure process increases the chances that the employee will continue to speak well of your company.
A proper send-off
Say farewell to your employee. It does not have to be a particularly formal session, but invite the department and/or others from the organization to either a breakfast or afternoon coffee, so all their colleagues have the opportunity to say goodbye. This improves the employee experience for both current and departing colleagues, by showing that the company will prioritize gathering managers and colleagues for a good farewell.
There is great value to be gained by completing a successful and elegant offboarding process. Emply's offboarding module ensures an organized and streamlined process, so that employees leave your company with the best possible feeling. In the system, you can store checklists, to do lists and interview guides that can be automatically delegated to managers and relevant people in an exit situation. In addition, you get automatic reminders about all the practical aspects of an employee's termination or layoff.
Ask the same questions—and get strategic knowledge
An HR system provides the best conditions for your company to ask the same questions when employees leave the company. Data and knowledge are stored in the system and give you a solid overview, ensuring you can actually use the data. A perfect starting point for strategic business improvements and leadership development. And the sweet spots can be difficult to discover if the data is not systematized and organized.
Stand strong legally with data throughout the employee journey
In a termination situation, you must be able to document that your employee has not lived up to the requirements of the position in line with your expectations (unless it is about internal cutbacks or restructuring). This is usually easy to prove. However, it is more difficult to prove that the employee was aware of points of criticism and warnings. After all, how can you improve as an employee if you don't know that you are not performing well enough?
In an integrated HR system, you have an overview of employee development, feedback, and follow-up between manager and employee, which can function as documentation based on data. Documentation of an on-going dialogue between the manager and the employee shows that the employee knew they had not delivered.
When an employee has handed you a resignation, it is good practice to invite the employee to an exit interview. To recognize the employee's efforts and results, but equally to create (or maintain) a positive impression of your company. Former employees can also act as ambassadors—and who knows? Maybe the employee will find their way back to you.
Here are five tips for tackling a good exit interview in your offboarding process.
Prepare the interview well in advance. An exit interview can go in many directions, so plan what you want to know from the employee who is leaving your organization. The angle depends on the department, training, seniority, and previous history in the company.
Create a safe atmosphere. An exit interview can be a vulnerable situation for both parties. Create a safe, positive, and personal atmosphere, so the employee knows that there are no hard feelings. Remember to listen to the employee's wishes and signals both before and during the conversation, so it is just as much the employee's conversation (rather than just yours). Perhaps your employee needs to vent some frustrations—and there must be room for that.
Ask what motivated the employee to seek a new job. What reason(s) made the employee leave the job? Was there any of the employee’s knowledge or skills that we didn't get to use? This is valuable information for you, regardless of whether it was a lack of development opportunities, a terrible boss, too little responsibility, or poor pay. You can use that knowledge to optimize your business and prevent others from following the same path.
Find out the employee's view of your company—including points of criticism and possible solutions. What should we have done in order for you to have stayed? And what can the company generally do better? Input from the ‘horse's mouth’! Remember that you must be aware that the employee may not only want to praise the company. Keep an open mind, even if you may not agree.
Finish off the interview and introduce the employee to the process from here. Thank the employee for the time and their efforts in the company. It is a good idea to explain the process from here. What are the exit data being used for? Let the employee know how you intend to act on concerns, criticisms, and proposed solutions.