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Table of Contents

After an employee resigns or has been terminated, you will begin the offboarding process. This article will share with you why the offboarding process is important, what the process looks like and mistakes to avoid when offboarding.

What Does Offboarding Mean?

Offboarding happens after an employee resigns or is let go. The offboarding process begins with showing respect to the employee by completing the process properly and in a timely manner. When an employee has resigned or has been terminated the offboarding process begins immediately. Sometimes employees give a two-week notice and other times just a day. It is important to begin as soon as notification has been given that the employee is leaving. HR will coordinate with the supervisor in offboarding the employee from the company, through conducting an exit interview, provide information on benefits, retirement, and other necessary legal documents. Remember, just like you ensured an employee had a positive experience with onboarding you will want to make sure they have a positive, respectful experience in leaving the company.

Onboarding Versus Offboarding

Onboarding and offboarding are crucial processes for a company to get right. But don’t  let the work required in the onboarding process lead you toward concluding that the offboarding process is simpler. Both processes are equally important. Both processes should be focused on treating the employee with a white glove, red carpet kind of experience. When done well, the offboarding process can be very eye opening. HR professionals can learn a lot from their experience first hand. You can  discover why an employee is leaving, such as having a negative experience with a supervisor, not having enough training, the workload was too much, not paid enough or as simple as wanting to feel a sense of belonging.

Why Is Offboarding Important?

Offboarding an employee is important for a number of reasons. Those reasons include showing respect for the employee, staying true to your company culture and mission, and leaving a good impression of your company with the former employee. We discuss each of these in greater detail below:

  • Respect. Humans are the greatest asset a company could ever have. Employees are humans and deserve to be treated with respect whether they are leaving the company voluntarily or involuntarily.  Some of the ways you can show respect is by being prompt with kicking off the offboarding process, listening to the employee when conducting the exit interview while looking for ways to implement the advice given by the employee. You can also show respect for the employee in the way you speak to them and communicate the desire to maintain an ongoing relationship even after they have left the company.
  • Company Culture. The way an employee is offboarded says a lot about your company culture. Think about what you want that experience to be like for each employee who leaves your company. Transitioning jobs for employees can be an emotional experience, especially if it is involuntary.
  • Brand Ambassadors. Employees who transition from your company become brand ambassadors for your company. As you show respect to the employee throughout their experience with your company, especially right up until the end, it will foster a greater desire in the employee to want to promote and recommend your company to other people who could potentially work there. They can help share their work experiences with potential employees.  This can aid in finding a replacement for their position.

What Is the Offboarding Process?

The offboarding process is when an employee is transitioning out of a  company. It’s the final chapter to the employee’s experience with your company and a great way to end on a great note. Keep in mind the offboarding process says a lot about a company in how they treat their employees when they leave whether it is voluntary or involuntary. The company can show employees that they are their most valuable asset by treating them with respect and dignity to the very end. The following steps will help you to start creating your offboarding process.

Step 1: Notification of Employee Leaving the Company

An employee will either voluntarily or involuntarily leave the company. It will be important for the supervisor to contact HR to let them know the employee is leaving. If it is involuntarily HR, should already be involved.

Typically, HR has been notified of and filed documented verbal, written warnings and or performance improvement plans. It is important for HR to be involved early on because they can help aid in protecting and supporting the employee and the company. This is done by making sure the process is done ethically, legally, and while avoiding discrimination.

Step 2: Facilitate Knowledge Transfer

The employee can assist with helping transfer the invaluable knowledge they gained while working their job. Communicate to the employee the valuable impact they could have as they are leaving the company by transferring their knowledge and experience. Invite the employee to document their knowledge so the new person coming into their role will not have to start from scratch. They could aid HR in the process of reviewing the job description, hiring a replacement, documenting processes, etc.

Step 3: HR Coordination

The HR department will coordinate the employee’s departure from the company. There are several components to this step, including:

  • Completing an exit interview.
  • Reviewing confidential agreements, health benefits, and retirement options.
  • Returning company equipment.
  • Contact IT to close all employee accounts and change passwords.
  • Process final paycheck.
  • Disable access to company buildings and property.
  • File resignation letter/any necessary paperwork. You will want to document whether or not this person could be considered for rehire.

Step 4: Maintain a Relationship with Former Employees

In a way, former employees become brand ambassadors for your company. They will share the good and the bad. Be sure to end on a good note. Former employees can be a great resource for recruitment, either making referrals or choosing to return themselves. There could be  opportunities for employees who have retired to come back part-time, or on an on-call basis. The company can pair former employees who have retired with someone who is less experienced to mentor, teach, and share what they have learned.

Just because an employee may leave your company involuntarily meaning they did not succeed in your company’s environment does not mean they cannot succeed in another corporate environment. There are still opportunities in which they can still impact your company for good. But if employees who involuntarily leave and are disrespected when it happens, they will not be giving your company a positive review. Remember people might not always remember what we say but they will remember how we made them feel. So, think twice about how you treat others especially in these situations where emotions run high and you are cutting off their livelihood.

Step 5: Work with the Manager

HR and the manager can work together on deciding what needs to happen for the position the employee left open. Ask yourself and the manager the following questions:

  • Do we need to backfill this position?
  • Who will fill in with these responsibilities until someone is hired?

Take this opportunity to review the job description and training for this position. Take a look at how

Common Mistakes While Offboarding

Here are a few examples of potential mistakes that HR professionals will want to avoid when offboarding employees. In understanding, the importance of the offboarding process, is at the heart of what HR professionals do. It is critical that employees do not feel forgotten, remembered for the good they did, and that their opinion and experience matters.

Example 1: Employees Feel Forgotten

It’s easy to overlook when an employee is leaving a company and be busy with wanting to get the position filled quickly. Be sure to provide an excellent offboarding experience for each employee.

Example 2: Not Leaving the Door Open to Employees

The company may want to think about leaving the door open for employees to come back and work. This could be a great opportunity because they are already familiar with the company but come back with experience that could help benefit your company in some way. In the exit interview, ask the employee, “What would need to change in order for you to come back?” A company is always trying to find people who bring high value to the workforce.

Example 3: Missed Opportunities Not Asking the Employee for Advice

When conducting an exit interview, you may want to ask for advice instead of feedback. Asking for feedback may put pressure on an employee. By listening to the advice given in the exit interview, will help to shape your organizational development road map. This gives you an insider perspective that you may otherwise not come across. From the employee’s experience they will be able to share ideas that maybe you had not thought of before. In understanding the real reasons why the employee is leaving, will allow the company to improve in ways that would not have been thought about before.

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Questions You’ve Asked Us About Offboarding

Usually, the supervisor, theHR manager/generalist, the payroll administrator, the IT department, and anyone else who needs to know of the employee’s departure from the company.

The offboarding process is about how you treat people. Company culture is all about how people are treated and interact with one another in reality, not just on the mission statement. Just like in the onboarding process where a company is wanting to put their best foot forward, the same goes for the offboarding process. If people are treated in the best way possible even when they leave or are let go, it strengthens your company culture and brand. Employees will talk about your company and what their experience was like working there. The way you offboard an employee says a lot about your company culture.

Emily is the HR Manager for PatientBond. She is the excited for the opportunity of creating an HR department with her current employer. Emily pursued a Master’s in Human Resources from USU and comes with 4 years of experience from various companies. Emily serves as the Director of Social Media for the Salt Lake SHRM chapter.

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