In the HR world, emphasis is often placed on best practices for onboarding new employees. This makes sense — you want the newest members of your team to receive the resources they need and have a good initial experience with your company so that they can be productive, satisfied employees.
But offboarding is just as important. It’s an often-overlooked, yet essential, part of human resources. While it can be a difficult and emotional process — especially when offboarding employees that have served well for a long time — it can be an empowering and positive experience for both the employer and the employee when done correctly. By taking the time to understand these intricacies, employers can create an offboarding process that is beneficial to everyone involved.
What Is Offboarding?
Offboarding is the process of preparing for an employee to leave your company. Whether an employee is voluntarily parting (getting a different job or retiring) or involuntarily (getting laid off), the offboarding process helps the employee transition out of organization and helps the company prepare for their eventual absence.
A formal offboarding process can begin weeks or even months before someone’s last day, but always wraps up with their last day on the job. Parts of the offboarding process may include:
- Transferring an employee’s job responsibilities to other employees.
- Deactivating an employee’s access rights and passwords to company systems.
- Turning in any company-owned equipment the employee may have been using.
- Conducting exit interviews to gather feedback on your company as an employer.
Why Is the Offboarding Process Important?
A good offboarding process is always beneficial for both the employee and the employer.
What Offboarding Does for Employers
Depending on your industry, good employee offboarding can:
- Mitigate security risks: Reclaiming company assets and revoking access privileges as part of a formal process can help you avoid scenarios where sensitive company information is put at risk by a former staffer.
- Prevent legal issues: Clear communication throughout the offboarding process can prevent lawsuits over contract disputes, compensation discrepancies, or wrongful termination.
- Manage logistical challenges: Formal offboarding can prepare other members of a team to take over projects, including departing employees training their co-workers to take over their roles and responsibilities.
- Obtain valuable feedback: A formal exit interview and other communication, such as surveys on why an employee is leaving, can help you improve employee retention in the future.
- Preserve good relationships: When offboarding is managed with care and respect and employees depart on good terms, they may still want to be customers and brand ambassadors for your company.
- Increase productivity: A smooth offboarding process can help employees feel more confident and less stressed. This can lead to higher productivity and less absenteeism in the days leading up to their departure.
- Improve future recruitment: How employees leave a company can prompt them to leave reviews on websites like Glassdoor, for better or for worse. Studies have shown that more than 50 percent of those seeking employment check an organization’s job reviews before they apply — so if your former employees have good things to say about you, you are more likely to pull top talent in the future.
Employee offboarding also provides a way to thank departing employees and give them the recognition they deserve.
What Offboarding Does for Employees
When an employee is leaving a company, they may often feel tense, nervous, and uncertain about the future. The offboarding process can alleviate some of this anxiety by providing clear instructions and a smooth transition.
When done well, offboarding can also allow the employee to leave with a great sense of pride and accomplishment. A departing employee can recognize that they are leaving the company in a better place than when they first started, and they can feel confident in their ability to succeed in their next job or entrepreneurial venture.
What Are the Best Practices for Offboarding?
To reap the best benefits of employee offboarding, you’ll need to follow a few guidelines.
Treat Departing Employees With Fairness and Kindness
Be sure to be professional and courteous throughout the offboarding process, from the moment your employee tells you that they are leaving your company (or the moment you tell them that they are leaving).
Avoid attacking, criticizing, or belittling departing employees, and don’t try to change their minds if they are leaving voluntarily. As put in Forbes, the offboarding process should be like a successful divorce. It should “not be an attempt to convince the employee to stay or prolong their departure, but instead an attempt to make the transition smooth and friendly while still ensuring separation occurs.”
As part of the process, thank the employee for the work they’ve done as well as for the time and energy they have invested in their work and your company. Recognizing their contributions in a meaningful way will boost your company culture and gain the esteem of your current and future employees.
Determine the Reason for the Exit
This process may be different depending on the nature and reason for the employee’s departure. For instance, offboarding when an employee is being terminated for disciplinary reasons may need to take place within a shorter timeframe than when an employee is retiring. And an employee that is departing due to irreconcilable differences with a member of management may have different needs than one who is simply moving on to a different company.
Again, regardless of the circumstances of your employee’s departure, you want to part on good terms with them. Doing so will reflect well on you as an employer and help ensure that your employee departs amicably.
Communicate About the Departure
As soon as you’ve determined that your employee is leaving, you’ll need to inform the rest of your employees. The sooner you tell the rest of the office, the better off you will likely be. Clear and early communication can help prevent any gossip or miscommunication about why your employee is leaving and will help the rest of your employee’s team prepare.
Secure Property and Revoke Access
As previously mentioned, your formal offboarding process can help protect your company from data and information leaks. Make sure to ask the leaving employee to turn in all company equipment, such as:
- Credit cards
Additionally, revoke all of your employee’s access to your company’s online or offline systems as well as any alarm or gate codes as close to their departure date as possible.
Hold an Exit Interview
A formal exit interview can be a valuable tool to gather insights and collect data. Interview departing employees to learn about their experience at your company and whether you are meeting expectations as an employer.
While work environment surveys can be a helpful tool to evaluate your performance in this area, offboarding employees may provide even more insights, because they are often more likely to be transparent about any shortcomings — especially if some of those shortcomings are the reason they are leaving in the first place.
Ensure a Successful Knowledge Transfer
When an employee leaves, you’ll likely hire someone to replace them or pass their duties on to a different employee. You’ll want to gather all the important information the employee has learned while working at your company so you can pass it on to their successor, especially if the departing employee had unique responsibilities.
Before your employee leaves, you may want to have them provide resources or training on:
- Their daily routine for their role.
- The systems and files they used.
- Who they worked with and who they reported to, both inside and outside your company.
- How they prioritized and accomplished all of their tasks.
Having this knowledge learned or readily available will save you time and money when a new person steps into the role.
Protect Your Company From Loss of Productivity
When an employee departs, it may not always be at the most convenient time for your company. Employees may have to leave in the middle of projects or at peak times of the year.
To avoid too much inconvenience or downtime that will impact your bottom line, plan ahead as part of your offboarding process. If possible, enlist your departing employee’s help in creating a plan on how to share the additional workload among your employees until a replacement is hired.
Stay in Touch
After your employee leaves, you may want to consider keeping in touch with them. This is a great way to show kindness and appreciation even as your employee moves on from the company. Depending on the relationship this can be as simple as reaching out via phone or email, sending company newsletters, or even inviting the employee to company events. Maintaining professional relations in this way is a great way to keep your former employees as part of your network.
Wrapping It Up…
A solid offboarding process can help organizations stay safe, but it also contributes to the legacy and culture of the business over time. Supporting employee wellbeing from the start to the end is a wonderful way to show everyone that yours is an organization with empathy.
With these tips in mind, you can create an offboarding process that will ensure the wellbeing of all your employees and get you recognized as a great place to work. This tactic combined with other wellbeing efforts can help you build a company culture that thrives. Talk to a wellbeing specialist at Gympass today to see how you can provide employees with benefits to support their wellbeing from onboarding to offboarding.
- Anderson, B. (2023, March 20). 3 Best Practices for Effective Offboarding, According to HR Experts (2023 Update). BambooHR. https://www.bamboohr.com/blog/offboarding-why-it-matters
- Crail, C. (2023, May 26). Offboarding: Definition & Best Practices (2023 Guide). https://www.forbes.com/advisor/business/offboarding/
The Gympass Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.