How you welcome new employees into your company — known in HR circles as onboarding — is a vital piece of the culture and success of your business. What’s not talked about nearly as much is how you should offboard employees when they’ve left your company, or you no longer require their services.
Ideally, you’ll want to leave former employees with a good feeling about the way they were treated at the end of their employment. This is especially true in a labor market where former employees are more likely to return in another role. These so-called “boomerang employees” are a missed opportunity if they left your company on bad terms.
What is offboarding?
So, what does it take to start an offboarding program at your company? You can start by educating your managers on the definition of offboarding:
To interact and exchange information with a departing employee so as to ensure a smooth transition, protect company assets, etc.
Then explain the experience you’d like to build within your organization. When the program is in place, educate employees on what they can expect from their final weeks at the company. Will there be an exit interview, how will they be paid, and what needs to happen concerning their benefits?
Create your offboarding plan
Here are five steps to consider when creating an offboarding program at your company, from Sharlyn Lauby, HR consultant and president of HR Bartender.
1. Wish the employee well
Sharlyn relayed the story of an HR Tech conference attendee who said that their company now sends a plant to former employees’ new employers. What are you doing to wish your employees well when they leave your organization? Sincere good wishes are inexpensive and can go a long way toward making an ex-employee feel better about their situation.
2. Ensure a smooth transfer of knowledge
It’s important to establish a plan to transfer specific knowledge about systems and tasks from an employee who’s leaving to the rest of the team who will pick up the slack until you can find a replacement.
3. Conduct a proper exit interview
Contrary to the way many managers think of an exit interview, you shouldn’t ask why a former employee left the company. Use the exit interview to learn what caused them to start looking for a new employer in the first place. The difference is simple. An employee may start looking because they want a higher salary or to work closer to home. If you ask the same employee why they left, however, they may say, “because my manager was a jerk.”
Some companies even use third parties to conduct exit interviews after the former employee has already left, in order to get better, more in-depth feedback without burning any bridges with the employee.
4. Collect company property from the former employee
Any time someone leaves your company, you’ll need to collect their keys, badges, equipment, etc. Make sure you have a solid process in place to ensure that this necessary step is as quick and painless as possible for you and for the former employee.
5. Make the offboarding process for contingent workers the same as for regular employees
Freelancers, contractors, and other non-traditional employees are becoming a more common component of a company’s workforce. Some companies also have blended recruiting strategies. As you think about onboarding these contingent workers, also consider your offboarding process. When their contract ends, they’ll need to return certain assets, such as files, records, and equipment. All of those things need to be accounted for.
According to Sharlyn, “The last thing you want to do when a contract ends is ghost a freelancer.”
Put your offboarding plan into practice
A SMART matrix is one way you can turn your offboarding plan into a working practice. The acronym stands for specific, measurable, attainable, results, and time. Pick one thing you want to work on and decide how to make it happen within your offboarding program. Be specific, and base it on the goals you want to accomplish. What’s the metric? What’s the measurement? Then decide what steps you’re going to take to achieve the goal, and who is responsible for that specific task. Then give it a deadline.
With a thorough offboarding plan in place, communicated to managers and employees, you can help ensure the transition is as smooth when an employee leaves your company as it was when they were hired.
As Sharlyn puts it, “Even when you terminate somebody, even when you let them go because maybe business isn’t working out the way you thought it was going to, you can have people leave your organization voluntarily with dignity and with respect.”