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Make the Offboarding Process Work for Your Business

Having a strong offboarding process in place is essential for leaving the door open to ex-employees who may wish to one day work again for your company.
Man going through the offboarding process

Onboarding employees is generally a happy occasion, but at times the offboarding process can be a bit more delicate and challenging. Employees who leave a business – whether as a result of a personal decision or involuntarily – still deserve respect and proper treatment from their employers.

There's an additional reason for going about the process in the right way: In today's ultra-competitive labor market, it's entirely possible that a former employee may return to your company in a different role. That may only be possible if they left with a good feeling about the way they were treated at the end of their employment. 

What is offboarding? 

In the simplest terms, offboarding is the opposite of onboarding (that is, bringing on a new employee). More specifically, offboarding relates to the processes that take place when an employee leaves your business. This can help ensure a smooth transition, avoid misunderstandings, and protect company assets. 

With a functioning offboarding process in place, employees may better understand what they can expect when they are in the final weeks of employment with your business. Questions such as the following can be clearly answered in a stated process: 

  • Depending on the type or purpose of termination, under what circumstances will an exit interview be conducted? 

  • How will they receive final payment? 

  • What will happen to their employee benefits? 

Without an established process in place, a business can experience a damaging loss of information, ill will between employer and employees, and perhaps a missed opportunity to welcome back "boomerang employees.” 

How to create your offboarding process 

Consider the following when creating an offboarding process in your company: 

Respect all exiting employees 

Just like any employee, a departing worker should be treated with respect and dignity. If appropriate, express good luck and best wishes, since this can go a long way toward making them feel that you appreciated their contributions to the business and respected. 

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.  

By delivering a cordial, respectful offboarding experience, you can ask the departing employee to share their "l knowledge" about the business — thus paving the way to a smoother transfer of knowledge. Ask in-depth questions about how the employee addressed their job responsibilities, with whom they interacted on a regular basis, and other "tips" they can share about their position. This information can prove invaluable to the rest of the team, who may take on this work until a replacement is found. 

Conduct a proper exit interview 

Use this unique situation to learn more about what prompted the employee to start looking for a new position elsewhere. The reason may be the need or desire for a higher salary, or to work closer to home. In this step, you may discover any number of items that factored into their decision. 

Of course, should the individual mention a problem they encountered in your workplace environment, this could be valuable knowledge to acquire as well. 

Complete relevant paperwork 

Make sure you have a departing employee sign any relevant paperwork pertaining to the end of their employment with your organization. 

Collect company property 

When someone leaves your company, you should collect all work-related materials (keys, badges, equipment, phones, uniforms, etc.). Again, it is extremely important to have a solid process in place so that this necessary step is as quick and painless as possible for both you and the departing employee. 

Address computer accounts and contact information 

A departing employee's access to computer accounts should be shut down on a pre-determined date. Also, arrange to redirect any incoming emails or phone calls to a suitable replacement within the organization. (Note: It may be helpful to leave the ex-employee's phone number and email accounts open for a brief time, so as not to miss any calls coming from customers, suppliers, and so on. Change passwords or pins as necessary.) 

Final day and door open for return 

Assuming the offboarding plan has run smoothly, make the departing employee's final day as pleasant as possible. This will be beneficial to everyone involved, including co-workers. If the departure is amicable, emphasize to the individual that your company's doors may be open for their possible return. This is important, since "boomerang employees" can be a valuable source of recruitment. 

Make the offboarding experience for contingent workers similar to that of 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 work with the company ends, they may need to return certain assets, such as files, records, and equipment.  

Put your offboarding plan into practice 

A good way to implement your offboarding plan is through a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results, Time) matrix. Start with one facet of the offboarding process and determine how best to make it happen. Base each step on the goals you wish to achieve. Determine the best metrics and measurements to evaluate the outcomes. Also decide who will be responsible for implementing each step (or if one person should take on the responsibility). Finally, set a deadline for implementation of the new offboarding process. 

Employees make decisions all the time to leave their current employment and find new jobs elsewhere. A poorly executed offboarding process may leave bad feelings all around, while a respectful, effective offboarding process may help to ensure that departures take place in a positive environment — and leave open the possibility that the ex-employee may someday return to work again at your business. 

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* This content is for educational purposes only, is not intended to provide specific legal advice, and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice of a qualified attorney or other professional. The information may not reflect the most current legal developments, may be changed without notice and is not guaranteed to be complete, correct, or up-to-date.

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