Offboarding, how to effectively manage the departure of an employee

There are three main phases in the journey of an employee in a company. First of all, there’s the settling-in phase, also known as onboarding, which companies are increasingly paying attention to. Onboarding allows you to welcome new employees in the best possible way. Next, the second stage is the internal development that the employee will experience. Then, there’s the offboarding phase which represents the period of departure of an employee from a company. This last phase is important for a variety of reasons. From security to employer brand, sound management of the offboarding process has a significant impact on your company.

Why develop an offboarding strategy?

Knowing how to 100% support an employee, from their arrival to their departure, is an advantage for a company. In a professional environment where changes happen quickly, a company may have to adapt their workforce just as an employee may decide to leave the company to move towards new horizons. Either way, implementing measures so that this separation takes place in a calm and constructive manner is essential. Establishing an offboarding process will avoid considerable inconvenience for both parties and their relationship. So focus on the «healthy out».

An investment for the future

On the one hand, it’s very rare to stay in the same company for your entire career. Companies typically represent stages of a professional career. Despite this fact, it can happen that some companies are destabilized by the fact that an employee wants to leave them.

Unless the employee in question makes a drastic U-turn in their career, they will probably remain in a similar sector or job. How the employee talks about their former company among their personal and professional circle will have direct impact on the company’s employer brand. Moreover, with social networking, opinions and experiences, employees can move around more quickly and reach a wider audience. Consequently, the employee should ideally remain a positive ambassador for their former company with potential future customers and employees.

On the other hand, handling the offboarding process in the best possible way allows the employee to contemplate rejoining the organisation later on in their career. In fact, by giving them your support when they want to leave and go after new challenges, they will remember the company’s professionalism and the amicable departure. This «Boomerang rehire» phenomenon, i.e. rejoining a company that you worked for in the past, only happens in 15% of cases. These cases of reinstatement within a company constitute low-cost recruitment for the company which is a significant advantage. What’s more, 40% of respondents are open to the idea of returning to work for a former employer. You might think that offboarding managed in a more pleasant and effective way could improve this percentage. 

Send out a positive message

Acknowledging the work carried out by an employee and the positive impact that they had on a company when they were in their role is a way of increasing employee satisfaction and company culture. At Apple for example, when an employee leaves, they receive thunderous applause from their colleagues and customers. This occasion lets the employee feel valued and recognised for their work.

Strive for continuous improvement

Companies that achieve a high level of employee satisfaction and a good reputation when it comes to employer brand frequently challenge and adapt themselves. To be able to improve, attract and retain talent, you must be open to criticism and change. When an employee leaves, it’s an excellent opportunity to receive constructive feedback on areas for improvement in the company. In fact, these departing employees are more likely to reveal a company’s real issues than current employees who don’t necessarily feel able to disclose sensitive issues.

How to have a successful offboarding strategy?

Once the company has acknowledged their commitment to implement an offboarding strategy, they must devise a roadmap. This will serve as a guide to follow each time an employee leaves the organisation. This guide is divided into several stages, which can be personalised and adapted according to your organisation and your objectives. To shape your company’s offboarding strategy, here’s a summary of the essential dos and dont’s.

Offboarding Do's

  1. Disclose the departure : Inform the people concerned about the departure of their colleague before the information gets out informally. Employees will appreciate the transparency and openness. As a way of positively marking the departure, you could organise an event (snack, aperitif, meal, etc.) or simply a respectful opportunity to say goodbye.
  1. Manager the handover : Introducing a handover period between the outgoing person and their successor is the best way to effectively transfer knowledge from one to the other. Ideally, you want an overlap between the contracts of the two people concerned. If this isn’t possible, ask the offboarding person to prepare a handbook on their duties and tasks, their best practices, and all the necessary information to make the job handover easier.
  2. Retrieve material and remove their access : Any material loaned out upon arrival must be returned upon departure. The most practical piece of advice is to draw up a list during the onboarding process which will be used again during the offboarding process. Furthermore, make sure you disconnect the former employee from all resources (change passwords, deactivate their badge, take them off the internal network, etc.) so as to avoid any concerns over cyber hacking, information leaks and other hassles which could prove detrimental.
  3. Complete any admin : Think about any account balances, reimbursement of expenses, certificate of employment and other administrative documents so that the employee can leave with total peace of mind. 
  4. Conduct an exit interview : A departure presents a good opportunity to listen to what employees have to say. In order to gather relevant information, you must show that you’re listening and taking a constructive approach so that the employee feels comfortable enough to speak openly. Afterwards, you will need to analyse this feedback to update the company strategy.
  5. Thank the team : A departure can be a difficult period for the team that stays behind. The departing person’s workload is collected and divided between the other employees. Take this opportunity to thank your employees for their commitment and work. This will help to motivate them to integrate their new colleague.
  6. Keep in touch : Whether via an alumni network or social media, keeping in touch is beneficial. Through news and events, the network continues to grow by increasing exchanges and meetings with others. In addition, this conveys the strong values of your employer brand. For example, P&G invites its alumni to Facebook’s headquarters, L’Oréal organises a Mindfulness breakfast, and Microsoft unites its alumni at Christmas.
  7. Use technology : To best deal with the offboarding issue, it’s easier to automate it. Solutions provide a service in managing all aforementioned tasks related to offboarding using a single platform. This kind of platform allows the employer to disconnect the employee from all resources in one click and even give the ex-employee a leaving package (certificate of employment, any account balances, etc.). It can even manage training, the transfer of knowledge, and employee feedback.

Offboarding Don’ts

  1. Take departures personally. Instead, understand that the employee had good reasons for making their decision.
  2. Completely close the door to the former employee, as that would destroy the potential network that they represent.
  3. Forget that a former employee might want a future offer at another point in their career.
  4. Rush the exit interview with an impersonal and quick form.
  5. Forget that a former employee is still a company ambassador and that their positive or negative opinion directly affects future consumers, customers or talents.

By following this advice and by tailoring the offboarding process to the company’s objectives and values, departures will be managed more effectively and they will be better experiences for everyone involved.

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