When hearing of celebrity divorces, have you ever considered that it’s only ever the acrimonious ones that we remember? The cringeworthy instances that make us reflect on personal branding, the chances of a relationship in the future, the impact on the children, and the damage incurred by endless social media tit-for-tat. When dirty laundry is aired, no-one’s reputation comes out unscathed.
Offboarding signals the formal dissolution of the relationship between employee and employer. And it’s mostly up to you whether it’s a good or bad experience. Your ‘goodbye’ process should be the final, professional step in a relationship that started with a wonderful onboarding experience, blossomed through constructive performance management and growth, and culminated in an amicable parting of ways (or conscious uncoupling) that’s well organised, thorough, and positive.
By investing in an effective offboarding process, you demonstrate to both current and incoming employees that you value your relationship with them over and above their contribution to your bottom line.
What’s involved in offboarding?
Regardless of whether people resign, are terminated, or simply retire, the offboarding process captures all the actions that you need to take including:
- Ensuring an employee’s job responsibilities are handed over
- Managing security by removing their access to business premises, facilities and networks
- Retrieving mobile phones, passcards, credit cards, company ID badges, laptops and other equipment owned by the business
- Conducting formal exit interviews to gather meaningful and open feedback and insights
What else can you do to make offboarding a better experience?
There are numerous lists on the basics of employee offboarding, but how do you elevate the process so regardless of the circumstances (termination, resignation, retirement), it’s a positive experience?
- The devil is in the detail. Invest in HR software which automates the offboarding process so that nothing is missed, or sloppily or thoughtlessly managed. For example, reimburse business expenses quickly, and pay or schedule bonuses as per contracts. Small things left undone can sour a relationship very quickly.
- Make the exit interview a cracker. Gather complimentary feedback from workmates and managers and pass them on during the interview process. Tell the employee what personal and business traits were appreciated, and will be missed.
- Say a proper goodbye. While company policies and circumstances all differ, take the time to acknowledge an employee’s contribution to the business with gratitude. From a company-wide email to a card and perhaps a gift from workmates or the business, or a team lunch or end of week drinks – finishing on a positive note is a morale boost for everyone. And always (where reasonable) provide a written reference or a contact for a verbal reference to show your appreciation.
- End on a good note. If the leaving circumstances are difficult, minimise the opportunity for an employee to resent the outcome by making sure every agreed action is taken, and that all communications are positive and focus on personal or professional attributes, or at the very least scrupulously neutral.
- Keep in touch - really! While it’s easy to make promises to keep in touch, life often gets in the way. Even if a team can’t maintain regular contact, schedule ‘stay in touch’ emails and coffee meetings. Consider forming a LinkedIn alumni group for social catchups or to post job opportunities.
- Give a helping hand. If laying off employees, offer counselling, seminars on job hunting, or further training opportunities to reskill. Don’t leave them high and dry.
Why is it so important to invest in a good offboarding process?
Like onboarding, the time taken to offboard properly reflects well on your business. It’s more than just ticking the boxes by completing the requisite paperwork and ensuring your company’s property is returned. The way employees experience leaving their workplace and workmates makes an enduring memory – and has a direct impact on your brand as a desirable employer.
Why? Well, great employees are always in short supply. And when they leave, they typically become an advocate (recommending your organisation to others of similar ilk) or an antagonist who can damage your reputation and capability to hire the people you want to add to your team. Ex-employees can boost or belittle your business brand in a manner you have little or no control over.
What are the benefits of making sure your offboarding process is as good as your onboarding process?
- First – what your ex-employees say about you matters. They may review you online (e.g. glassdoor.com), and will most definitely share the good and bad aspects of working for you. And they’ll influence their network.
- And then, ex-employees can often become customers. They can affect their employer’s decision to engage with you as a partner or supplier, or if they have gone into business for themselves, can provide a new revenue stream.
- Ex-employees can also cycle around, and if they’ve had an excellent offboarding experience, will happily re-join your business either as employees or contractors - enriched with new skills and knowledge.
What your approach to offboarding says about you
Offboarding practices speak volumes about your organisation’s values. Even through the turbulence of layoffs, how you handled the process will be long remembered, and impact those who may consider returning to your company in the future. And it will comfort those who are layoff ‘survivors’.
A highly manual, or ad-hoc offboarding process can give a departing employee the impression that their departure is unimportant, or merely a “box-ticking” exercise to the company. (Especially if by comparison your onboarding process is slick, modern, and automated!). A poor offboarding process can negatively impact their impression of you, and your brand (i.e. what people say about it when they think it’s safe to be unabashedly truthful), making it harder to attract quality recruits in the future.
On the other hand, a great offboarding process – professional, prioritised, and polished - can prove to your former, current, and future employees that your organisation values them and their opinions. It shows that you are serious about taking on board their feedback to continuously improve the employee experience for future staff (or them if they want to return).
Some HR Departments have a tried and true paper system that has been evolved over the years to suit their needs, and does an adequate job. If this is the case in your business, that’s fantastic. Many companies, however, lack the systems or resource to make the offboarding process a value-adding experience for anyone involved. The first step to rectifying this is to acknowledge the importance of a great offboarding program. The second step is to research what ‘great’ looks like, and put the right tools in place to enable it. Modern HR software has built-in applications to support and automate the offboarding process, bringing a contemporary ‘digital’ element to the experience, and simplifying the administrative tasks needed.