Employee offboarding: Meet Onboarding’s Cousin
5 ways to improve a critical and, often, overlooked process.
Most people are familiar with the importance of having successful onboarding programs and the central role they play in the overall success and health of an organization. Equally as important but far less discussed is onboarding’s cousin, offboarding; that is, the procedures in place to debrief and say goodbye to an employee. Why is offboarding important, and what can companies do to make sure it goes smoothly?
While companies often invest heavily in onboarding, from software to teach employees about various aspects of their job to activities like dinners, networking, scavenger hunts, and more, offboarding, in contrast, is frequently ignored or treated as a somber occasion. According to research, only 29 percent of organizations have a formal offboarding process in place. This is a missed opportunity, among other things. Making offboarding a good experience can enhance the reputation of the employer; a disorganized departure can result in negative feelings producing negative actions (such as reviews on Glassdoor and the like). Whether the end of employment was voluntary or involuntary, companies need to have a systematic approach to all the activities associated with the end of the employee lifecycle.
Several things typically take place during the offboarding process. These usually include returning company property like work laptops and phones along with corporate digital accounts. Additionally, offboarding includes required paperwork and an exit interview. Offboarding is a time to protect company assets, prevent legal liability, and understand where the company can improve. It is also an opportunity to continue your connection to someone who may have been a valuable asset and may continue to be in the future, by referring future hires, new business and more.
A few companies, like Google, who are leaders in the employee experience department take offboarding beyond the basics by making a policy of throwing goodbye parties and working to celebrate the employee’s contributions to the company no matter how they were leaving. Some companies, recognizing the potential value in maintaining a relationship with workers even when they are gone, have staff devoted to the building and cultivating of the company’s alumni program; employees are inducted into the program upon their departure.
While not every departure is pleasant or an opportunity to continue a connection with that former worker, many are. And at the very least, having a structured offboarding process can minimize liabilities for a company. Here are some tips:
- Communicate. One of the things organizations often fail to do in the final stages of an employee’s time with a company is communicating effectively. This may be driven by risk aversion (not wanting to communicate until all information is in place). Having a comprehensive communications plan as part of your offboarding program can help reduce the spread of misinformation and gossip and can help alleviate fears felt by the departing employee and by other employees who are staying.
- Protect your assets. Employees have access to reams of confidential information and corporate secrets when they are employed by a company. A well organized and efficient offboarding process can protect these valuable assets in the transition time. Unfortunately, there are many examples where unhappy former employees have taken action against former employers in any number of ways, from stealing information to leaking protected data. Your security processes may include checklists to ensure all physical assets have been collected on the last day and that they are checked, and that company data is properly wiped, passwords changed, and so on.
- Compliance. A well thought out offboarding process will make sure you are meeting all the industry, state, and federal requirements that come along with the end of the employee-employer relationship. Having a plan in place before an employee leaves the company will save time and reduce the risk of legal liability.
- Listen to the departing employee. Of course, “dreaded” offboarding interviews are often thought of as places to air grievances and meetings that can easily turn sour if not approached with tact. However, it is important to remember to encourage candid feedback; feedback can be extremely valuable in determining what you could do to improve the company and address any issues that might have caused the employee to leave.
- Leave the door open. If everyone is on good terms, make sure to leave the door open for their possible return. The “boomerang employee” trend is on the rise; a good employee who comes back to you years later, with additional skills, maturity and wider networks of relationships, could be more valuable than ever to your organization.
Offboarding seldom gets even close to the amount of time and attention as onboarding, but it is just as important. Effective offboarding helps you mitigate risk, is a learning opportunity for your organization as well as an opportunity to maintain a relationship that may have been – and could potentially continue to be – important to your company’s success.