Employee Offboarding: What You Need to Know

HR departments often spend a lot of time carefully crafting their onboarding process — warmly welcoming new hires and quickly getting them up to speed — and rightly so, since organizations with a strong onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82% and productivity by more than 70% (Glassdoor). However, many organizations don’t think through another important part of the employee lifecycle that has a significant impact on your employer brand and ability to attract new hires: the offboarding process.

A structured offboarding process helps you mitigate legal and security risks, reduce the chance of negative reviews on employer review sites like Glassdoor, and helps you gain honest feedback from employees on where to improve your organization.

During COVID-19, many organizations have unfortunately been in the position where layoffs and mass offboarding have been on the table. And some organizations have mishandled their layoffs, resulting in serious employer brand implications that may lead to turnover as the economy recovers and impact their ability to attract new talent.

These offboarding experiences makes it clear that now is a great time to review your approach to ensure you’re providing a positive experience, while also minimizing risk. In this blog, we will be sharing insights on what you need to know about creating a thorough offboarding process. But first, let’s review what offboarding includes.

What is offboarding?

Offboarding is the process that leads to the formal separation between an employee and a company through resignation, termination, or retirement. It encompasses all the decisions and processes that take place when an employee leaves. This may include:

  • Transferring that employee’s job responsibilities
  • Deactivating systems access and returning equipment
  • Conducting exit interviews to gather feedback
  • Company events to recognize and thank the employee for their contributions

How to create an effective and positive offboarding experience

  1. Identify a transition plan

    With a typical two week notice period, it’s likely you’ll be working with the exiting employee for at least ten more business days. That provides a solid window of opportunity to create a transition plan and neatly wrap things up.

    Once your employee has given their notice, ensure their manager has scheduled time with them to identify what they’ve been working on and how to best transition this work to other team members. From there, the team lead should schedule a few follow-up meetings to keep track of the transition and ensure no tasks are dropped once they’ve left.

    Your transition plan should also include knowledge transfer activities and resources like creating how-to documents, logging important information such as file locations and important contact information, as well as job shadowing sessions. You’ll also want to tie up any loose ends, such as removing the employee from recurring meetings and setting up email forwarding.

    Lastly, you’ll also want to take time to communicate the termination with your team, ideally in person or over a Zoom call to share the news. Depending on the size of the team, however, an email may also be appropriate to communicate the information.

  1. Prepare termination paperwork

    Having an audit trail of paperwork protects both the employee and the employer in the event of legal issues. Basic paperwork might include:

    • A letter of resignation or termination
    • Nondisclosure and non-compete agreements
    • Benefits documents (e.g. an explanation of ongoing benefits, retirement plan transfer, employment insurance, etc.)

    This is also a good time to make arrangements for the employee’s last pay cheque. You’ll want to make it clear how and when the employee will receive their last pay cheque and if it needs to include any extra compensation for owed PTO.

    When developing your offboarding process, ensure you consult your legal counsel and finance team to ensure you have the proper policies, processes, and documentation in place to protect your organization.

  1. Schedule an exit interview

    Make it a priority to schedule an exit interview with all departing employees. Like any interview, you should have thoughtful, open-ended questions prepared to get the most insightful feedback. It can also be helpful to provide these questions to the employee in advance, so they have some time to think through their responses.

    Typically it makes the most sense to have a neutral third-party available to conduct the exit interview, such as an HR manager, rather than the person they were reporting to, in order to make the employee feel more comfortable. To ensure you get honest and useful answers make sure to remind the employee that their responses will be kept confidential or anonymous and that if there are major issues to investigate, you will do so discreetly.

    Lastly, there’s no point collecting all this feedback and then leaving it to sit. You should use the qualitative data that’s uncovered to enhance the employee experience over time. Schedule time to revisit your exit interview feedback regularly to identify common themes and find ways to make meaningful improvements to your organization.

  1. Collect company assets and deactivate systems access

    At this stage, it’s likely several departments, like HR, IT and finance, will need to work together to ensure you have all your bases covered. Before your employee’s last day, make sure you have conducted an inventory of any company assets in their possession, such as phones, laptops, keys, and ID badges. At this time you’ll also want to close out any corporate credit cards or expense accounts in that employee’s name and process any outstanding fees or reimbursements.

    If your employees use their own devices, there’s a good chance they have sensitive company data like email and client lists, internal process documents, and other confidential information stored there. If this is the case, ensure you have a plan in place for the employee to connect with IT to wipe this data. Also, be sure to have a clear bring your own device (BYOD) policy in place so there are no surprises at this stage!

    If your organization is primarily remote, you’ll want to take the additional step of identifying how you will reclaim these items. Can the employee do a contactless drop off at your office location? Will they be required to ship the equipment back? Make sure you have a solid plan in place to avoid a major mishap.

  1. Celebration and Recognition

    If it’s appropriate, take the time to celebrate your exiting employee. Even though it’s a bittersweet time, it’s important to recognize the value and contributions that they’ve made during their tenure with your organization.

    Just as a great first impression can have a positive impact on a new hire, a positive final impression will remain with a worker long after their last day. This could look like throwing them a going-away party, writing a thank you card and/or providing them with a small parting gift. Plus, if an employee leaves on a high note, they may just boomerang back in the future.

    Remember that offboarding is more than filing paperwork. It’s about saying a proper goodbye and leaving a positive last impression. To do this you need to ensure you have the right processes in place and provide support to the employee to create a stress-free experience.

    We hope these insights have given you some ideas on how to create or improve your offboarding approach. And if you need extra support developing an offboarding (or onboarding!) plan, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team. We’d be happy to help you review your processes and craft an exemplary offboarding experience for your organization.

About ML6

ML6 is a recruitment and talent advisory firm located in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). We provide customized solutions to support our clients throughout the employee lifecycle. We help our clients attract and retain talent by advising on people programs, processes, and best practices.