You know onboarding can be the key to helping a great hire fit in.
But just like the right onboarding strategies will get your employee up to speed, you’ll need to end the working relationship in a positive way and tie up all loose ends.
Today, we’ll share the best strategies for employee offboarding, how to do it right, and what tips to follow to show the departing employee your appreciation and ensure a seamless transition.
What is employee offboarding?
Put simply, employee offboarding is the process you’ll follow when an employee leaves the company. The term refers to all kinds of offboarding processes, but you’ll probably have different steps depending on whether your employee has resigned, been laid off, fired, or is retiring.
With remote employees, offboarding can be a challenge. Rather than depending on email, invest in modern tools like a VoIP business phone system and other collaboration software to guarantee a personal touch throughout the process.
Why is employee offboarding important?
Employee offboarding is critical both for the employee and the company. It can help the company transition smoothly to whoever will be taking over the role of the departing employee, and it can ensure the employee finalizes any projects and loose ends and leaves on a positive note.
1. Create a positive employee experience
Our final impressions greatly influence how we perceive an entire experience. Ending an employee’s time with your business on a positive note can dramatically impact their overall impression of the company.
Those former employees can return, and leaving on a high note can help define the culture at your workplace and ensure a positive experience for everyone.
2. Reinforce the employers’ brand
Your employees, both past and present, are ambassadors for the company. Not only will they share their experience with your business with friends and acquaintances, but today they have an outsized influence on social media.
An employee’s praise or criticism on LinkedIn or Glassdoor can have a lasting impact on your brand. Answer any employees' questions, reinforce the positive, and resolve any ongoing differences before they leave.
3. Reduce security risks
Once an employee has left the company, have a clear offboarding process that removes the former employee’s access to tools and software they needed while working in the company.
This ensures you keep resources protected, reduces the probability of identity theft or data leakage, and can make sure no important documents or correspondence are lost in transit.
4. Easier compliance
Depending on your country or state, you probably have specific requirements for how to handle former employees. From severance pay to unemployment benefits to transferring retirement accounts, it’s always better to have a process in place ahead of time rather than patch it together when the first employee leaves.
5. Gain valuable feedback
Finally—and perhaps most importantly—every employee who leaves can provide the insight you need to run the business well. Current employees might sugarcoat their responses, but employees on their way out usually feel freer to express themselves.
Ask probing questions to understand what about your organization exceeded their expectations, what areas could be improved, and what factors influenced their decision to leave (if applicable). Candid feedback might be difficult to hear, but implementing it can improve your business, making exit interviews essentials.
Employee offboarding tools
The right offboarding process involves the right tools. Using a set of applications that work seamlessly with your business processes can make everything run smoothly.
On the other hand, tools that don’t integrate can slow everything down and make the workflow more difficult than it needs to be.
1. Project management tool
Offboarding involves several steps you’ll need to coordinate across different departments in a relatively short time—sometimes in as little as a day or two.
A project management tool can help you assign tasks, monitor progress, and make sure you execute each step for the departing employee.
2. Video conferencing tools
Today’s employees are spread around the world, but the best exit interviews are still live—just on a call or video meeting instead of face-to-face.
Invest in a high-quality business phone system for secure, reliable calls with employees in the office or working remotely. Prepare a set of quality exit interview questions to help make the transition as smooth as possible.
3. Survey Software
In the case of bigger businesses—or anytime multiple employees leave at the same time, like with a layoff—it’s a good idea to collect the answers to a few similar questions.
The survey software will help you conduct a professional, private exit survey and provide a detailed analysis you can use to improve your business process for offboarding and in other areas across the organization.
4. Compiling exit survey data
Once you've collected the answers from your survey, you’ll want to compile them in your human resources management system (HRMS).
This helps keeps everything in one place and can ensure you have detailed information from former employees. This can be particularly important if there’s ever a question about how their dismissal was handled.
5. Digital signature software
Employees who step away from your company will need to sign papers to finalize their decision. Choose an online document signing software to request, collect and archive legally binding signatures on any necessary documents.
Not only are digital signatures best for remote workers, but they’re also indispensable for simplifying paperwork and reducing overhead.
6. Task management tool
In addition to a project management tool, which is built for assigning and tracking projects, a task management tool can help you coordinate the checklists, templates, and workflows you’ll need to use every time.
Store the step-by-step processes to follow in one of these platforms and include templates you can edit as necessary for each departing employee.
Employee offboarding best practices
Sending an employee off can be relatively painless, even if the departure isn’t under the best of circumstances. The key is to make sure you and your team are following best practices to ensure the transition is handled correctly.
1. Conduct exit interviews
Having a planned exit interview is one of the best ways to get your employee’s feedback on how the company can improve and, if relevant, what could be done to keep future employees.
An exit interview is just for learning, not convincing the employee to stay or sharing feedback on their performance. Have a set of defined questions to ask, but don’t be afraid to go off script to learn more about the specifics that can improve your organization.
2. Reset and revoke accounts and access to internal systems
You should immediately restrict an employee’s access to internal accounts once the employee has officially left the company. While most companies focus on protecting themselves from a rogue former employee, it can also work the other way. A former employee who still has access to company data that was never revoked puts them at risk as well.
3. Secure intellectual property and data
Ideally, you’ll have employees sign non-disclosure agreements and other contracts before they start working for you. But before they leave, it’s time to review any files and make sure they’re up-to-date with all requirements you have to protect your intellectual property and data.
4. Essential paperwork and reporting requirements
Every region has its own reporting requirements. Make sure you’re squared away with these needs and have made all necessary reports to federal and state agencies as applicable.
Spending some time reviewing these mandates before someone leaves the organization can save time and hassle—not to mention costly legal expenses—down the road.
5. Have your employee create a transition plan
Essentially, a transition plan is something of a bookmark for the role the employee will be leaving. It should outline the projects they’re currently working on, which tasks they’ll complete before they leave, and where their replacement will pick up once they’ve transitioned away.
A good transition plan should also include lists of recurring daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly duties so these kinds of tasks are handled accordingly after the employee leaves.
6. Prepare knowledge transfer and training a replacement
Chances are, someone else will be taking over your employee’s responsibilities once they leave. Build a transition plan that ensures you can move those tasks from the departing employee to their replacement in a way that’s smooth and reduces downtime as much as possible.
If you have the opportunity, have the employee who’s leaving provide mentoring and training to their replacement. And before they leave, make sure they’ve turned in all the documents and processes they’ve used to manage their workflow so you can move their responsibilities to someone else.
7. Make it a positive experience
For employees who are leaving on good terms—even if that includes a layoff or downsizing—work to create a positive environment in their final days and weeks at the firm.
It’s important to consider the tone and circumstances. A virtual party for an employee who’s retiring might be appropriate, but it’s probably not the best move after a round of layoffs.
8. Collect equipment and send a goodbye package
If you’ve provided the employee with any equipment, coordinate how they’ll return it to the company. And it’s always a good idea to end the business relationship with a friendly goodbye package.
9. Process final payroll
Don’t forget to process the final paychecks for someone who’s left. Consider any local regulations about what you need to require for these final payments, such as severance pay.
And also be sure to communicate with the employee any policies regarding bonuses or commissions before they get the last check. Set clear expectations early on to prevent issues later on.
10. Schedule a farewell video call
Apart from your exit interview, consider scheduling a farewell call with your employee to see how they’re doing after they’ve moved to a new place. It’s a good idea to schedule this in advance—before they leave the business—so they aren’t left to wonder why you’re reaching out suddenly after they’ve left.
11. Offer to send out reference letters and recommendations
Employees who are moving away from the company will always need further help in the form of references and recommendations.
Whether that happens immediately after, as you help them find a new job, or you stay as one of their favored references during their career, it’s a meaningful way to help that can leave a real impact. It’s an act of goodwill for any employee, but especially those you’ve had to lay off and want to help find a new place.
12. Stay in touch
Finally, for employees that have left on good terms, stay in contact. There are always ways you can help them grow in their careers, even after they’ve stopped working with you.
Understanding that and being willing to help even when there’s nothing for you to gain in return can be the best lasting gift you can give to a former employee who’s moved on to a new opportunity.
The final word on remote employee offboarding
With these strategies, best practices, and tools, you can create an offboarding policy that works for your outgoing employees.
It’s never easy to say goodbye to someone who’s worked with the company, but with the right practices in place, you can make the transition flow smoothly and prevent many of the hard feelings we often associate with someone leaving.
All it takes is planning, testing, and executing an offboarding process that creates a seamless transition for the company and employees alike.