What is employee offboarding?
Did you know that as many as 20% of security breaches come from ex-employees? Or that as many as 40% of employees would be willing to return to a previous job?
An effective employee exit process is more than just another HR process. It's an insurance policy against problems with former employees and a source of potential goodwill. If you offboard an employee the right way, it doesn't have to be a negative experience. A good exit process can bring many advantages to your company. There are many offboarding methods, but you will find the easiest one to implement below. It's not designed for all cases; if you have a more complex offboarding situation, you'll need to use a different process.
But what exactly is offboarding? And why is it essential to ensure a smooth transition out of your business?
What is offboarding, and what is it for?
Offboarding is the process that takes place when an employee leaves an organization. It follows a resignation, redundancy, retirement, or another form of employment termination such as a dismissal.
Offboarding is a beneficial process that can turn a potentially harmful experience into an opportunity to gain positive attention from former employees. In most offboardings, employees are given a chance to leave on good terms. They may be offered farewell drinks or a leaving gift.
How can offboarding help your company?
Every offboarding is beneficial to the business, but offboardings that are handled well can be extremely helpful to your business. Employees who quit their job rage against management or other employees. They may badmouth the company behind its back. If there were any legal disputes with an employee, offboarding helps resolve them quickly and avoids unfair dismissal claims.
Offboarding also helps build relationships with former employees who become potential customers. As many as 75% of U.S workers would give their friends a positive reference for a new employer. A bad leaving experience could damage these valuable connections.
A poor offboarding could even endanger your company's reputation in the eyes of regulators and investors.
When offboarding an employee, you must consider their role in the company and what severance package they are entitled to. You will also need to ensure that all company property is returned and that the employee's access to systems and data is terminated.
A well-planned exit process benefits a business by:
Creating a smooth and predictable process that treats all employees equally
Smooth exit processes don’t just benefit the employee; they benefit the organization too. By creating a system that requires the employee and the employee's supervisor to follow specific steps, HR can be certain everyone has gone through the same process. Not only does this mean the process is easier to follow, but it also helps reduce the chances of managers favoring some employees and discriminating against others. This makes employee offboarding an important way of protecting an organization against employment law claims.
Ensuring security for the organization
By following an exit process, an organization can be sure all steps are taken to ensure the physical and data security of the organization and its staff. It would be easy for an employee to take secret knowledge or data and sell it to competitors if left to chance. Equally, an unhappy ex-employee could use confidential data to harm existing employees.
The exit process should include the removal of all access to company data and systems, as well as a check that all company property has been returned.
This reduces the likelihood of leaving proces being used to steal company secrets or bribe former employees.
Support the employer branding
Ex-employees can be an essential tool in communicating an organization’s brand. If they have positive employment, followed by a positive leaving experience, this means they are more likely to share this information with others. Additionally, offboarding is a chance to encourage loyalty from employees. Documentation from offboarding should be shared with HR to broadcast success stories within the organization and support your employer brand by showing off both satisfied customers and satisfied ex-employees.
This makes it easier to attract future employees. They may even encourage job-seeking friends to apply for roles with the company. This can reduce hiring costs and make it easier to attract top-quality talent.
Building a talent pool outside the business
If used well, a leaving process can be an essential part of an organization's talent management system. By creating an alumni group, an organization can reach out to the alumni members and share job vacancies with them, with a view to them becoming boomerang employees.
This can help reduce hiring costs, as you may re-hire some former employees who have already proved themselves capable and reliable.
Hiring a returning employee has several benefits for a business and employee and is more likely if an organization has a well-developed leaving process.
Why is smooth offboarding important for employees?
As the opposite to onboarding, it’s easy to draw comparisons between these two ends of the employee lifecycle processes. An onboarding process welcomes new employees, and leaving process graciously says farewell to departing employees. This leaving process is often an employee’s last contact with the organization, it’s important to give offboarded employees a good experience. Good exit practices can help reduce attrition and improve workplace relations.
Just as with an onboarding process, using a formal employee exit process helps reduce complexity for the employee and managers creating a fairer and more predictable process.
A good exit process helps departing employees feel appreciated and positive. This is good for the employer brand and positively impacts company culture. If employees know they will be treated poorly once they hand in their notice, it creates a toxic atmosphere and decreases employee satisfaction across the business. There are many advantages to having an excellent leaving process in place.
From protecting the organization against employment law claims to supporting the employer brand and building a talent pool, employee offboarding should not be overlooked. Implementing an excellent exit process is one of an organization's best things to help employees.
If you can ensure employees leave you feeling optimistic about your company, this will enhance your employee brand. They’ll be more likely to recommend you to people in their network as an employer. They may even return as a boomerang employee.
An exit process is an essential part of any company’s talent management system.
10 steps to make an employee offboarding successfull
Depending on notice periods and the circumstances surrounding an employee’s departure, offboarding an employee can be done quickly or over a more extended period. However, a series of steps must be completed to ensure an employee is offboarded securely, fairly, and pleasantly. A good exit process should not be rushed. It’s essential to consider the individual circumstances surrounding an offboarding and address the employee's needs.
A typical employee exit checklist would cover the following:
- The employee hands in their resignation letter.
- Confirmation of the resignation, redundancy, retirement, or termination in writing
- Agreement of the leaving date with the employee and their core team
- Scheduling final pay information on the payroll system, ensuring benefits documentation is correct
- Handing work to the employee’s replacement or the rest of the team. Ensuring employee knowledge doesn't leave with that employee.
- Announcing the employee’s departure date to the broader business, clients, and suppliers.
- Conducting an exit interview.
- Giving a final farewell. The 'leaving speech' is a big deal for many employees and can be part of a positive employee experience.
- Collect company issued equipment, close accounts, and revoke systems access.
- Stay in touch with the former employee; enroll them into the company alumni scheme.
What tools can you use for better offboarding?
Depending on the size of an organization, offboarding can quickly become a complex procedure. This is especially true if multiple departments – such as finance, IT, and facilities – need to be involved. For this reason, using specific offboarding tools can help improve offboard employees more efficiently, helping ensure a smoother transition.
- HR software. A good HR software application will have the option to handle an employee exit process. Often part of a broader employee lifecycle management system that includes onboarding software, specialist HR software can help HR professionals manage the exit process smoothly for the benefit of both the employee and the organization. An offboarding software is an excellent addition to an exit process.
- Spreadsheets. Using a centrally accessed spreadsheet is a workable alternative if a company does not have HR software. Although spreadsheets are less flexible than specialist software, they can help the HR department support the exiting employee and share a standard process throughout the business.
- Project management tools. Using a tool such as Trello can support the exit process without HR software. These tools are easy to access by everyone involved.
- Checklists. Using an employee exit checklist helps ensure all essential details are taken care of. These can be housed within specific software or created separately and used independently
What are the mistakes to avoid when offboarding?
A poorly judged exit process affects more than the departing employee. A company loses the opportunity to arrange for successful knowledge transfer to other employees and may negatively affect employee engagement for that employee's co-workers. It can also cause bad feelings from remaining employees who resent the offboarded employee when focusing on high performance.
However, one of the biggest problems with poor offboarding is that the departing employee feels unappreciated. After their work and dedication, this can feel like a real blow. At a minimum, this can weaken a company’s employer brand and internal culture. It can also increase the risk of data breaches. Despite having signed a confidentiality agreement, unhappy ex-employees may risk sharing that information if they feel aggrieved.
Here are some of the most common mistakes a business can avoid in its employee exit process.
Treating the departing employee poorly
Just because someone has handed in their notice does not mean they become persona non grata. They were unkind to employees who are leaving sets a poor tone across an organization and damages the employer brand. Treating them as a “nuisance” or ignoring their exit process altogether will only be compounded if the offboarded employee decides to share any negativity with their friends and colleagues.
In addition, employers should not assume that those who are leaving have been involved in any wrongdoing. If you want to protect yourself from future claims of unfair dismissal, it is essential to be clear about the reasons for offboarding and document these.
Giving them extra work in their final days
When an experienced employee leaves, it’s tempting to get them to do as much as possible, especially when you consider the institutional knowledge that employee may have. However, this results in the employee feeling overwhelmed and taken advantage of. It’s a better idea to make sure your existing employees have the necessary skills to pick up the slack when that employee leaves.
Communicating with the departing employee and its entire department that they are offboarded on a set date can help avoid this issue.
Charging them for offboarding costs
Finally, an employer should cover exit costs, not passed on to a departing employee. Those exit expenses will vary from company to company depending on what is required and how much notice is given. But, as a guideline, exit costs should not be deducted from an employee's final paycheck or charged to them after they have left the company.
A well-executed exit process is vital for both the departing employee and the company. It ensures that all loose ends are tied up and that the employee feels appreciated and respected.
However, offboarding should cover the cost of things like outplacement services, administrative costs for leaving documents, and administering tasks such as completing employee file forms, storing equipment, or giving access to online accounts. Although it might be possible to bill employees for the value of laptops or other items that are not returned in good condition, this should be a last resort.
Charging them for leaving expenses is almost guaranteed to generate ill-feeling and resentment from offboarded employees who feel it could have been managed differently. It could also result in a claim under employment law.
Not asking them if they would reconsider their resignation
When an employee hands in their notice, it doesn’t automatically follow that they will leave. HR teams who ask whether an employee would be willing to stay can be successful. Employees who are leaving for more money, training, or a new role could be convinced to stay if given the right package.
You do not have to reopen the discussion if an offboarded employee has already agreed to resign. However, letting them know that you’re open to a debate could yield a positive result for both parties.
If they reconsidered and decided not to leave after all, then exit process should revert to how it was initially planned.
Not keeping in touch with former employees
Just because an employee has left doesn’t mean they cease to exist. Setting up an alumni scheme can be part of an overall positive experience, helping former employees connect with other alumni. Staying in touch also provides an important resource for future recruiting needs – the boomerang employees (individuals who go back to work for a former employer). There's another benefit of staying in touch and keeping track of ex-employees.
These employees can serve as a reference for current staff, and former employers may be more willing to serve as references if there’s an existing contact between them. An exit process should include the offboarded employee's information to not fade from memory. By doing so, an organization can reinforce a positive employer brand and attract potential future new hires.
No formal offboarding process
Although developing a formal employee exit process might seem like a task the HR department can do without, it’s an important way of ensuring fairness to a leaving employee and ensuring that all the details of the exit process are covered. This supports company security and can prevent potential legal issues in the future. When an exit process is not well thought out, it can lead to several administrative and financial headaches for the company. It also leaves the door open for disgruntled employees to take legal action.
Developing an exit process should be a collaborative effort between the HR department and managers. The exit process should be tailored to the company, the position, and the employee.
Failing to communicate the exit process properly
One of the biggest offboarding mistakes is not communicating the exit process properly to employees. This can lead to confusion and even resentment from co-workers who feel they have been left out of the loop. Although offboarding is a vital employee milestone, offboarded employees are still part of their working team.
They should be briefed on the end-of-employment process, including any risks to their colleagues. Team members need to be aware that offboarded employees may become disgruntled and even vindictive. The exit process should be communicated clearly and concisely to all individuals involved.
When everyone understands what is happening, it makes for a more orderly exit process. It can save time and energy and encourage a positive offboarding experience for the former employee.
Not conducting an exit interview
This powerful tool does more than tick a box. Exit interviews are a rich source of information, full of honest feedback that helps identify the real reasons for the employee handing in their notice.
They can help improve the exit process and prevent valuable staff from leaving. Exit interviews can be a chance to learn what is going wrong in your exit process and gain some valuable insight into why an employee wanted to offboard.
The offboarding process starts when you first hire a new person, but it kicks off on their last day. A carefully planned offboarding process will help you retain key staff, protect your company’s security, and maintain a positive employer brand. By ensuring that your exit process is smooth, fair, and coherent, you can reduce the chances of legal issues and make the process a positive experience for everyone involved.
Although it could feel tempting to rely on an exit survey, the exit interview is part of that employee's experience and will contribute to a company's brand. Looking for a guide on holding exit interviews? Read our blog 'Your Guide to Better Exit Interview Questions.
Relying on the departing employee to train new employees
Some organizations use the time in an employee’s notice period as an opportunity for that employee to train their replacement. After all, they have all that institutional knowledge; why not use the time for some much-needed knowledge transfer?
However, this can be a bad idea. The employee who is leaving may have other tasks they need to complete before leaving, and training their replacement may add to a sense of pressure, creating disillusionment in their final days. Not only that but if the employee is leaving with a bad view of your company, putting them in direct contact with a new employee means they can pass their discontent on and weaken company culture.
Not collecting employee equipment quickly
All companies should have a process to recover company assets and access rights promptly. From laptop and uniform to keyfob and employee pass, ensuring these items of company property are handed back in before the employee's leaving date reduces the chances of future breaches. Company equipment such as company credit cards and subscriptions to SaaS products, magazines, websites, and so on should also be canceled before the employee departs.
Forgetting about BYOD devices
With the rise in BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), employers can easily forget about the data and access to company systems that employees may have on their devices. Therefore, organizations should ensure all systems access rights are canceled, not just those registered to company property. With this exit process in place, when the offboarded employee is finished with their notice period and departs from your organization, they cannot rejoin after a few weeks off.
Shutting down an employee's access too early
Occasionally departmental managers can be too keen to process cancelations, resulting in the employee leaving without network access, emails, or even access to the building. This can be a PR disaster for a company, especially if the departing employee is leaving under negative circumstances. For this reason, it’s essential to ensure that an exit process flowchart includes timeframes as well as tasks.
Spending precious time developing and implementing an employee offboarding checklist will never be a waste of time. Not only will this support the security of your business and employees, but it can also be a way to ensure the future success of your business.
By handling offboarding professionally and organizationally, you can avoid any potential legal ramifications and create a good experience for all those involved.
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