Taking the Off-Ramp: A Guide to Offboarding Exiting Employees

You probably already have an onboarding strategy in place. It likely involves employee training, perhaps some mentorship opportunities, and general ways to help employees feel welcome and help them learn about your corporate culture.Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 10.19.58 AM

What about an offboarding strategy? Chances are pretty high that you don’t have one of those, and you may wondering what’s the point?

Why worry about what’s happening when an employee is leaving your company? Don’t they become fairly irrelevant at that point?

The short answer is no.

Many talent management professionals believe offboarding is as important, if not more important than onboarding.

We’ll explore what offboarding is, why it’s important and how you can implement a successful strategy.

An Overview of Offboarding

Offboarding refers to the process you use to handle employees leaving your company, whether they’re moving on, retiring, they’re fired, or they’ve been laid off.

It refers to a process by which a company handles how their employees leave, ranging from exit interviews to protecting intellectual property.

As Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies grow increasingly common in the workplace, it can also refer to how these situations are handled—i.e. wiping an employee’s device when they depart.

In its simplest terms, offboarding refers to those administrative guidelines in place to manage an exit. If you don’t have a strategy in place, it can be problematic in so many areas, ranging from being damaging to your employee brand to bringing about legal or compliance issues.

Advantages of a Strategic Offboarding Plan

Still not sure whether this is something worth investing in, as part of your larger talent management strategy? Consider some of the following advantages of having these plans in place:

  • When you have an offboarding strategy, it saves time regarding the administrative processes necessary when an employee leaves. It streamlines everything and makes it simpler, and improves compliance while reducing the likelihood of mistakes being made.
  • Just because an employee is leaving doesn’t mean they won’t continue to be a valuable resource. Exiting employees may return in the future, as boomerang employees are increasingly common in the workplace, and they may also serve as an excellent brand ambassador or source of referrals for new employees. Even if an employee doesn’t return full time, they may become a freelancer or consultant for you in the future. Just as an employee doesn’t want to damage a relationship with a previous employer, the same should hold true for you. You don’t want to burn bridges because you never know what the future holds, so cultivate a strong relationship as that employee leaves.
  • Speaking of brand ambassadors, you can’t afford to have employees leave with a bad impression. You should try to do whatever you can to leave employees with a positive feeling about your business. Otherwise, they can take their anger or frustration to the Internet to share their negative thoughts. This will make it significantly harder to recruit top talent in the future if there’s widespread online information talking about how horrible it is to work for your business.
  • There are important issues that need to be discussed as part of exiting and this can include, as we mentioned, intellectual property, as well as non-competes, non-solicitation and non-disclosure agreements. If this is something relevant to your business, your onboarding strategy is the place to include these. As your employees leave they may not even know the standards and regulations they’re to uphold unless you tell them.
  • You can learn from offboarding. If you want to reduce your turnover rate, one of the best places to look is to those employees who are leaving. Find out why they’re leaving to uncover things you could do differently in the future. Employees might not be comfortable giving less-than-favorable feedback when they’re still working at a company, which is why offboarding is the perfect time to get this information.
  • You’ll reduce the risk of lawsuits. Firing someone or having them leave the company can be tricky, and may lead to wrongful termination or discrimination litigation. When you have a standardized and well-recorded offboarding process in place, this can help reduce that likelihood. You’ll have a streamlined way for dealing with necessary documentation, and you’ll be better able to demonstrate compliance.

Creating an Offboarding Strategy

Below are some essential guidelines to help you as you consider the creation of an offboarding strategy:

  • Don’t create a strategy that relies on a former employees’ direct manager handling the process or the exit interview. Even if an employee is leaving on his or her own, there can be tension between that person and their manager. This tension can prevent the offboarding experience from being as productive or valuable as it could be. For example, the employee may not be willing to share his or her true feelings about why they’re leaving. Therefore, you won’t be able to derive valuable information to help the future of your talent management strategy. Use someone who’s as neutral as possible to conduct exit interviews and other aspects of offboarding, for example, a human resources representative.
  • Create a written plan and defined procedures. When you’re designing an offboarding strategy, you should consider a timeline, such as when you’ll start and how long it should take, what you want to include and the areas of focus, such as having employees sign a non-compete. This will help you standardize the process and make it more useful.
  • Include everyone. Don’t just offboard people who are leaving for a new job. Every employee who leaves should go through offboarding, from fired employees to retirees. All of this feedback is valuable, as is the ability to better manage your employer brand across the entire company.
  • Consider creating an alumni group. If you want to build your employer brand, remain connected with former employees and expand your network of possible future employees, alumni groups can be an excellent way to do this.

These are just a few strategy tips, but the one certainty to remember is that you need offboarding. Even if you’re a small business, it can be valuable, and also prevent future headaches, such as the theft of intellectual property, or disgruntled employees.

Do you have an offboarding strategy in place?

April 4, 2016   Updated :November 16, 2016   offboarding, termination   

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