If your organisation is in the business of attracting and retaining the right people for your business, you’ll understand the importance of delivering a great employee experience throughout their journey with you. 

As part of this, our focus as employers tends to be in delivering an effective onboarding process. It ensures that new employees get up to speed quickly and can contribute faster. And it shows that you care, from day one. But whilst onboarding gets plenty of attention, off-boarding receives far less attention. 

May be a lot of us end up thinking, “well, if they’re going, they’re going.” But off-boarding is key if you’re going to preserve all the good-will you’ve developed with your employees and retain a reputation as somewhere that’s great to work.

Not least, because you probably want the person who is leaving the business to be involved in the onboarding of their replacement – and you want that process to be an effective and positive one – because first impressions count!

What is off-boarding?

Off-boarding is the process around the formal separation of an employee from your company through resignation, termination or retirement. 

The process involves some practical stuff, like deactivating passwords and collecting equipment, for sure. But it should be seen as more that that. 

Transferring the departing employee’s job responsibilities to the new person should be a vital part of off-boarding (as long as they are a good leaver and not being dismissed) and, with that, transferring their knowledge and insights to the incoming employee.

Also, involving an exit interview is always a wise move – so you can learn how to improve things for current and future employees. 

What’s the difference between on-boarding and off-boarding?

Onboarding and offboarding refer to the beginning and end of the employee’s journey respectively. Employees join the business through the on-boarding process and leave through the off-boarding process.

According to Harvard Business Review, 90% of managers surveyed said they believed they were effective at implementing successful onboarding programmes. Contrary to that, only 10% of those admitted the same for off-boarding.

While onboarding and offboarding are two very different parts of an employee’s journey, they need to be similarly executed. Both need planning carefully with the required steps to be taken and right paperwork to be in place.

Generally speaking, the more time and care that you can put into these processes, the better the experience will be.

Why is off-boarding important?

With anyone leaving any business, there’s an element of uncertainty and risk – tied to the decision that led to the employee leaving. In the case of an employee resignation, the employer may wonder if there is any way they could have convinced the departing employee to stay.

And when employees are terminated or laid off, they may question their employer’s true motivations for letting them go. 

Without an effective off-boarding process –it can turn quickly into resentment from either party. An antagonist in the camp serves no purpose, if  they continue to work their notice they can upset other employees, or beyond their employment with negative comments to others, which can hurt your reputation as an employer and as someone to do business with.

An effective offboarding process on the other hand helps to reduce any productivity drops, offers a positive handover experience and will ensure the departing employee speaks highly to others long after they’ve moved on. 

What are some of the key benefits of an effective off-boarding process?

Understanding why people leave

When it comes to exit if  someone is resigning (as opposed to redundancy or retirement), it’s important to understand the motivations behind that resignation. It may be due to not enough personal development, too long hours, uncompetitive salary for the responsibilities or unreasonable demands.

Whatever the reasons, there’s an opportunity to learn from it so others don’t leave for the same reason.

Improving the Onboarding process

Often someone leaving means that they’ll be replaced by someone else, so you want the person leaving the business to be pivotal in bringing the new starter up to speed as quickly as possible.

You want that to be a positive experience for your new starters – and you’re not going to have that if the person departing is an unwilling participant in the process and disgruntled about how they’ve been treated. Your new starter is going to wonder what they’re let themselves in for.

Protecting your assets

During their tenure employees have access to your equipment and more significantly, these days, a lot of confidential data including pricing or customer data. What if an employee decides to take it with them to their next job? 

Rather than opting to clean the mess of reputation damage, you need to take measures to reduce the risk of compliance breaches through your off-boarding process, whether that’s by the retrieval of physical assets, access removal, amendments to their role during notice or wiping out sensitive dataThe steps need to be documented.

Have a clear post termination restriction clause and confidentiality clause in your employment contract from day one is also important and pointing out this clause and its limitations to a leaver is key. 

Preventing productivity drops

When an employee leaves, they’ll probably need to work some kind of notice. It’s common for departing employees to “have checked out” and that’s going to affect their productivity.

It’s important that you try to use this time effectively, rather than letting their remaining time with you drift. Involving them in recruiting and onboarding new employees, transferring their knowledge and training is a great opportunity to make the most of their final months or weeks, alongside a solid handover plan.  Aim to keep people engaged and keep their productivity up – until it’s time to go.

Keeping the door open

While an employee’s departure may be inevitable, do your very best to close the relationship on a positive note. If you haven’t, extend an offer to act as a good reference.. If it’s someone you’d like to see back, let them know.

You never know, by ensuring a positive farewell, they’re more likely to boomerang back, if things don’t exactly work out elsewhere. Exchange personal contact numbers and emails if its appropriate. 

Creating advocates, not antagonists 

People talk. They also use social media and sites like “Glassdoor” on whether they would recommend you as an employer – or not. A memorable farewell – through a well thought-through and positive off-boarding experience – will make former employees speak positively about their experience and this will, in turn, increase your attractiveness as an employer.

Who is responsible for off-boarding?

HR should own the offboarding process. If you don’t have HR – then it probably rests with, you, as a director or owner of the business. This is where an outsourced HR Consultants can help – because they can bring their expertise in creating an effective off-boarding process. They can also co-ordinate it by assigning offboarding tasks, as needed, and ensuring the process is followed.

Off-boarding is the responsibility of lots of different people in the business. It probably means involving IT managers, facilities and the person’s line manager so a well-documented off-boarding system is key.

How do you do off-boarding?

The most crucial aspect of a good employee offboarding process is to treat employees warmly, regardless of the reason behind their departure. Celebrate their achievements and make them feel appreciated for their efforts.

There are only positives – the likes of which we have talked about above – to be gained.

What is an off-boarding check-list?

An off-boarding check-list helps you to manage the off-boarding process efficiently by detailing all the tasks that need to be completed – and to see at a glance which activities have been finished and which are still outstanding.

Many of the cloud-based HR systems offer the functionality to automate the process in order to create a workflow that assigns the relevant people – and ensures everything is covered off before the employee leaves. 

Key tasks to be included are: 
  • Formally receive & accept resignation/ termination letter. 
  • Communicate exit to employees, customers and suppliers as soon as possible. 
  • Start the recruitment process or reorganising the work in the short term
  • Transfer knowledge. 
  • Recover organisational assets. 
  • Revoke organisation privileges and access. 
  • Update organizational chart, website, and other company information.

Looking For Help With Onboarding or Offboarding? Let’s talk.

Offboarding is resource-intensive as you can see, but necessary in the battle for talent and push for employee performance. Our HR consultants can help steer you through the process and reduce your time, effort and cost. If your business is looking for a helping hand with employee offboarding, or understanding how you can retain staff better, please get in touch.

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