This guide covers the process of offboarding, why it's so imperative to your company, and shows you which best practices to use in your process. Here, we will teach you how to establish an offboarding program within your organization.
- What is offboarding?
- Offboarding importance and benefits
- How offboarding can help in different cases
- Offboarding process with best practices
What is offboarding?
Offboarding is a process that completes the end of a professional relationship between an employee and the company they work for.
Whereas onboarding provides a smooth transition into the company, offboarding provides a smooth transition out of the company.
For the HR department, this means preparing all the paperwork, transferring responsibilities or looking for replacements, deactivating accounts and access rights, conducting exit interviews, and other necessary final actions.
These are some of the most common causes for initiating the offboarding process:
- Contract termination
- Personal reasons
- Death (or illness)
Offboarding importance and benefits
Offboarding allows employers the opportunity to ensure the private company information stays private and secure.
Employees leaving the company may need to sign certain disclosures and hand over access to certain accounts.
The IT department may also need to delete account information and change pertinent information to prevent further data access once the employee leaves the company.
2. Employer reputation
Even when an employee chooses to leave the company, their overall impression of their experience is important.
While these employees are moving on, they still might recommend friends or family to the company if they see their time at the company as positive overall.
Not only that, but word of mouth spreads quickly, and offboarding is a chance to give people something positive to say about how their time ended.
3. Returning employees
Once an employee leaves an organization, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the professional relationship is done forever.
Most HR departments report that they’re willing to rehire around 76% of the returning employees that inquire. In much the same way, around 40% of former employees say they would consider returning to a job they’ve worked in the past.
According to Skynova study, returned employees also bring a lot of benefits:
- 42% of returning employees perform on the same level as before, while 38% slightly improve their performance.
- Around 55% of returning employees were slightly satisfied or significantly more satisfied after returning back to the same workplace.
Currently, about 15% of former employees actually do return to a company they previously worked for, and a successful offboarding program can increase the chances for employers.
4. Knowledge management
Knowledge management is important in any scenario, and even more so when an employee with valuable knowledge and experience is preparing to leave the company.
Without any preparation and any offboarding process, this valuable knowledge leaves the company as soon as the employee does.
Timely offboarding allows companies the chance to preserve this knowledge and transfer it to other employees (i.e. keep it within the company).
How offboarding can help in different cases
When layoffs happen, it typically involves more than one employee. While companies do encounter different circumstances that require layoffs, the reasons are often financial or because a company is downsizing.
Most recently, the COVID 19 pandemic has provided another example of the need for offboarding because of layoffs.
In such a case as with layoffs, the main goal of offboarding is to help employees with finding a new job, providing them all needed help, compensation, recommendations, and so on.
On the other hand for the company, it is important to secure their information, assets, and equipment as well as mitigate risks to the company’s reputation.
In ideal circumstances, employees enjoy a long career within their company and after reaching a certain age, they retire.
In this case, offboarding helps to send the employee off in a good way. But most importantly, the company usually knows when a certain employee is going to retire. So for the company, it is important to organize a proper knowledge management process to secure the knowledge of this experienced employee.
This is a huge problem nowadays, especially in the IT, manufacturing, aerospace, and engineering industries.
Another goal is to organize proper succession planning for retiring employee position, so the key role won’t affect the organization’s performance.
Offboarding doesn’t always happen as a result of the employee choosing to leave the company. In some instances, the employee’s relationship must be terminated (i.e. they are fired).
In many cases, this doesn’t offer much time for planning offboarding (although a direct plan for any offboarding) should still be established ahead of time), as the reasons behind employee termination often involve a betrayal of the company or contribution to a hostile work environment. With a plan already in place, the only necessary adjustment is to accelerate the process.
For such cases, companies should have a clear and strict offboarding process. HRs must act quickly especially in cases of betrayal or harmful actions against the company property, assets, information, etc.
The main step in these cases must be deactivating all accounts and securing the company assets. After all that, paperwork can be done according to typical company practices.
And of course, in cases when a work contract was agreed upon, for instance, if it was a seasoned work or fixed contract work, then proper farewell can help bring this employee back in the future.
Death (or illness)
In cases where an employee dies or has a serious illness, offboarding is a more urgent matter.
While the offboarding may not involve the employee directly, in cases such as death, it will involve planning a successor or hiring a new employee. This is especially crucial for key roles so you should at least have a succession plan for them.
In such a dramatic case, offboarding can help HRs to stay focused, prepare all necessary information, express condolences to the family, help other employees to handle the stress or grief, and maybe provide some mental help or counseling for them.
Employees also leave companies for personal reasons outside of those already mentioned. For example, employees may leave for a better paying job, employees may leave to relocate, handle family issues, or may simply seek a different career path.
In these cases, employers need to tie up loose ends, like changing account and password information or signing non-compete contracts.
In most cases, you will need to transfer responsibilities and find a substitute or hire a new employee.
Of course, in such cases, the company should try to secure the valuable employee and try to keep him in the company, but this is not always possible.
Proper offboarding can help save good relationships between employee and employer. HRs should conduct an exit interview and organize a farewell for the leaving employee.
Offboarding process with best practices
While you can create your own step-by-step offboarding process, these are steps you can use in the beginning.
1. Prepare checklists and guidelines for all involved parties
Prepare instructions and guidelines for HR specialists, admins, and all involved parties and write down their responsibilities, so they won’t miss anything.
That would include things like administrational offboarding documents, which should include things like who deletes a person from which system, who informs SDM’s, managers, and other parties, who carry out exit interviews, etc.
Offboarding checklists examples
Depending on the reason for offboarding, there are different items to take care of, which we list below in our offboarding checklists.
1. Retirement and personal reasons
- Final payment and paperwork
- Training replacement, retaining valuable knowledge
- Collect company equipment and property
- Exit interview
- Removing access and accounts
- Goodbye gathering/farewell coffee
2. Employee termination
- Notify employee and relevant management
- Have all parties sign and fill out the relevant paperwork
- Obtain any loaned company equipment
- Revoke employee access to company accounts, software, and even other items such as card keys
- Clear old accounts and data from used equipment such as laptops
- Set a date for the employee to gather their last paycheck
- If possible, try to conduct an exit interview
- Notify affected employees of intended layoffs
- Explain the reasons behind the new changes
- Give employees a final date
- Sign paperwork and plan for final payroll
- Gather company equipment
- Wipe computers and accounts
- Exit interviews
- Necessary paperwork, payments to a family if applicable
- Finding an immediate successor
- Removing accounts, retrieving company equipment
- Memorial moment if appropriate
2. Identify the offboarding case and needs
As we mentioned, the reasons that employees leave an organization greatly vary from case to case.
Depending on the reason the employee leaves, there are different steps you need to take going forward with offboarding.
For example, if an employee dies, you urgently need to implement succession plans. On the other hand, if the employee has taken or distributed sensitive company information, security concerns need to be addressed as soon as possible.
Determine the reason behind the employee leaving, and let that reason guide your offboarding process.
You need to alert pertinent parties and give them the information they need for their parts in the offboarding process. That may mean letting supervisors know what paperwork they need to sign if they need to complete performance reviews, etc.
However, it’s also important to remember that the employee is the center of this. Therefore, you also need to keep them ‘in the know’ about timelines and steps in the offboarding process.
The more everyone knows, the more everyone can prepare- which ultimately results in a much smoother offboarding for everyone involved
3. Begin substitution process if necessary
Depending on the employee’s time and position at the company, it may be crucial to find a replacement before they leave.
This may mean seeking a new employee to hire altogether, or finding a suitable replacement within the company.
Once you find the substitute, you will need to initiate their training, and ideally, have the employee that will be leaving pass on some of their knowledge to the replacement employee.
4. Collect company property, erase computers and accounts
When the employee is about to leave the company, it’s crucial to ensure you gather any company supplies and equipment of value they were allowed to use during their time at the job.
Ideally, you can check company records and see what equipment was loaned to the employee during the start of their job.
If your company provides computers or personal accounts for its employees, these need to be reset and wiped clean of any personal data so they’re ready to use for the next employee.
5. Deactivate accounts, remove access
On their last day, you will need to remove the employee’s accounts from the company systems.
This may include accounts for a specific software or even email addresses on the company server. Other items of access that will need to be removed or deactivated include door entry security badges or entry codes.
For EU companies, it is important to not forget about the deletion of personal data according to the GDPR. So review the local laws in the area your company operates in, and act accordingly.
6. Sign paperwork and final payment
Start with the employee’s anticipated last day. From there, build a timeline for your offboarding process to ensure you can complete everything on your checklist. Keep in mind that some items on your list, like paperwork, will take longer and may need more than one signature to finalize.
Determine when the employee’s last day will be, and plan payroll accordingly. You will also need to ensure all relevant people in management are also aware that the employee will be leaving.
This step is where you initiate any final paperwork that needs to be completed before the employee leaves the organization. They may need to sign confidentiality contracts, security disclosures, and be informed of any final legal matters to address.
7. Exit interview
Conduct an exit interview before the employee leaves the company.
This is basically the inverse of an initial job interview. To learn more about exit interviews, how to conduct them, and what questions to ask, see our article about Exit Interviews.
These interviews give you a chance to end the professional relationship while also gaining valuable information that can help benefit your company and future employees.
When the employee leaves on good terms, why not ask them to recommend others to fill open positions at the company? If that employee was a valuable asset, there’s a good chance you can trust their judgment to recommend suitable additions to the company.
Ask the employee not only for potential leads on new employees but also ways to improve the company itself.
8. Organize a ‘farewell’
Organizing a farewell for an employee leaving the company can be as simple as getting their department together for a coffee or leaving out cookies to celebrate their time with the organization.
In some cases, these little get-togethers may not be appropriate (i.e. if the company fires the employee for misconduct). However, in instances where the employee is retiring or has had a long tenure at the company, it gives everyone a chance to say goodbye and shows the employee that the company appreciates their hard work.
9. Keep evolving your process
Like onboarding, the offboarding process is something that shouldn’t be created and forgotten about. Continue to grow your offboarding program.
While consistency is one key to a streamlined process, keep in mind that the best business practices always leave room for improvement.
While changes may take some time to implement, accept newer, more efficient ways to offboard. For example, if there’s a new messaging system, use it to notify management of the offboarding timeline, rather than rely on memos that may not be seen for several days.