Believe it or not, a business’s offboarding strategy can also impact them positively or negatively—depending on the approach. While paying extra attention to employees who are leaving a company might seem like a waste of time, there are important reasons to do so. Departing team members can highlight strategies for improvement within the organization, and for retaining the best talent.
Here’s why your company’s offboarding strategy deserves as much attention as your onboarding, as well as steps to improve the employee exit process.
What is Employee Offboarding?
Employee offboarding relates to the process that takes place when a team member hands in their resignation and their official departure from the company.
An HR team’s responsibilities during this time include:
- Facilitating the handover of company equipment (e.g., computers, mobile devices, etc.)
- Gathering feedback on the employee’s time with the company, and how the company could improve
- Going through all the necessary procedures to end the employment relationship.
For your company, a strategic offboarding routine has huge benefits, including:
- Protecting the company from possible legal issues that may arise, such as unfair dismissal
- Having a smoother transition from the old employee to a new hire in terms of time, training, and finances
- Gathering useful feedback that will help improve your offboarding strategy and approach to employee engagement going forward
However, when a staff member talks about resigning, remember that their departure may not yet be a foregone conclusion.
According to the Work Institute’s 2020 Retention Report, three in four employee turnovers were preventable among participants in 2019. Many of their stated reasons for leaving would not be difficult to avoid.
With this in mind, HR teams can discuss measures that might encourage them to stay. This is especially true when it comes to issues such as work-life balance.
Ways that HR teams can encourage employees to stay extend beyond offering a pay rise alone. Employees might be convinced by changing their job characteristics so they’re doing more meaningful work. Offering greater flexibility in where and when they can work could also help.
Your Responsibilities During Employee Offboarding
When a new employee is being introduced into a company, the focus is on getting them up to speed with existing systems and processes. Conversations will take place to position the new team member in the new environment and begin to assign them tasks and responsibilities.
HR plays a significant role when an employee decides to leave the company. Beyond gathering all company-owned equipment and devices, and collaborating with IT to cancel any account access, steps should also be taken to ensure the outgoing employee finishes their existing work.
The outgoing employee may require guidance on wrapping up projects in progress, and their responsibilities need to be reassigned. To accomplish this, team leaders and colleagues from within the company need to be involved to delegate tasks accordingly. Essential team members should be included in these conversations.
When an employee is ready to leave, companies also have a responsibility to provide any necessary paperwork and answer any pay or tax-related questions the departing staff member may have. References for the outgoing employee can also be provided where appropriate.
There is one offboarding responsibility HR departments often miss: learning from the experience. If the company and employee have concluded that their employment relationship has come to an end, there is a golden opportunity to gather information and insight that can benefit the company, and retain top talent in the future.
Reasons an Offboarding Strategy is Just as Important as Onboarding
A company’s offboarding strategy is just as essential as onboarding for various reasons. These range from how the organization is perceived by both employees and the industry, to how sales are affected going forward. However, according to statistics cited by SHRM, fewer than 30% of organizations have an official offboarding process. Many factors play a role, ranging from a lack of education to insufficient resources.
Departing employees can continue to be ambassadors for a company if this opportunity is nurtured correctly. On the flip side, they may become your most prominent critics, possibly exposing your business to a number of risks.
Here are the key reasons to pay attention to strategy when employees leave.
Improved Industry Reputation
It may seem like a departing employee is no longer a problem, especially if they had a negative working experience. However, the reality is very different, and companies need to prepare accordingly.
A solid offboarding strategy helps to improve a business’s industry reputation and shows workers and company stakeholders the importance of a smooth employee offboarding experience. It can also encourage former employees to recommend a previous workplace to others. Word of mouth spreads fast, whether it is positive or negative.
A company with a solid reputation has an easier time attracting better talent in the future, while positioning itself as an attractive option for clients and customers.
Gain Essential Feedback
No employee offboarding strategy is going to be perfect from the start. A lack of experience will inevitably lead to mistakes and frustrating failures.
The best way to improve the offboarding strategy is by hearing what previous employees have to say. They will often mention gaps that were not noticed and pain points that need addressing.
Employee feedback can be gained in a variety of ways. One standard method is the exit interview. As the name suggests, these kinds of discussions are designed for both parties to exchange information.
In an exit interview, it’s wise to ask the employee questions like:
- What did you like about the company culture?
- What did you dislike?
- Why are you leaving the company?
- What areas do you think need improving, and how?
- How did you feel about the relationship with your manager and if the management style could be improved?
Feedback can be requested through quick surveys and questionnaires, and HR teams can use it to tweak their policies. Complete these steps for all exit interviews and employee departures. Before long, a thriving company culture and internal engagement strategy will be achieved.
Former Employees Could Become Customers
When an employee leaves the company, that isn’t necessarily the end of the relationship. The business still has a product or service to sell. Other people need solutions, and there’s a chance that the outgoing employee might be one of them.
Compassion and respect should feature at the core of any successful offboarding strategy. Showing outgoing employees that they are important, even after they leave the company, will go a long way in maintaining a positive relationship.
For B2C companies, departing employees may believe in the products or services so much that they choose to invest in them. In the B2B space, their new employer might need the solutions on offer. Any departing employee can choose to provide referrals—or not.
Possible Future Collaboration
While an employee might be on their way out, that doesn’t mean their goodbye is permanent. If the working relationship has been good and you get along well, there’s always a chance that you might work together again in the future.
Ultimately, people want to help others they like. If an offboarding strategy is poorly prepared, bridges may be burned. When talented employees leave, it’s wise to remain on good terms.
Employees might return due to:
- Moving back into the local area after leaving
- Wanting to be a part of their previous employer’s vision again
- The job they left for turned out to be a mismatch and didn’t work out
Having a solid offboarding strategy allows employees to leave on good terms, keeping open the possibility of future collaboration.
How to Create an Effective Offboarding Strategy
Putting together an offboarding strategy from scratch may seem daunting—especially if the HR team has never considered it. Here are the most critical areas to consider when developing an efficient offboarding strategy.
Invest in the Right Software
Putting together an offboarding strategy used to be a lot more complex than it is today. With the software available today, such as an applicant tracking system, HR teams can have all the help they need to complete administrative tasks, freeing them up to engage with staff—both remaining and outgoing—on the more human aspects of human resources.
Surveying software is an easy way to gather opinions. It provides the detailed feedback needed to make strategic changes.
There are numerous benefits related to using surveying software, compared to carrying them out in person. These include:
- Lower costs
- Less time wasted
- Gathering data in one place
With surveying software, all the needed information is both easily accessible and secure.
The workflow automation market is expected to have a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.8% up to 2025. As HR teams and broader businesses look to improve their efficiency wherever possible, this is unsurprising. Automation software works hand-in-hand with time-tracking technology. Once you know which tasks are eating up most of your time, you can outsource and cut out the manual work as much as possible.
Time-tracking software is a technology that allows staff—including HR teams— to keep an eye on where time is going each day.
According to the Independent, employees in the UK felt that they were spending the equivalent of 76 working days on “pointless” tasks each year. And if you’re feeling disjointed in any area of your offboarding strategy, the chances are that you’re doing likewise.
Once you know where your time is going, you can eliminate or automate lower-priority tasks. You’ll have more time to work on the essentials. For HR teams, this means having the time to connect with personnel, maintain a positive workspace, and navigate staff departures.
Consider Business Objectives
When business goals are not understood any strategy will be ineffective. The goals of an organization’s offboarding strategy must be clearly defined. Consider the type of workspace being created—not just how much revenue will be generated each year. Managing the closure of working relationships with professionalism preserves an organization’s reputation and status, and having concrete steps to follow during what can be a stressful process helps ensure success.
Keep Things Confidential
Departing employees have considerable knowledge of the workplace, and have likely been privy to sensitive information. If that is leaked, the consequences could be enormous. In the departure process, consider including a copy of the nondisclosure agreement that the employee signed at the beginning of their contract.
It’s also important to remind the employee how all shared information will be used. Mention that it is purely to gain feedback and improve your business strategies, and it will not be made public.
During the offboarding process, transparency is important. It’s essential for the employee to provide feedback on what they think their team and company could do better, as well as receiving feedback from their manager.
When conducting exit interviews, review the employee’s performance while in the company. Acknowledge and congratulate them on any growth or achievements that were accomplished. Where appropriate, provide constructive feedback on how they can improve and grow going forward.
Treat Your Outgoing Employees the Same as New Hires
Employee offboarding is often overlooked. As such, many HR teams make mistakes that damage company culture, morale, and reputation. Having an offboarding strategy is essential for gaining feedback and ending an employment relationship on good terms. It’s possible to end up collaborating with that employee again in the future.
To create an effective offboarding strategy, understand your business objectives and company culture ambitions. Having a schedule and strategy for administrative tasks gives staff and management time to learn from the experience and implement positive changes. In time, your company could enjoy higher retention rates and better satisfaction.
Dean Mathews is the founder and CEO of OnTheClock, an employee time tracking app that helps over 10,000 companies all around the world track time.
Corban OneSource is a Mid Market Human Resource Outsourcer or HRO for companies of 75 to 6,000 employees. Are you looking to outsource the core HR functions of Payroll, Benefits Administration and HR Support? Find out more here.