Learn about the offboarding process, why your company needs it, and how to create one that works for you. Discover how offboarding and onboarding differ.
Managing an employee’s departure can feel like walking through a minefield — one wrong step and things could explode. The process is fraught with potential pitfalls, from legal complexities to the emotional dynamics of saying farewell. All in all, offboarding is more than just a goodbye.
In this guide, we'll cover what an offboarding process is, why it's important, and how to offboard an employee.
What is the offboarding process? 🤔
Offboarding means helping an employee leave a company or organization. The point is to ensure the transition is smooth and amicable for both the employee and the company.
A few elements that offboarding includes are:
- Document retrieval: Collecting ID cards, equipment, and confidential documents
- Exit interview: Gathering feedback on the employee’s experience at the company
- Knowledge transfer: Ensuring the departing employee shares critical information with other team members or their replacement
- Financial settlement: Finalizing payroll, pending payments, and associated unclaimed benefits
- Access revocation: Removing the employee's access to company systems, emails, and databases
- Legal and compliance: Ensuring all legal obligations are met, including the signing of non-disclosure or non-compete agreements if applicable
- Communication plan: Informing relevant stakeholders about the departure and transition plan
Why is offboarding important? 🧐
Effective offboarding is more than just parting ways with an employee –– it's a strategic process that holds significant importance for human resource (HR) leaders and companies alike. Here are several reasons why offboarding should be given due attention:
- Knowledge retention: A structured offboarding process facilitates systematic knowledge transfer, ensuring vital information and skills don’t leave with the departing employee.
- Legal protection: Proper offboarding procedures help fulfill legal and compliance requirements, reducing the risk of lawsuits or legal disputes related to termination or resignation.
- Brand reputation: How a company treats its employees can make a huge difference. If the departing employee says anything that can go against the company in their offboarding email, it impacts the company’s reputation.
- Feedback for improvement: Exit interviews conducted during offboarding provide honest feedback, which can be crucial for organizational improvement and employee retention strategies.
- Team morale: Proper closure and communication around an employee’s departure help maintain morale and stability within the remaining team.
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Offboarding checklist 🤠
Now that you understand the importance of offboarding, let’s explore the actual process. It may slightly differ from company to company and department to department (management versus HR, for example), but we’ve created a general offboarding checklist template to help guide you.
1. Be kind 🫂
Regardless of why the employee wants to leave, treat them with kindness and respect and thank them for their dedicated service. At the end of the day, the person has worked for the company and helped it improve and grow.
2. Determine why they’re leaving 📝
The reason the employee is leaving will establish the steps for the offboarding process. An employee whose contract has ended or who has decided to retire won't necessarily follow the same steps as an employee who wishes to move on.
To ensure a smooth transition, tailor the offboarding process around the reason for their departure. Some benefits associated with terminating a contract based on the cause are forfeited, which is something to keep in mind.
3. Inform the company 🗣️
The last thing you want is for the office or other employees of the company to gossip and speculate about an employee's departure. It'll be uncomfortable, but it's far better to communicate openly with clients and fellow employees to let everyone know about the employee's departure.
4. Revoke access and secure property 🖥️
Remove the employee’s access to any internal tools, such as email or even social media accounts. Also, secure company property like laptops, credit cards, and company vehicles. But be sure to give the employee sufficient time to gather any personal belongings or information that may be left behind.
5. Discuss compensation or benefits 💸
Another process that might be relatively uncomfortable is discussing any compensation or benefits owed to the employee. But this is necessary to avoid any legal action filed against the company. For example, you must discuss if the employee has any:
- Unused sick leave or vacation time
- Remaining pay
- Assistance with re-employment
- Training time for educating their replacement
- 401(k)s and 403(b)s
6. Perform an exit interview ✨
The exit interview gives you insight into the employee's experience at the company and may explain why they want to leave. It might also raise red flags if multiple employees have left for competing companies, as it could be something happening within your company that’s prompting this action. A few questions you should ask include:
- What did you like about working here?
- What didn't you like?
- How would you describe the workplace culture, and how can we improve it?
- How was your relationship with other coworkers, both employees and managers?
- Was the pay good enough, and if not, what would you have preferred?
7. Transfer knowledge 🔄
To prevent any delays with projects or the employee's replacement, make sure the employee shares knowledge with their manager or successor. Ask them to:
- Pass on information about projects to team members.
- Share strategies they used to complete their tasks.
- Create a document highlighting key points their successor can use to get into the swing of things faster.
8. Stay in touch 👥
Finally, you may want to remain connected with the employee via email or LinkedIn, even if the departure wasn't amicable. Remember, the employee may work for the company in the future or work with or for your existing clients, so it helps to maintain a cordial relationship.
Onboarding vs. offboarding: The key differences 🔑
Onboarding and offboarding are both critical HR processes within a company, but they serve opposite purposes.
Onboarding focuses on introducing and integrating a new employee into a company. It aims to provide new hires with the necessary tools, resources, and knowledge to be successful in their roles. Onboarding activities include orientation, introducing new employees to their teams, and setting initial goals and expectations –– which last from the first day up to several months, depending on the role's complexity.
In contrast, offboarding manages the process of an employee leaving the company. It focuses on ensuring a smooth transition for both the departing employee and the organization. Typically, this process is much shorter, often lasting just a few days or weeks. The aim is to part on good terms, gather valuable feedback, and protect the company’s assets and reputation.
In essence, while onboarding sets an employee up for success, offboarding ensures a respectful and smooth departure, both contributing significantly to the company’s overall culture and reputation.
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It's always in your best interests to have a smooth offboarding process, whether you want to keep the employee as a loyal customer or to prevent potential legal action or corporate espionage.
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