What are the Best Practices for Employee Offboarding?

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There are many reasons that employees move on from an organisation; from seeking new opportunities or changing careers to personality clashes. In fact, the average UK employee will change jobs at least 12 times within their working lives and Gen Z could change jobs up to 10 times between the ages of 18 and 34. Ensuring that you have a strong employee offboarding process in place for departing employees is essential to the exit process. From protecting security and company property to smoothing the transition for new employees, there are numerous benefits to properly offboarding team members.

Let’s explore how to conduct the offboarding process in more detail. 

What are the benefits of offboarding employees?

Employee offboarding might seem like a simple matter of reclaiming the work laptop, writing a reference and organising staff to sign a card and pop a few quid in the gift kitty, but in reality, the exit process presents a golden opportunity for honest feedback. The information gleaned from a departing employee can improve the employer brand and address any problems that might be creating toxicity. For a start, it helps to clarify how successful the company is at providing a good employee experience from start to finish. It also gives the exiting worker the feeling that despite their departure, they are not just superfluous to the business and remain a valued ex-colleague who will hopefully take a positive view of the organisation forward with them.

Encourage boomerang employees

According to a study by Unum UK, one in five (19%) employees had either ‘boomeranged’ to a previous employer or plan to in the near future. Clearly, one huge benefit of an effective offboarding process is that it can mean you end up hiring back ex-employees. Without a proper offboarding process, their reason for departure may never come to light – and if it is about lack of opportunity, burnout or other commitments needing their time and focus, these can be highlighted and learned from. And it can leave the door open for previous employees to return – particularly if their offboarding journey was a positive one.

Avoid a data breach

A thorough offboarding process should ensure that any sensitive company data is not removed from the organisation. This relates to things like passwords, access to any business hardware, and software subscriptions to help prevent security breaches.

Your employee offboarding checklist

Employers place huge importance on the onboarding journey for new hires but there are plenty of reasons to focus on the exit experience. Here are some best practices that would be useful to consider when building an offboarding process.

Kick-start the changes

As soon as notice is given, HR needs to communicate the impending changes with all the relevant people. This will include confirming details like the last day of service, who will provide cover for them in the interim period and detailing the recruitment timeline to facilitate a replacement. Being swift to answer any queries from other employees will help to keep misinformation to a minimum and quell the rumour mill. This can be done via a simple email across the team in question outlining the reason for the employee’s departure and should include a positive note wishing them well in their future career.

Inform payroll and prep the paperwork

Once your HR department is made aware of the departure, they should then inform payroll and IT to begin the offboarding process which means organising the necessary paperwork. This will include a letter of resignation or termination; any signed nondisclosure or noncompete agreements; and documents for any employee pension, benefits or insurances.

It is important to ensure a comprehensive paper trail in the event of any legal issues and all documentation must be made available to the employee on departure either as print-outs or electronic documents hosted in an information management system that they can read and sign.

Make sure to reclaim company assets

From laptops, USBs and mobile phones to company cars, taking back any outstanding company-issued assets should be high on the priority list. In fact, most employee contracts will have a return of company property clause which mandates that the departing employee returns any leased items in their possession. If your contract doesn’t, then take this as an opportunity to amend it so that the future offboarding process will run more smoothly.

However, if there is any resistance, there are several steps to take. A gentle reminder via phone or email where you agree on a time and date to return any outstanding property, should hopefully be sufficient to prompt a return. Following this, a deduction of the remaining costs from their final salary is the logical next step. This should be sufficient to nudge them towards returning the assets.

Facilitate a knowledge transfer

As soon as an employee gives notice or a dismissal is issued, HR should instigate a knowledge transfer process. This will enable the company to retain any institutional knowledge and key skills that the exiting employee has, allowing this information to be captured, retained and passed onto team members or any new employee filling the role. This should include a step-by-step guide to their daily tasks including which are prioritised and why; any key projects they are working on; a comprehensive list of contacts inside and outside the organisation who might need notification of the transition; and the training requirements and best practice for the role. In addition, ex-employee can assist a smoother handover by creating files documenting any knowledge that can then be archived and shared within their team and the wider organisation.

Conduct an exit interview

If an employee has a grievance and that is why they are leaving, getting their feedback on what went wrong, or how the situation could have been better handled can be invaluable information for HR to have. This can then be passed onto the leadership team and amends to policies, or a more robust examination of the workplace culture can bring about any necessary changes and help retain employees in the future.

If, for example, the former employee was simply not a fit with the company culture, it would be worth knowing what would have made them stay. This can inform any employee benefits, and rewards and recognition schemes in place, or indicate to HR how a better internal mobility scheme, learning and development opportunities or career mapping might help retain those considering leaving. Figures show that almost half (42%) of Gen Z workers cite a work-life balance, remote working and flexible leave as their top priorities when looking for a job, so it pays to understand if you are offering the right kind of benefits and workplace culture.

Questions you need to ask

There are pertinent questions to ask exiting employees including: did the job meet your expectations? Do you think you had adequate support and resources to conduct your job effectively? How did you find the relationships with your team and manager? What could be done to convince you to stay? Would you recommend the company to friends – and ask for reasons why or why not. Finally, asking them what the biggest thing that could be improved can offer an insight into the organisation that HR would not ordinarily receive.

To maintain openness and trust, it may also be worth considering asking an HR officer to conduct the exit interview rather than the line manager, as they might have been the cause of friction and the exit interview is an opportunity for honesty. It is incredibly important to ensure any responses are confidential and that genuine grievances are addressed and if necessary, acted upon.

Don’t forget your remote employees
With hybrid working being the norm for many organisations these days, the chances are some offboarding might involve remote workers. While all the above steps are suitable for these employees, exit interviews and surveys will need to be conducted via video call. This provides the opportunity to thank them for their contribution, garner feedback and offer a reference or LinkedIn recommendation, as well reminding them that they are welcome back in the future (if applicable).

Getting offboarding right is an incremental process that can be refined and adjusted over time. But with these steps in place, it will support a positive employee experience from start to finish, boost your employer brand and strengthen the company culture.

If you’d like to learn more about what your organisation can do to improve and maximise employee experience, download our employee experience survey.