You know that people make all the difference to your business. So you expend a lot of time and effort trying to populate your company with the right people. What’s more, you invest your time, effort and capital in ensuring that your new hires hit the ground running in their new roles as soon as they join you. This is the essence of onboarding.
But how much thought, time, and effort do you give to the other side of that coin?
In other words, have you considered your offboarding strategy?
Your relationship with a new employee is like any other relationship. You go into it hoping that it won’t end. The reality, of course, is that your employees won’t be with you forever. They may move, retire, or simply get a better offer from another company. It happens. But how you deal with the end of that relationship can have a significant impact on your business operations and the outgoing employee’s career.
Let’s take a closer look.
What is offboarding & why does it matter?
Offboarding is the process of formally ending the relationship between an employee and their employer. It may be due to resignation, retirement or even termination. Whatever the reasons for the relationship’s ending, a carefully planned offboarding process must be put in place.
Employee offboarding checklist
Specific offboarding processes will differ from one employer to the next. However, they will typically include:
- The handover of that employee’s role and responsibilities to their replacement
- Deactivating the former employer’s passwords and revoking their access rights
- The turning in and inspection of company equipment
- Conducting exit interviews with outgoing employees to gather feedback from them
These are the bare bones of an offboarding process, and shortly we’ll look into some ways in which you can optimize yours. But first, let’s look at why it’s so important to go through this process.
The importance of offboarding
In a way, former employees are a lot like customers. When their relationship with your company ends, they will go on to either become advocates or antagonists for your brand. An effective offboarding process can help turn former employees into advocates, while friction on an employee’s final days may turn them into an antagonist.
Furthermore, former employees can be a source of invaluable insights into your company’s operations and your employee experience from their perspective.
What are ‘boomerang employees’?
No matter how hard you work to create the perfect workplace and culture, you’re going to have to deal with employee turnover. It’s not something to take personally, and it’s certainly not something to hold against outgoing employees.
Especially in the era of boomerang employees. These are employees who leave your business only to return at a later date. They may apply for the same job they had when they left, or use their experience in the intervening time to re-join you in a more senior position.
Believe it or not, around 40% of employees would consider returning to a previous employer, while 40% of companies actively try to re-recruit former employees. A harmonious offboarding process could help you to turn an ex-employee into a boomerang employee.
Boomerang employees benefit companies in a number of ways:
- They allow employers to recoup some of their investment in the returning employee’s recruitment, training, and development
- They can bring insights from previous workplaces that could help you to improve your processes and procedures
- They already know the ropes, so will need much less onboarding than when they first started
- They are likely to already have good relationships with current employees, potentially improving morale and social cohesion
- They are potentially even more loyal than employees who never left
How do I optimize the offboarding process?
Now that we’ve looked at the importance of offboarding, let’s take a look at how to optimize your offboarding process.
Here are some ways in which you can make the process more effective, and part ways with employees wiser, more prepared, and more assured.
Start the rehire process immediately
It’s become a kind of universally accepted truth that replacing employees is inherently costly and disruptive. And while it certainly can be, there are ample ways in which employers can mitigate this. Especially if they’re proactive in their rehiring process.
Involve outgoing employees in the selection and hiring of their replacement. This helps them to actively help to shape your company’s future, leaving a lasting impact on your workplace.
Coordinate with the employee’s manager
It’s important to coordinate with the employee themselves before they leave your organization. But the offboarding process should not end there. It’s also important to touch base with the employee’s manager or department head prior to them leaving.
This can help you to ensure that you have covered all the bases in handing over responsibilities, access rights and equipment from outgoing employees to your new hire. In doing so, you can minimize disruption, reduce productivity lag, and create a spirit of collaboration between new and former employees.
Don’t wait to do an exit interview
It’s okay to admit it. Employers seldom relish carrying out exit interviews with former employees. Saying goodbye is rarely easy, after all. But falling into the trap of delaying the exit interview can be detrimental to both the company and the employee. Try to carry out their exit interview at or before the halfway point of their notice period.
Granted, it will likely be too late to retain the employee. However, by carrying out an exit interview as early as possible, you gain an opportunity to act on the employee’s feedback before they have left your company. This demonstrates that you value their input, and want to use it to improve your operations.
Pertinent questions to ask include:
- Why did you begin looking for a new position?
- What has your new employer offered that has influenced your decision to leave?
- Do you feel that we could have done more to support you in doing your job well?
- Is there anything that we could have done to keep you with us?
- Is there anything that you would change about your position or the company as a whole?
- Would you ever consider returning to us?
Follow up with an exit survey
When an employee leaves, it provides companies with an opportunity to gather useful data. While the data derived from an exit interview is highly qualitative, an exit interview enables companies to add more quantitative data. For instance, you may request that outgoing employees rate your business on a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of the workplace culture, how equipped they felt to do their job well, or how much of a difference they felt they were allowed to make in their roles. An exit survey can show businesses not only areas in which they can improve, but things that they are doing well.
Say thank you… and mean it
Finally, let’s wrap up by thinking about how you want your relationship with the outgoing employee to end. Find a way to say thank you for everything they’ve done for you throughout their tenure. Thank them for the memories, the personal traits they’ve brought to the workplace, and the contribution they’ve made to the team dynamic. Let them know that their time with you is valued, and that they will be missed.
Is offboarding as important as onboarding?
Employee offboarding is absolutely as important as employee onboarding. Unfortunately, this process seldom receives the same degree of care and attention as its counterpart. Invest as much effort in saying goodbye as you invest in saying hello, and it can benefit your business in a number of ways. It can yield valuable insights that could improve your company, and increase the likelihood of a former employee becoming a boomerang employee.