Offboarding is the process of disengaging an employee from their position within a company, a practice used both for people who choose to resign or retire and for those who are laid off or terminated involuntarily. Having an established offboarding process makes either type of separation easier for both the employee and employer.
Formal offboarding processes also help companies to mitigate security risks such as reclaiming company assets and revoking employee access. Following a well-documented process can also help to prevent legal issues such as disputes over contracts, compensation, or wrongful termination.
By following a few critical steps, your organization might also have an opportunity to receive valuable feedback for improvement and hopefully, part ways with employees on amicable terms. Feeling overwhelmed? At Tesseon, we can automate your offboarding process and make it easier than ever.
The following are a few key components of a well-designed offboarding process:
- Document the resignation or termination
An employee may resign in a variety of ways. They could submit a written letter, or send an email or text but sometimes it’s communicated verbally in person or over the phone.
In any case, it’s important to request a formal letter of resignation that states the employee’s decision to voluntarily resign from their position to make it official, for Human Resources purposes. This letter can be requested but cannot be required. Ideally, the letter should indicate their last day of employment, and whether they plan to use any built-up vacation days to fill out their remaining time.
When an employee is terminated involuntarily, you’ll need to document this with an official termination letter. Termination letters become important legal documents, as the wording used may either qualify or disqualify the terminated employee for additional financial support from the government, where applicable.
In some industries, companies should also have departing employees sign a non-disclosure agreement. This ensures they’ll keep all proprietary company information confidential upon their departure.
- Communicate the termination to key stakeholders
Once an employee has officially been separated from the company, you need to communicate the news to the key stakeholders in your organization. This usually includes appropriate team members from human resources, IT, operations, legal, payroll, senior management, the employee’s direct supervisor, and the co-workers who may be impacted.
- Develop a solid transition plan and offboarding checklist
This should be the number one priority for the manager of the departing employee. The first step is to ask the employee to create a list of all their current job responsibilities. All tasks they are responsible for should be included, no matter the frequency or cadence. If possible, review this list with the employee, to ensure it’s as comprehensive as possible. Once the list is finalized, the manager should determine who can take on these tasks, either on a short-term or long-term basis or until the position is backfilled.
Part of the transition plan should involve setting expectations for what your outgoing employee can expect, and what you would like them to do during their last days. Make it clear how they can support the transition of their knowledge and responsibilities to other co-workers, and be as specific as possible.
You should outline all expectations and responsibilities of the departing employee and the company, in an offboarding checklist. This will help to ensure no important actions are forgotten or slip through the cracks.
- Conduct an exit interview
An exit interview is a meeting between an employee who is leaving the company and usually a member of the human resources team, not their direct supervisor. The exit interview serves as an opportunity for you to learn more about an employee’s reasons for leaving the company, which can provide you with important feedback that you can use to improve the workplace for the other team members as well as future new hires.
It’s often challenging or awkward for employees to speak their minds when they’re gainfully employed with a company. However, all of that changes with their resignation. It’s common for a member of the human resources team to conduct the exit interview because they can provide an unbiased atmosphere for the employee to share their thoughts. They can also take unique action as a result of the feedback they receive during the exit interview. Generally, exit interviews are best conducted when the employee is resigning voluntarily. If an employee is being involuntarily terminated, the feedback can become jaded and unusable.
- Host a farewell gathering or an acknowledgment
It is customary and professional to provide some sort of public acknowledgment for the employee’s contributions to the company prior to their final day. If the person was only employed for a short period of time, a simple company-wide email acknowledgment may be enough. But, for employees who have given years of service or are retiring, you may want to host a farewell gathering, either in person or virtually.
Throwing office farewell parties is a great idea because it helps promote a positive work culture and makes employees feel valued. These parties also create good memories for departing employees and give existing employees a positive work experience.
- Recover company equipment and deactivate access to company technology
This is typically handled by a member of a company’s IT or operations staff. This step can’t be completed until their last day, but you should document in advance any company equipment that the departing employee possesses and is responsible for returning. Also how and when the transfer of property will take place and include all of this information on your employee offboarding checklist.
This is especially important in this current landscape of virtual work arrangements. Employees are more likely to have company property such as laptops, monitors, phones, furniture, and other office equipment in their homes.
Network and other technology access deactivation will also typically be completed by your IT or operations staff. The timing of this action is very important. Ensure you have clearly communicated to both your IT staff and your departing employee exactly when their access will be cut off. For employees who are laid off or terminated involuntarily, you’ll want to disable their IT access immediately to prevent any security breaches from disgruntled employees.
- Check-in with remaining employees
Once the departing employee has officially left the company, your next step should be to check in with your remaining employees.
Depending on the responsibilities of the former employee, your other employees may have some new workload challenges to take on. Managers or team leaders should make time to check in with each team member 1:1 to find out how they’re doing and if they need additional support.
The remaining team members usually want to know the long-term plan. Will that team member be replaced, or will the remaining team be expected to absorb all that person’s work permanently? It’s best to have honest conversations and not just assume that everything is fine, or you run the risk of dealing with additional employee turnover.
Employee offboarding is usually not a fun process for anyone involved but developing an adequate plan of action can ease the pain and help create a smooth transition.
Once the dust has settled, your HR department should review any exit interview feedback provided. Look for action opportunities that can be taken right away to support current employees, as well as things to consider integrating into long-term goals for the future. Since you took the time to collect the feedback, you may as well use it.