How To Create a Smooth Offboarding Process (Includes a Free Checklist!)
Last Updated on July 15, 2021 by Owen McGab Enaohwo
Messy endings can kill the strongest bonds, and employee-employer relationships are no different.
Your employee is an asset to your company even when they don’t work for you anymore: After they leave, they can become your brand’s supporter or adversary, a boomerang employee, or a trusted referee for your future employers.
The way you offboard your employees plays a huge part in making them advocates or adversaries.
The study above deduced that companies with an offboarding process retain 71% of their employees, and companies that don’t have an offboarding process retain only 57%. It also shows that companies with an offboarding process have 11% more engaged employees than companies that don’t.
So, what you do after an employee is said to leave your company is essential for talent retention and employee engagement.
You can also avoid ex-employee feuds like data breaches and financial lawsuits with a good offboarding process.
Offboarding Process – Guide Topics Index
Let’s dive in.
What Is Employee Offboarding?
Offboarding is the processes and decisions that take place after an employee leaves your company.
If you send a thank you note and conduct an interview when an employee leaves, that’s how you offboard them.
You should properly offboard fired employees, resigned employees, retired employees, and employees leaving for whatever reason.
What Is an Offboarding Process?
An offboarding process is a process your company uses to offboard employees.
For instance, if an employee quits, do you contact HR? Phone your IT department? Or fold your arms and let them go? Whichever it is, that’s your offboarding process.
The steps you take after an employee is about to leave your company make up your offboarding process.
The image below is a visual example of how an offboarding process should look:
5 Reasons to Have an Offboarding Process
If you’re wondering why you should care about the people leaving your company, here are five reasons why you need an offboarding process.
1. Prevent data and property insecurity
Having an excellent offboarding process can save you money and permanent damages. Here are just a couple of examples of what could happen if your offboarding process isn’t great.
An engineering firm in Tennessee lost $425,000 because of a former employee data breach.
Another ex-employee in Australia gave key company files to his ex-employer’s competition because he still had the company’s hard drive after termination.
Without an offboarding process, your company might forget to log out your ex-employees from the system, change all their passwords, and deactivate their log cards. All these can lead to a breach.
2. Avoid Legal and Financial Troubles
Legal drama is never comedic. It’s a sour bowl of emotional, physical, and financial trauma.
A study from Trusted Choice, an insurance company, states that
“The cost of settling out of court averages $75,000, and the average jury award hits $217,000 if you go to court and lose.”
Your offboarding should cover:
- The unpaid employee fees and their disbursing date
- A signed document of the reason for termination
- A conversation with the employee to weed out problems and issues
3. Maintain Company Reputation
People don’t communicate their frustrations with their employers with sincerity because of fear, working environment, anxiety, or an unending list of things.
As a recent example, the former employees of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” spoke to BuzzFeed anonymously about discrimination happening on the show’s set.
Ellen was almost fired, and the show was close to its demise.
Social media is a jungle, and if word gets out about the company being a terrible place to work, whether true or false, millions of people will drag your company. Your brand’s reputation becomes the Titanic.
A good exit interview and offboarding could help you curb such problems.
An exit interview should be one of the last steps of your offboarding process.
4. Retain Prominent Talent
A few years back, a finance company hired a manager to oversee 17 employees; after a year, only eight employees remained.
At their exit interviews, Harvard Business Review shares that they all had the same story.
“The manager lacked critical leadership skills, such as showing appreciation, engendering commitment, and communicating vision and strategy.”
The interviews suggested a more profound, systemic problem: The organization was promoting managers based on technical rather than managerial skills.
The executive committee adjusted the company’s promotion process accordingly, continues HBR.
Imagine if they didn’t conduct formal exit interviews, they wouldn’t know the real problem behind their employees quitting, costing the company productivity.
5. Encourage Boomerang Employees
Fourteen percent of ex-employees boomerang back to their ex-companies.
Olaolu, an engineer, recounts how he left a company and came back to work for them after a year.
He says, “If the work environment were unhealthy and ending messy, I would never have gone back there.”
Like Olaolu, people are more likely to go back to healthy environments for themselves or companies that are good to them.
It’s also easier to onboard boomerang employees because they are already familiar with your work culture and process.
A healthy offboarding would create an atmosphere where employees would be pleased to come back.
Two Main Constraints When Creating Your Offboarding Process
There are two main constraints you’ll encounter when creating your offboarding process. They include the cause of employee departure and the position/ranking of the ex-employee.
1. The cause of employee departure
Dismissed employees are less likely to hold an exit interview than someone who resigned or quit. It’s also important to consider that employees who quit for negative reasons, such as a toxic work culture or a nagging boss, are less likely to sit for an interview than employees who leave for positive reasons, such as leaving to further their job education.
The offboarding process can be harder or easier, depending on the reason for departure.
2. The position of the ex-employee
You may need to write a press release or contact their stakeholders, investors, and even clients for high-level employees.
Your IT workers may also need more security checks to avoid security breaches, while your accounting employees may need more financial record checks.
CyberArk says, “Eighty-eight percent of information technology workers would take sensitive data with them or abscond with company passwords if they were fired.”
How to Create an Employee Offboarding Process with Ease
You’ve seen above that creating an offboarding process is necessary for talent retention and your company’s protection.
Here are 11 steps to help you create a solid offboarding process with ease:
Step 1: Write, sign, and document
If it’s written and signed, there’s a sense of proof in case of any wrongful termination lawsuit or accusations.
Please write the reason for their termination: retirement or resignation. Make sure you have their resignation letter appropriately saved as well.
Write it down and let both the employee and employer sign in agreement.
Document the termination reason in the company’s database to record it in case of a future dispute.
Step 2: Starve rumor mongers & communicate.
Cut the rumors, so your staff leaves on good terms.
When the employee is about to leave, inform the following people:
- Co-workers, so that they are not surprised when a colleague’s desk is empty or occupied by someone new, and to avoid false rumors from spreading.
- Clients. If they work directly with some clients or if they are the contact person of some clients. Inform them on time so they know the best way to move forward.
- Stakeholders. If the person leaving the company affects significant company decisions, maybe the CEO or COO, inform the stakeholders to know how best to move forward.
Here’s an example of an employee departure communication from Indeed:
Step 3: Review the paperwork
Paperwork can be painful but necessary.
Sort out and review the contracts, policies, and agreements signed and made by both parties since you hired them to avoid misunderstanding and breach of contracts.
Step 4: Reset, update, protect
Studies show 50% of ex-employees can still access corporate apps.
You’re at risk of data breaches if you don’t contact IT to reset all the employee’s gadgets, change passwords, reset devices, critical logs, and tools the employee had access to.
You could also potentially misinform prospects and people who visit your websites, read your blog and magazines if you don’t update your company’s directory.
To avoid misunderstandings, change their name from the website and remove the ex-employee as a contact person from any online/offline platform, blog, or magazine.
Step 5: Collect all issued items
Collect all company items before they finally leave to prevent property and data insecurity.
Some of a company’s issued items may include:
- Company credit cards
- Mobile phones
Step 6: Communicate the bills, benefits, and the undone
To avoid post-employment misunderstandings, discuss after-service benefits with ex-employees if any.
And talk about outstanding deliverables and payments to be made to them.
Some may include:
- Stock options
- Unused vacation time, sick or PTO
- 401(k) and 403(b)
- Re-employment assistance
- New-hire training
- Unsubmitted deliverable
- Unpaid bonus checks
Step 7: Welcome the new hire
Sometimes ex-employees are in charge of training the new hire.
If that’s the case, talk to the leaving employee about it, schedule a date or period for the training to happen, and conduct the training.
Step 8: Conduct exit interview
Your employee is an asset. They hold a wealth of knowledge that can improve your company.
Seema Nayak, content marketing manager at AdChina.io, recounts an unpleasant interview experience when leaving her previous workplace:
“I had a terrible and unprofessional experience during the offboarding process in my early days in the industry. The HR left me in the room mid-way through the exit checklist, saying they need to leave and someone else will complete the process. I had to wait in their cabin for 20 minutes until someone came and completed the checklist.”
She continues, “The next day, I got a call from my teammate that the HR department has asked them to delete their LinkedIn recommendation for me, stating it’s against company policy. (There’s no such thing mentioned in the company handbook.)
“I thought it gives the company a bad name and makes sure ex-employees would never recommend it to anyone.”
Conducting an exit interview can help you get to root problems you had no idea about.
It can help you retain the employees in case their exit reason is solvable.
And most importantly, a lousy exit interview can destroy (such as Seema’s offboarding experience) or strengthen your brand’s reputation.
Here are some essential interview questions to ask your exiting employee:
- Why are you leaving? (If the employee is quitting)
- What could we have done better?
- Would you ever consider coming back to the company?
- Were you comfortable talking to your manager?
- Did you feel like a valuable part of the company?
- What was the best part of the job?
- Were you given clear goals and objectives?
- What would you change about your job?
- What was your worst day on the job like?
- Did you have all the tools needed to succeed at your job?
You should also consider these six things before conducting an exit interview:
- Decide the format you want to interview in. This could include on paper, a physical meeting, or a Zoom meeting. Having a physical meeting is best, but some circumstances like COVID-19 and timing can streamline your choices.
- Determine the information you want to gain from the interview, e.g., their thoughts on your work culture, their reasons for leaving, their best and worst work practices, etc.
- Write down the questions you want to ask from the information you want to gain from them. Write them down in a book, on paper, or in a digital alternative.
- Pick who will conduct the interview. Your ex-employee may feel more comfortable with his/her colleagues than an HR staff. To get the best out of the interview, get someone your ex-employee would be most comfortable speaking to.
- Pick where you would conduct the interview. If you decide to conduct it face to face or even online, pick a conducive environment for the interview to take place. If it’s a survey interview, choose a good survey platform like Survey Monkey to conduct it. Online exit interview platforms like IntelliHR, CheckSter, and WorkStep may also work for your needs.
- Conduct the interview. During the interview, try to listen more than you talk, be empathetic, and retain a calm disposition so that your ex-employee isn’t scared to express his thoughts well.
Step 9: Help them out by writing a recommendation letter
You don’t need to wait for them to ask before you write one.
Draft out a recommendation letter, so it’s easier for them to find a new and good job. This step can also create a good-blood view of how the employee views the company.
The Balance Careers share samples of excellent recommendation letters for employees:
Step 10: Bid farewell in style
Throw a party, send gifts, write a thank you note, hint that the door is always open if it is.
Celebrate them and their exit to reinforce that leaving the company doesn’t have to sob and frown.
Step 11: Automate the process with SweetProcess
The last step is to automate as much of the process as possible – and SweetProcess can help!
It’s a struggle keeping track of items you need to take back from the employee, the documents you’re meant to review with them, and the questions to ask during the exit interview.
It’s impossible not to miss a step when offboarding, and it’s unwise not to document the process.
Yes, each offboarding differs per situation, but documentation prevents a sloppy offboarding process that could cost you millions and save you valuable talents.
Documenting your offboarding process removes the fear of actually starting it, and in case someone new has to conduct the offboarding, it’s easy for them to catch up and do the right thing.
Documenting business processes with SweetProcess helped Marc Nelson Oil Products overcome their communication issues and fear losing skilled employees.
An employee at Marc Nelson Oil says, “What I saw was the need to have documentation in place because there was a turnover. There was also a problem in terms of communication because somebody would not be able to communicate with another person in terms of what needed to be done, and cross-training was also a big problem.
“All those were problems that could have been remedied very easily with having well-documented processes and procedures, so that’s the project we embarked on.”
The CEO continues, “I was researching for a process documentation software, and I was actually on Google researching, and then I found SweetProcess. I found others, but then I tried them all, and I liked SweetProcess.”
SweetProcess is the best solution that makes documenting standard operating procedures drop-dead easy. You can also customize the process to your exact needs, budget, and legal constraints.
You can get started with SweetProcess to streamlines and document your offboarding processes with a 14-day free trial and no credit required.
Leaving a company doesn’t have to be sour and rough. An offboarding process will help you navigate the financial, legal and emotional struggles of employee termination and exit.
It’s also important to automate your offboarding process with tools like SweetProcess to avoid manual errors and save time.
Finally, create checklists to track everything you need to have a smooth offboarding process.
Here’s a free offboarding process checklist to make the process less daunting for you: