Workplace & culture

HR’s Role in the Offboarding Process

A well-organized offboarding process is integral to maintaining your company culture, reputation, and data security—and HR plays a key role.

Offboarding and employee turnover are an inevitable part of the employee lifecycle. While it’s understandable to want to focus more on the “positives,” managing those cycle-end transitions is an invaluable investment for any company. A well-organized offboarding process is integral to maintaining your company culture, reputation, and even data security. Successful offboarding can go a long way toward maintaining a positive, respectful relationship both during and after an employee exits—and HR plays a key role in making it all happen.

What is offboarding?

Most of us are familiar with the onboarding process and all that it entails, but while properly transitioning the newest members of your team is crucial, so is managing the employee experience at the end of their time with your company. A strong offboarding process covers all the important steps when parting ways with an employee—whether they’ve been let go or are simply moving on to greener pastures.  

HR’s role in offboarding

Exit periods look deceptively simple. The reality is, there are numerous tasks to complete for both HR and the employee during this time.

HR’s role in a strong offboarding process typically includes any or all of the following:

Keeping your team posted

HR should notify other members of the team without delay when they find out an employee is leaving or planning to leave. This is an effective way of reducing speculation and minimizing rumors. Clarity and transparency are always a positive and can go a long way in ensuring your whole team is confident moving forward.

Doing the paperwork

Be sure the employee signs an official letter of resignation for your records along with a non-disclosure agreement (if applicable). It’s also never a bad idea to review their work contract to make sure there’s nothing you’ve missed. Also: check in with accounting to be sure any outstanding employee reimbursements or amounts owing are processed and prepare tax and benefits documentation for the employee before they leave.

Transferring knowledge

This a big one. You don’t want to cause a gap in the workflow or suddenly create extra work for your team. Be sure that the departing employee’s experience and knowledge is documented and ready for whoever will take their place. If possible, line up a replacement in advance and have the departing employee train them. If the employee had clients, notify them and manage client handoffs with time to spare.

Collecting company property

When an employee leaves, run through the usual inventory of company property to retrieve any laptop, keycards, ID badges, uniforms, mobile phones, keys, parking permits, company credit cards, etc.

Touching base with IT

Protect your company’s privacy (and any classified information) by making sure IT deactivates the employee’s computer, internal computer systems, and removes all access to data.

Planning exit interviews

Don’t skip the exit interview. Meet with your employee before they leave to get feedback on their work experience and reasons for leaving. Treat it as an important opportunity to learn about shortcomings and areas for improvement. Ask concise, pointed questions like, “What is the main reason for your resignation?”, “How can the company improve?” and “Can you describe your experiences here?”

Showing appreciation

Regardless of the ups and downs that might have characterized the employee’s experience with your company, organize a goodbye party and offer a personalized gift to the employee as they begin on their new path, if appropriate. 

Leaving the door open for their return

Likely in part due to a lack of qualified talent, 76% of HR professionals are more accepting of rehiring former employees than they once were. Why not stay in contact with past team members by establishing an alumni network of former employees? You might share company news with them, consult them for company feedback or even ask them for referrals when you have new job openings. Connecting on LinkedIn is also a great way to keep that person in your network.

Benefits of having a strong offboarding process 

Without a well-organized offboarding process in place, it’s extremely easy for key steps to fall through the cracks. Digitizing this process with an HRIS ensures nothing falls off the radar. Staff includes an offboarding feature that allows you to set up a guided process, including termination type, reasons, and a checklist of tasks that need to be done before the employee departs. Thoughtful, thorough offboarding makes the transition easier for all involved, be they at the company, HR, or employee level.

The very tangible benefits of a strong offboarding process include: 

  • Fewer security risks: While security may not feel like a concern, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. By reclaiming company equipment and revoking access to company accounts, you’re vastly reducing any possible security risks down the road.
  • Fewer legal problems: By doing your due diligence with regard to contracts, benefits, and compensation, you’re decreasing the likelihood of future disputes around wrongful termination, funds owed, or mistreatment.
  • A smoother team transition: By doing all you can to ensure a proper transfer of expertise and client relationships, and a smooth training period for any new hires, you’re doing your whole team a solid: they’ll be able to proceed without missing a beat rather than getting unfairly saddled with extra work or confusing tasks.  
  • Honest feedback: A well-executed exit interview can benefit the company in countless ways, both by collecting the sort of candid feedback that is typically only offered by departing staff and by helping to cultivate a rapport of mutual respect, even as the employee severs ties. 
  • A positive reputation: Speaking of mutual respect, there’s nothing like a negative rapport with a departing employee to damage your employee value proposition,  branding, and reputation. By leaving things in good faith and genuine appreciation, you’re doing your part to continue attracting quality new hires.
  • Boomerang employees: It’s common for former employees to return to a previous employer when unhappy with a new job. A positive offboarding experience leaves the door open for reconnection with employees you’d love to welcome back into the fold. Returning employees also tend to boost company morale. Not to mention, they’re already familiar with the company culture, which means smoother onboarding.
  • Increased employee loyalty: Although only 29% of organizations have a formal offboarding process to transition employees out of an organization, companies that invest in formal offboarding processes actually see higher employee retention and engagement.

While successful offboarding can require some extra effort, developing an offboarding program is more than worth it. When you have smooth processes in place for all periods of the employee life cycle, the company benefits, as do the individuals that work to keep it viable—and really, there’s no separating the two! 

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