Most, if not all organizations understand the importance of having an effective onboarding process. Everyone loves bringing on a new employee and getting him or her integrated into their teams while also making their onboarding a seamless experience that makes them feel welcome. However, as much as we enjoy bringing in new employees and devoting our time to that process, we don’t often put the time needed into what happens when it’s time for your once-new employee to depart your company. Let’s talk about employee offboarding processes. 

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Too often, organizations don’t put much effort into designing an effective offboarding process. Oftentimes, the “process” looks like this: 

  • Employee hands in their 2-week notice, 
  • Manager reacts in shock, dismay, or hostility, 
  • The employee is phased out of communication and projects, 
  • HR conducts an Exit Interview (maybe), 
  • IT department disables employee’s systems and their badge deactivated. 

This process leaves a lot to be desired: it lacks a certain humanity and compassion. So, what does a better offboarding process look like and why should you be devoted to designing one? 

When an employee departs your company, he or she can easily become an advocate or an antagonist to your company—and we think we know which you would rather them be. A good offboarding process is much more likely to turn them into an advocate and mitigate the risk of persisting issues. Here is a 4-step process to ensure an effective offboarding: 

An effective offboarding process will more likely turn an employee into an advocate for your company.

1. Communicate Change Quickly

When an employee decides to move on or is let go, there’s a temptation to hold off on communicating the change until you have all the details. The longer you wait, though, the more likely other workers are to start filling in details themselves, which can lead to misinformation and skepticism. Instead, tell managers to inform their departments of a departure as soon as possible. Once HR knows, they should inform payroll and IT that the offboarding process has begun. If you’re relieving the employee of their duties, be sure to give them a reason for this decision. 

2. Prepare the Paperwork

Next is the preparation of paperwork. Your offboarding process should address proper documentation like a letter of resignation or termination, a nondisclosure and noncompetition agreement (where applicable), and benefits documents. Having an audit trail of paperwork protects both the employee and the employer in the event of a legal issue. 

3. Initiate Knowledge Transfer

When an employee leaves, they take with them their skills, industrial, and institutional knowledge. If you don’t record and/or store that knowledge somewhere, it can easily be lost, leaving the next hire to try and figure it out on their own. As soon as you know an employee is leaving, it would be wise to start gathering information concerning what their daily routine looks like, what projects they repeat on a regular basis, any files the successor should know about and have access to, and what types of tasks they prioritize. 

4. Conduct an Exit Interview

Done well, exit interviews can be a valuable tool for discovering weaknesses in your organization. These interviews may also convince an exiting employee that should they return, their complaints will have been addressed. Where applicable, ask the exiting employee whether they would recommend your company to a job-seeking friend, whether there is anything that could have been done to convince them to stay, and what is the biggest thing you need to do to improve as an organization. 

One more thing to consider is to have some bittersweet fun, especially for long-tenured employees who have helped your company achieve major milestones. And remember, just as a first impression is crucial for a new hire, so too will a good final impression leave a good memory for both you and your now ex-employee.