As the future of work is looking to be fully remote, or at least some sort of hybrid mode, it is only natural that we adapt all aspects of the employee life cycle to be remote-friendly, including employee offboarding.
In this article we’ll define what employee offboarding is and the benefits of having a structured offboarding process.
As always with our ‘how to’ series, we’ll also debunk some common myths around the topic and provide you with a clear step-by-step plan to successfully offboard your employees…remotely.
To finish things off, we’ll take a look at how Brian Chesky, CEO and co-founder of Airbnb, successfully managed offboarding when the company was forced to lay off talent at the start of the Covid-19 health crisis.
This article is part of a “how-to” series developed from season two of our podcast – The Ins and Outs of Work.
Table of Contents:
What is employee offboarding
Employee offboarding is the process during which an employee parts ways with the people and the organization they worked for.
The purpose of an offboarding period is two-fold: on the one hand, it’s meant to help the organization grow wiser in hiring and employee experience and to keep the impact of the departure on the business to a minimum.
On the other hand, it is used to shape the critical last impressions employees will have of the company – and the image they’ll portray to the outside world.
Offboarding done well is like a divorce on good terms where the ex-lovers remain close friends. It’s a process that deserves (almost) as much attention as onboarding.
The benefits of a well-structured offboarding process
There are a variety of reasons why having a structured offboarding process makes sense.
First of all, in a lot of cases, your employees could be current or future customers of your business, so it’s best to leave them on a good note. They could also be a great source of candidate referrals, so that’s another reason to part ways in a pleasant way with a good offboarding experience.
Also, the Aberdeen Group found that 14% higher employee retention and 11% higher engagement than those without.
Need more convincing? Check out these statistics
On data breaches
- More than half of the employees surveyed by a Ponemon Institute study admitted to taking information from a former employer, and 40 percent admitted they intended to use it in a new job.
- According to IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach Report 2019, the average total cost of a data breach is $3.92 million.
On the boomerang employee
- The Corporate Culture and Boomerang Employee Study by Workplace Trends showed that 15 percent of employees have boomeranged back to a former employer.
- According to the same study, 40 percent of employees say they would consider boomeranging back to a company where they had previously worked.
Two common employee offboarding myths debunked
Let’s dispel some of the myths you may believe about how to offboard employees.
Myth #1. Offboarding is saying good-bye to an employee forever
Offboarding shouldn’t be tinged with regret and anger. Instead, it should focus on easing the transition and making it mutually beneficial.
Former employees can be added to an Alumni group. Give them a proper farewell. If an amicable relationship exists, even after the worker is gone, the individual might refer people who prove to be valuable assets to their previous employers.
Myth #2. An exit interview is all that’s needed to properly offboard an employee
There are proper steps to take, documentation to capture, and resources that can help reduce the stress experienced by all involved in a well-managed offboarding process. Think of it as an onboarding program, just in reverse.
There are also all those things we mentioned around data security. After the exit interview, the next steps should be standardized. Analyze the intelligence for trends and patterns, and insights should be applied.
How to successfully offboard an employee: a step-by-step plan
How to effectively manage the departure of an employee in just 9 easy steps. Use this guide as a checklist the next time you need to bid farewell to an employee.
1. Thank your employee
And congratulate them as they move on to a new role! In any case, when an employee is leaving, start by thanking them for the work they’ve done and the time and energy they’ve invested in your company.
2. Communicate about the departure
Though it can be tempting to hold off on communicating about an employee’s departure, it’s best to share this information right away.
Managers should inform their team, department, and HR as soon as possible about an employee’s departure.
As with most things, it’s best to be honest. Tell people when someone is leaving and why, and that you’ll fill them in on the details once you have them.
3. Encourage a knowledge transfer
You want to make sure you keep the leaving employee’s knowledge inside your company. It’s always good to ask people to create a handover document or video with useful tips for whoever is going to take over their role.
An added bonus of staying on good terms with former employees is that if you find yourself missing certain knowledge after their departure, you’ll be able to ask them to help you out and they’ll be happy to do it.
4. Recover company assets
Onto the more practical part of the employee offboarding process now.
Don’t forget to ask the leaving employee to hand in their company equipment: company badges, credit cards, uniforms, phones, laptops, a company car, you name it.
5. Revoke systems access
The same thing goes for the employee’s systems access, don’t forget to revoke all of them.
Think of CRM systems, the company’s social media accounts, content databases and access to sales dashboards for instance.
6. Hold an exit interview
When done properly, the exit interview can provide you with a wealth of information. It can give you insights into your organization’s strengths and weaknesses and how to improve the latter.
Here are some examples of exit interview questions you could ask:
– If we could improve in any way, how would we do it?
– What are we not doing that we should be doing?
– Is there anything we could have done to make you stay?
7. Update your organizational charts
Once an employee has left the company, make sure to update your organizational charts and directories…this will avoid a lot of (internal) confusion.
8. Don’t forget about the payroll!
Just like some companies forget to revoke a leaving employee’s systems access, others sometimes forget to take them off their payroll!
Even though payroll systems have this functionality built-in, you may want to double-check that the final payment process is actually being carried out by payroll.
9. Stay in touch
Think of this as staying in touch with an old friend. From time to time you ask each other how you’re doing and what you’re up to. Perhaps you meet up for a coffee.
When it comes to former employees there are various ways to stay in touch. For example via a talent pool or an alumni group. Both options allow you to send former employees the latest company news (and vacancies) so that they stay up-to-date if they want to.
Storytime: what great offboarding looks like at Airbnb
CEO and co-founder of Airbnb, Brian Chesky, provided a great example of what good offboarding looks like when he communicated to the whole company about redundancies in May 2020, in the wake of Covid-19.
One of the major things this involved was support for alumni to find new jobs:
Alumni Talent Directory — They launched a public-facing website to help teammates leaving find new jobs. Departing employees could opt-in to have profiles, resumes, and work samples accessible to potential employers.
Alumni Placement Team — For the remainder of 2020, a significant portion of Airbnb Recruiting became an Alumni Placement Team. Recruiters who stayed with Airbnb provided support to departing employees to help them find their next job.
RiseSmart — Airbnb offered four months of career services through RiseSmart. The company specializes in career transition and job placement services.
To wrap things up, we leave you with one last cool idea for something you can do for a departing employee if, like many companies nowadays, you have to do so remotely.
Consider setting up a “wall of appreciation” for each leaver using a tool like Padlet, where colleagues can leave positive feedback, share memories, and express their appreciation.
This will never replace the fun times of an in-person, one last goodbye, but at least they’ll have something to look back on forever.
If you enjoyed this article on how to do employee offboarding, head on over to season 2 of our podcast, “The Ins and Outs of Work”. With two, easy-to-digest episodes a week, our hosts walk you through some of the most crucial aspects of HR.