A good offboarding (or employee-exit management) strategy often ranks low on the priority list for busy HR leaders. They already have so much on their plates—bringing new employees into the fold, shaping their experiences with the organization, ensuring that they grow into fully-rounded hires—that they don't have time for offboarding. As the final opportunity to leave a positive impression on soon-to-be-former employees, though, exit management is important, and companies should treat it as such. The most effective offboarding programs touch on five key areas, each of which has distinct action steps.
- Assessment (Has the departing employee given feedback on their time with the organization?)
- Brand (Has the departing employee been empowered to be a positive future brand ambassador?)
- Compliance (Is the departing employee legally prepared to leave the organization?)
- Dignity (Is the organization helping the departing employee to leave with dignity and respect?)
- Expertise (Has the departing employee's specialized knowledge been shared and documented?)
Departing employees have valuable knowledge and insights that HR needs, and organizations should not let that information go to waste. Too often HR schedules exit interviews because it's "supposed to do them," then lets the data sit without analyzing it. Feedback is effective only if HR uses it to learn and improve
- Create an incentivized feedback quiz. When multiple parties offer similar negative feedback, then it's probably a good idea to make some changes. The reverse also holds true: when HR hears positive feedback, it should look for ways to recreate that success in other areas.
- Schedule the exit interview with an unbiased third party. If a departing employee has been having problems with their manager, then booking that manager to run the exit interview isn't going to yield useful results.
Departing employees are the best brand ambassadors—except when they're the worst. By investing in a positive offboarding experience, companies create brand ambassadors (who can also help with future recruitment!) and prevent people from bad-mouthing the organization after they've left.
- Provide (quality) company swag. It may seem counterproductive to give company swag to a departing employee, but these items can serve as fun reminders of their time with the organization and set them up as visible brand ambassadors.
- Enroll leavers in the organization's alumni group. A well-run alumni group gives HR a space in which to share company news and events, ask about referrals for job openings, and include leavers in the organization's future.
- This is the one part of offboarding that most organizations get right, mostly because they know the dangers of messing up the legal side of exit management. It's important not to mistake good compliance for employee-exit management, though: compliance is only one part of a well-rounded offboarding strategy.
- Request a signed letter of resignation. This legal formality also gives the resignation a certain amount of finality and can be used as the official beginning of the offboarding process.
- Review confidentiality or noncompete agreements. Many employees will have forgotten the details of these policies during the course of their employment. A quick in-person review of them at this point can prevent headaches down the road.
- This should be the most important part of the employee-exit management strategy in any organization that purports to "put people first." Allowing employees to leave with their heads held high is the biggest gift a company can give them and will foster goodwill with both leavers and the organization's entire employee network.
- Communicate the departure internally. The sooner the leaver's departure is announced, the sooner they can have open and honest conversations with their colleagues about their exit. Be sure to let the departing employee set the tone of this communication.
- Post a "thank you" message on LinkedIn. A public post by a direct manager to thank a departing colleague is a great (and public) way to show appreciation for their tenure.
Too often, the following scenario plays out: a senior team member who is a poor record keeper leaves an organization—and their years of accumulated knowledge walk out the door with them! Safeguarding such knowledge is crucial. Without it, ongoing projects suffer, time and money are lost, and the rest of the team becomes less productive as they're forced to pick up the slack.
- Facilitate access to resources. Ensure that the departing employee briefs their manager on the systems they use and provides all required logins and passwords. Store this information safely and securely.
- Record a handover video. If an employee is departing before their replacement starts, have the exiting employee record a short handover video to give the new hire a soft landing when they eventually join the company.
Parting ways with employees doesn't always have to be a negative experience. By taking action to support each of the five offboarding areas described above, companies will be sure to ensure business continuity, grow their future processes, and ultimately create powerful brand ambassadors who leave the organization with their heads held high.