How to Create an Effective Offboarding Process

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In his classic pop hit, Neil Sedaka lamented that breaking up is hard to do. Sometimes, it feels like he was singing that song about the offboarding process. From awkward moments to the potential for emotional outbursts, parting ways with an employee isn't always easy.

Get Organized

Recruitment and onboarding can often demand the lion's share of an HR department's attention. But when it comes to the employee life cycle, underdeveloped offboarding methods and policies could translate into missed opportunities and lost advantages. Taking a moment to organize the requirements for departing employees is a good first step. Where applicable, when an employee is leaving your organization (whether voluntarily or involuntarily) you should:

  • Receive a formal resignation letter from the employee
  • Provide 401(k) plan and health benefit extension information
  • Arrange for knowledge transfer and the safe return of business property
  • Cancel permissions (email addresses, intranet and system access)
  • Verify up-to-date contact information for the employee
  • Communicate applicable severance package information

Conduct an Exit Interview

An exit interview, at its core, is an opportunity to learn about an employee's experience. Departing employees offer the potential to glean a wealth of information about the realities of daily life at your business. How was their experience with management? What do they have to say about your organizational culture? Employees who take a "what have I got to lose?" approach offer unique insight into what's really happening at your organization when they open up about long-held frustrations, complaints, or other deeply-held issues.

3 Ways to Capitalize on Your Exit Interview

Don't expect 100 percent accuracy from departing employees. Natural forgetfulness, concerns about burning bridges, embarrassment or retribution can make it almost impossible for a departing employee to be entirely truthful or transparent. You can increase the potential for honest communication by creating a safe environment where employees feel comfortable. To do so, consider these three tips.

1. Consider Who Should Conduct the Interview

In the absence of a designated HR representative, a manager or someone not directly involved with the exiting employee's team can elicit feelings of comfort due to their distance. Departing employees may be more inclined to be forthcoming when speaking with people they don't deal with on a daily basis.

2. Let the Departing Employee Come Prepared

Provide sufficient lead time to help employees prepare for the upcoming interview. Two or three days notice can give an exiting employee the opportunity to reflect upon their time with your organization and make notes about any key issues they plan on addressing.

3. Don't Rule Out Electronic Feedback

Despite your best efforts, an employee may still feel intimidated participating in a face-to-face exit interview. Providing a nervous or otherwise shy employee the opportunity to submit feedback via email can encourage them to dig deep and provide honest answers.

Knowing Why Employees Leave Gives You the Tools to Help Them Stay

Listening carefully to the information communicated to you by exiting employees can help you develop strategies that support employee retention. If a significant percentage of departing employees cite a breakdown in communication or discrepancies between initial job descriptions and their actual duties as a reason for leaving, you know areas that may require attention or even a complete overhaul.

Cultivating and implementing a successful offboarding process isn't a one-time affair. But the good news is your organization — and everyone who works there — will benefit from your time and efforts.

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