How You Say Good-bye Matters: Tips for Effective Offboarding of Remote Employees

offboarding remote employees

How you handle the offboarding process of a remote employee can speak volumes about your organization.

It's not easy when an employee leaves an organization. Whether the separation is voluntary or otherwise, discussing offboarding details can be uncomfortable, especially when the employee works remotely. A phone call or video meeting can be awkward, leaving the employee feeling disconnected and wondering if their contributions are appreciated.

Because of this, it's essential to implement a thoughtful offboarding process that makes the transition smoother and shows the remote employee you care, even as you part ways.

Managing the Employee Exit

Businesses can often struggle with how to handle employees who leave the organization. Sometimes the employee is terminated. Other times, they choose to leave voluntarily, a move that some organizations may take the wrong way. This can make them rush the employee out the door.

Regardless of why a person leaves, if they're treated poorly during the offboarding process, you've lost an employee (and possibly a customer) who may complain about their experience to their former colleagues, new employers and potential customers. They might also share their perceived negative experience on job sites, causing future candidates to decide not to apply. Ultimately, the employee's negative offboarding experience can damage your organization's brand image, candidate flow, employee retention, corporate morale and value proposition.

Other concerns arise when an employee is working remotely. When remote employees leave the organization, it is often not possible to have a traditional sendoff that would provide an opportunity for closure. This may lead to negative feelings as they are suddenly separated from their work group.

If an organization and employee are no longer a good fit, for whatever reason, the organization should still show the employee dignity, empathy, respect and sensitivity. How a business separates from an employee can have a long-term impact, not only on the employee but also on the company's culture, and the manager's and the organization's reputation.

Essentials for a Successful Offboarding Process

  1. Plan how to talk to the employee about the separation. Managers and HR should jointly connect with the remote employee by phone or video. During that conversation, understand that the employee may not be taking notes or grasping all aspects of the meeting, so let them know that you'll follow up with an email containing the details. Also, provide them with a contact number and email for any follow up questions they have at a later date. The ability to connect later is an important anchor point.

A manager, even if it's not the employee's direct manager, and an HR practitioner should be on the separation call. Each plays a critical role — the manager has a direct connection to the employee, and even if the manager doesn't supervise the employee, they can provide empathy and support. HR can support both the manager and employee and offer necessary information about the separation, which can be critical if a conversation becomes tense or doesn't proceed as anticipated.

Having both a manager and an HR team member involved in the call indicates respect for the event and the impacted employee. As my colleague, Tiffanie Ross, Senior Director of AIRS, powered by ADP, says, "It speaks to the fact that you, the employee, matter. You're important, no matter the reason for the departure."

  1. Determine what office equipment the employee has at home and needs to return. It is imperative to get a list of what company materials the employee brought home. If the shift to remote work began suddenly in response to COVID-19, the employee might have relocated items from the office that might have seemed useful. Do they have an extra monitor or office furniture? Use the list of what you allowed them to take home to track what needs to be returned.

Work with your IT team to turn off access to the company devices and intranet. Also, give the employee a deadline for returning their equipment and material and an easy way to do so. Bear in mind the logistics of returning equipment isn't as easy for a remote employee. After all, they can't just leave their company laptop on the office desk as they go.

Provide a simple way for the employee to return company property. Remember that the employee is likely dealing with a lot of complicated emotions about COVID-19 as well and may not be comfortable leaving their home to return items in person or by mail.

Your offboarding process needs to keep today's climate in mind but also ensure you have a plan for each employee's situation. That may mean sending the employee a box with a prepaid shipping label and arranging for the box to be picked up at the employee's house.

  1. Conduct an exit interview for voluntary separations. This conversation gives the employee a chance to highlight areas of concern and allows you to demonstrate that you want to understand the reasons the employee is leaving. Having the discussion is more important than whether it occurs in person or on the phone.

"What's most important is the opportunity to connect and learn things the organization can improve upon and correct them, and potentially preventing someone else from leaving," Ross says.

Whether an employee is at the beginning or end of their relationship with your organization, how you treat them speaks volumes about your organization, leaders and culture. When you ensure that your offboarding process treats employees with respect and care, it's more likely that there will be a positive outcome from a challenging situation.

Learn more about offboarding and outplacement services from ADP Outplacement, powered by ADP.