Offboarding, unlike onboarding, often goes underappreciated despite its benefits. In reality, offboarding for an employee signifies a culmination of both a wealth of knowledge and a homed work ethic. Considering this, there’s no surprise that keeping in touch with offboarded employees after their time has passed can be advantageous for companies in the long run. So, what is offboarding?

What is Offboarding?

Offboarding is the formal process of an employee leaving a company. Exiting employees leave for several reasons that require the process of offboarding, including retirement, exploring different job opportunities, or resignation.

For these reasons and more, the process is typically an amiable one, especially if the employee has longstanding ties with the company. It is meant to be a smooth departure for both the exiting employee and the company and is seen as the last step in the employee lifecycle. Those are the key components of the offboarding definition.

Onboarding vs Offboarding

Onboarding and offboarding go hand in hand. While onboarding is a training method for new employees to help them assimilate into the company culture and work ethic, offboarding is the formal sendoff of an employee. The process of onboarding can be applied both ways: with offboarded employees that return years later to a job that seems unfamiliar, necessary conversations with managers and coworkers can get returning employees up to speed.

Why It Matters

Offboarding takes care of all the loose ends in an organized manner. Without it, there’s an unorganized mess of legal paperwork, IT changes, and employee position-related device/equipment returns to deal with. Offboarding makes it easier on companies should they lose contact completely with those same employees.

Moreover, a big part of offboarding is a moment of thankfulness and well-wishing from management and coworkers to the exiting employee. Businesses that emphasize this aspect should lean into it being a sort of recognition for years of service. It may come into play later for retirees who encourage their family and friends to apply/look into their previous field of work and for offboarded employees that ‘boomerang’ back.

Boomerang employees in particular are becoming more and more widespread in the labor force. And as the job market gets tighter, searching for, attracting, and retaining top talent has become quite difficult in recent years. Many companies find success rehiring former employees who already have a track record.

Harvard Business Review concluded that the work performance of boomerangs will likely mimic their work performance from before. This is good news if they were adequate before or, even better, considered to be top talent. A company can maximize their success with boomerangs - aka offboarding employees - by using the offboarding process as a tool for leaving a lasting impact at the end of their employees’ careers.

Employee Offboarding Checklist

1. Transfer knowledge

As an integral part of the company, exiting employees have gained a wealth of knowledge over the years and insight into their job position that a fresh employee can’t learn through their education alone. All of the experience that the exiting employee has, including their work method, will be transferred to the new employee. This is an effective way to increase employability and put more emphasis on an organization’s desire for brand advocates and ambassadors.

2. Provide references and exiting documentation

One way to express gratitude is to provide letters of recommendation, which exiting employees need to demonstrate employability. As stated before, one of the most popular reasons for a worker leaving is wanting to explore other job opportunities. Some states have reference immunity laws, while others are expected to act in good faith. Either way, it makes the difference if this part of the process is hassle-free for both parties.

3. File the paperwork

Filing paperwork becomes much simpler with an employee offboarding checklist. Most checklists can account for employee exit information, their letter of resignation and an inventory of all company devices and equipment loaned to the exiting employee (if applicable). It can also have separate checklists for the department of personnel staff and supervisor to fill out. And as stated before, there are many steps in offboarding. Fortunately, it can coalesce into an official offboarding process document for the sake of all parties involved. That - accompanied with a checklist - will prevent any legal issues and misunderstandings in the future.

4. Foster team morale

Exiting employees leave more than just their position behind. Their reputation with former fellow employees, hopefully good, will play a role in the offboarding process. Instead of there being a rumor mill, being upfront with other workers is not only respectable but will preserve team morale and deflect any mistrust. The reason for the departure, specifically, and the company’s candid reaction is what’s most important.

5. Conduct an exit survey/interview

Exit surveys take into account how offboarding employees perceive their time at the company. It’s information gathering of honest feedback so that you learn how to improve your business. It should be strongly encouraged for the exiting employee to attend an exit interview with HR, as well. An interview and survey are what’ll stick at the end of the day for both the company and exiting employees; it leaves a door open for them and helps retain top talent in the future.

6. Give thanks

Thanking the exiting employee makes their time at the company feel appreciated and is a great way to reflect on their contributions to the company. One very effective way of doing this is to point out highlights in their career, the impact they had on their former coworkers, and how they’ve grown personality-wise over the years (i.e., more confident leader, more knowledgeable). Gift-giving or a themed party are traditional ways to show appreciation in the workplace.


Offboarding has cyclical benefits that meld into a company’s rotation of workers. If applied, it’ll work hand in hand with onboarding and can make the tedious process of paperwork more manageable. It’ll also set a higher bar for new employees, attract boomerangs (including those from other companies), and ultimately drive forward company goals.