HR Management··5 min read

What is Offboarding? And Why Does It Matter?

What is Offboarding

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

To conduct an effective offboarding process, you need to follow series of steps. 

Conduct a Thorough Exit Interview

The exit interview is a crucial step in the employee offboarding process. It provides valuable insights into the employee experience and offers a platform for honest feedback. Human Resources should prepare a set of exit interview questions aimed at gathering honest answers. This helps in employee retention strategies and ensures a smooth transition for both parties.

Manage Transfer of Knowledge

Transferring institutional knowledge from the outgoing employee to current employees is vital. This knowledge transfer includes ongoing projects, daily work routines, and other aspects of offboarding. A well-structured offboarding procedure ensures that no valuable insights are lost, making for a successful offboarding process.

Secure Company Assets and Equipment

Ensure the return of all company equipment and assets, including mobile phones, company credit cards, and other company property. This minimizes potential security risks and legal risks. A checklist can help keep track of these items and protect sensitive company information.

File Necessary Paperwork

Filing the letter of resignation and other formal documents is a key step in the separation process. Offboarding checklists can help streamline this, including details like employee exits and contract disputes. Proper documentation safeguards the company from lawsuits and compliance risks.

Foster Team Morale

Maintaining a positive relationship with the outgoing employee can have a lasting impact on team morale and business operations. Be upfront with the direct team about the reasons for the departure to avoid rumors and maintain a positive experience for all involved.

Review Access to Company Systems

Restricting access to company systems and accounts is essential to mitigate security risks. This includes email accounts, project management tools, and the company directory. Consult your legal team to ensure all bases are covered, minimizing the chance of legal threats.

Conduct an Exit Survey

An exit survey complements the exit interview by providing an additional layer of valuable feedback. It should be part of your consistent offboarding process and can offer insights into aspects like employee engagement and company values.

Show Appreciation and Give Thanks

Ending on a positive note is important for both parties. Recognize the contributions of the outgoing employee, perhaps through a small farewell gathering or gift. This fosters a positive offboarding experience and leaves the door open for future business relationships.

Review Company Policy and Employee Handbook

Ensure the outgoing employee is well-versed in any non-disclosure agreements or other company policies outlined in the employee handbook. This is a preventative measure against potential contract disputes and wrongful termination lawsuits.

Finalize Ongoing Projects

Before the employee's voluntary resignation or involuntary termination, make sure to transition any current projects to other team members. Use a project management tool to track the progress and ensure a smooth transition.

Assess Business Impact

Evaluate the impact of the employee's departure on business operations. This could involve reviewing company reviews or customer feedback to gauge any changes in business relationships or potential customers.

Provide Reference and Documentation

Offer a letter of recommendation to the outgoing employee, adhering to state laws and acting in good faith. This not only shows gratitude but also aids the employee in their future career endeavors.

In conclusion

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.

A well-structured offboarding process is essential for both the company and the outgoing employee. From the initial formal letter of resignation to the final transition process, each step should be clearly outlined in the offboarding policy. This ensures a smooth offboarding process that covers essential offboarding tasks like restricting employee access to company email and social media accounts. 

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