‘Offboarding process’ might sound like a slightly strange phrase, but basically, it’s a term that covers everything to do with the final stage of an employee’s time with you from the moment it’s confirmed they are leaving.
There are a lot of employees on the move at the moment which might mean that at some point soon, if not already, you’re dealing with some of your own people leaving. Once you know someone’s going, you’re probably already starting to focus on the future and what to do next, rather than planning on investing much time into the departure of the employee. But actually, the offboarding process, as it’s become known, is an important stage that should be managed properly.
Why is it important to pay such attention to the offboarding process?
So why is it beneficial to pay particular attention to the way you do it? Well, for a number of reasons. Obviously, the way you handle the offboarding will be affected by the kind of departure it is and the circumstances around it, and you will have to adapt the steps you take accordingly.
But in general, a well-managed offboarding process makes the departure as smooth as possible and can also help the relationship end on a more positive note. And in some cases, it could even help to leave the door open for an employee to return at some point in the future. So what do you need to consider in your offboarding approach?
The effective transfer of knowledge and responsibilities
A smooth departure should involve settling on a mutually agreeable notice period and process of handover – although clearly this does depend on why they’re leaving and as such, could need to be handled sensitively. You might need to arrange for the departing employee to spend some time handing over their responsibilities to another person or reallocate their work across several employees. If the work’s going to be passed on to a new recruit who’s yet to join you, you might need to ask the employee to record the main elements of the work they are involved in and prepare detailed notes ready for the individual who will take it on.
In some cases, the employee might be prepared to still be contacted once they’ve left you to answer very specific queries. Obviously, their loyalties must lie with their new employer, but an amicable parting does increase the chances that they’ll be willing to answer occasional questions sent their way.
Use an exit interview to get valuable feedback during the offboarding process
The idea of a formal sit down with an employee who’s about to leave can sometimes be viewed less than enthusiastically! But it’s really worthwhile investing some time doing it. Again, the circumstances will determine how you should approach it – an exit interview with someone who’s been made redundant will have a very different tone to one with an employee who’s moving on or looking forward to retirement.
But as circumstances allow, an exit interview can be a good chance to get some honest and open feedback about how the person feels about their time with the company – good and bad – and can provide some really valuable information about the steps your company can take to improve working life for those who are staying. It might be an opportunity for the outgoing employee to express some challenging viewpoints which might be difficult to hear but be prepared to reflect on them. And more pleasantly, an exit interview also presents you with the ideal opportunity to say thank you for everything they’ve done.
Manage the company’s reputation
At a time when companies are battling to get the best talent, you don’t want to lose someone and then have them actively putting other people off from the prospect of working for your company too.
Ideally, a good departure experience will mean that they’ll be happy to give good feedback about their time with you. Remember that increasing numbers of employees, and ex-employees, are very happy to air their views on social media and sites like Glassdoor, and you don’t want to find yourself having to address negative comments. While the last few weeks and days with you can’t rewrite everything that has happened before then, they can help to set the tone and increase the likelihood that the employee will leave feeling positive about their time with you.
Ensure all company property is returned
In very practical terms, the offboarding process is also when you must gather in all of the company items your departing employee has in their possession. That could include a whole range of physical items and equipment, such as laptops, phones, and keys but of course, could also include electronic files and data.
It’s useful to have a standard checklist prepared to ensure everything is returned, including making sure that access to any company and customer accounts, shared drives and portals is removed at an appropriate point.
How are other employees feeling?
While the main focus will be on the person departing, it’s likely to affect other people too. The employee that’s leaving will have had working relationships with those around them and their departure could be unsettling. It means having to say goodbye to a colleague who might have been a friend and trusted confidante while also possibly dealing with more work landing on them because of the move. So try to be as understanding and supportive about this as possible.
A final point…
The subject of references might come up at some point too. In most cases you aren’t obliged to provide a reference; while you might be happy to offer to do so, be aware that the employee could challenge it in court if they felt it was unfair or misleading.
If you’d like more advice on managing employees at any stage of their employment, talk to us. Jude Read HR Consultancy provides expert HR advice and guidance which can be accessed via a number of highly flexible services. Please do get in touch if you’d like to discover more about how we can help your company.