What is offboarding?

Offboarding is the process of ending the working relationship between an employer and a departing employee. The offboarding process should be implemented both for employees voluntarily leaving their roles and for those who have been laid off.

The primary goals of creating an organized offboarding process are to:

  • Maintain a respectable working relationship between the employer and departing employee
  • Preserve the company’s reputation
  • Sustain a positive company culture
  • Ensure company data remains secure

To achieve those goals, the offboarding process should strive to:

  • Minimize potential distractions and conflicts between management and departing employees
  • End departing employees' time with the company on a positive note
  • Collect feedback during exit interviews from departing employees
  • Assist departing employees with outplacement services, if needed

The current relevance of offboarding

An efficient offboarding process has recently become more crucial to an organization’s success than previously. Why? The Great Resignation.

We’re sure you’ve heard of this recent phenomenon. But, as a quick reminder, “The Great Resignation” refers to the higher-than-average number of employees leaving their jobs during and after the pandemic for a range of reasons, including the desire to continue working remotely, childcare issues, health concerns, and frustrating workplace conditions.

But even if “The Great Resignation” hasn’t directly affected your business, an efficient offboarding process is a must-have for your organization. Why? Because it can help to retain existing employees and recruit new talent. The offboarding process helps to achieve those goals when an employee quits or gets fired by systematizing the tasks required to:

  • Recover company assets and revoke access to company accounts to prevent security risks
  • Avoid legal issues related to misunderstandings and misaligned expectations
  • Collect feedback on how your company can improve and retain employees
  • End employee contracts without less worry of potential backlash or damage to your company’s reputation
  • Minimize the impact a loss of colleagues can have on the morale of remaining employees

Keep in mind that employees leaving en masse also creates problems for your IT and security teams who must review and terminate each former employee's access privileges to sensitive company data.

The longer these teams lack the direction to offboard employees, the longer your organization is vulnerable to security risks. For that reason, your HR team should collaborate with the IT and security teams to review and improve your organization’s existing offboarding process.

How to maintain your employer brand during offboarding

Regardless of the reason, leaving a job and workplace can be stressful and tedious. A smooth offboarding process helps establish a relationship of respect between your organization and departing employees. In turn, the offboarding process works to maintain and strengthen your company brand by making it more likely that:

  1. The employee will speak highly of your organization to their connections
  2. Your company can collect useful information during exit interviews
  3. Remaining employees won’t view your handling of departing employees as a potential red flag for reasons to also consider leaving

Point 1 is relatively easy to understand. A happy ex-employee might refer other top talents to apply for open roles at your company. This type of employee is also likely to share reviews (online and offline) that have a positive impact on your company's brand.

Point 2 requires a thoughtful and strategic approach. Your offboarding process should include exit interviews that aim to discover just how productive your current work environment is. You can ask questions about how well departing employees worked with their managers and co-workers.

If you notice any troubling trends from various exit interviews, take action as soon as possible. These recurring issues are the ones that are most likely to tarnish your company’s brand over time. Making a plan to address them now can lead to higher retention of your remaining employees and strengthen your brand in the long run.

Point 3 shouldn’t be overlooked when revising your offboarding process. To retain your remaining employees, you must acknowledge and address the impact that the departure of a team member will have on their work routine. Schedule a meeting with the departing employee, their manager, and any key team members to discuss the best way to redistribute the leftover work.

A list of offboarding resources

We recommend using the following employee offboarding checklist to ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible:

  • Communicate changes as soon as possible

    Inform HR and the departing employee’s team as soon as possible to give everyone time to prepare for the upcoming changes and required processes. You can share this information by sending an email, using the opportunity to wish the departing well. You’ll also want to instruct HR to inform other departments that will be part of the offboarding process, such as payroll and IT.
  • Document and organize important paperwork

    Make sure your offboarding process is properly documented and understood by reviewing with departing employees the following documents:
    • Letter of resignation or termination
    • Nondisclosure and non-compete agreements (if applicable)
    • Benefits documents (e.g. explanation of ongoing benefits, retirement plan transfer, unemployment insurance)
    • Information regarding the employee’s last paycheck
    Records of this employee paperwork should be stored in a talent management system. By keeping and reviewing these records, you can protect both parties from any legal issues.
  • Transfer knowledge

    Once an employee gives their notice, you should make sure their know-how is properly documented so that it’s easy for the next employee to pick things up. Have the departing employee transfer their knowledge to process documents or a knowledge management system.
  • Conduct an exit interview

    Exit interviews can be a valuable tool for discovering areas for a company to improve. You’ll get the most valuable information if, before the exit interview, you assure the employee that their answers will remain confidential or anonymous.
  • Reclaim company assets

    What items does the departing employee possess that the company owns? Create a list that reminds you to collect things like a company phone, laptop, keys, security cards, etc. You’ll also need to close corporate credit cards or expense accounts under the departing employee’s name.
  • Celebrate and thank the departing employee

    Remember the departing employee’s final impression of the company can have an impact on the company brand. To influence a positive impression, consider organizing something special for the employee’s last day, such as:
    • A farewell card signed by everyone in the company
    • A good-bye lunch
    • A personalized gift
  • Establish a system to stay in contact
    You never know if a departing employee may return to your company in the future. To leave the possibility open, consider creating an alumni network for ex-employees.
  • Finalize every stage of your offboarding process
    • IT Department
      • Remove the employee’s user account from any shared systems, documents, and accounts
      • Set up a call and email forwarding so that any incoming messages for the departed employee go to their supervisor or person responsible for taking over their tasks
    • HR Department
      • Remove the departed employee from the company organization chart
      • Update the company insurance provider
      • Update the worker’s status
      • Clean off the employee’s desk area
    • Manager
      • Remove the departed employee from the list of attendees for upcoming meetings
      • Inform team members of any last-minute changes to the transition