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How to Offboard an Employee

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Nathan Richardson, SEO specialist at BambooHR

Companies give a lot of attention to new employees and the onboarding process, and rightly so. But what happens when someone leaves? A successful offboarding process can not only protect your company legally, but it can also offer additional opportunities for HR professionals to gather important feedback to help improve the organization. 

Why Employee Offboarding is Important

Have you ever left a job, only to discover that you still had access to the company email or documents? This is the sort of mistake that can happen when the offboarding process is overlooked. Too many companies simply wave goodbye to an outgoing employee, but don’t have a formalized offboarding process. 

A proper offboarding process mitigates legal and security threats. When used to its greatest potential, you can gain honest feedback from employees who can help improve your organization. You can learn why they are leaving, and take steps to improve situations when possible. If an employee is being let go, you can still gather valuable feedback before they leave.

Offboarding is also an important part of an employee’s entire experience with your company. In an era where online reviews wield tremendous power, your departing employees can have more impact on your company than ever before, and you want their last days with your business to be as positive as possible. In addition, the remaining employees will watch how the offboarding process is handled, which can color their own feelings. 

Offboarding done right maintains your organization’s reputation, contributes to overall company culture, and preserves networking opportunities for “boomerang employees” to return in the future. 

Step 1: Plan Ahead

Effective offboarding can’t be an afterthought or just thrown together. But, the reality is that most offboarding today is just that: improvised. Because there usually isn’t a sense of urgency, offboarding may not even be assigned to a specific person or department. Office managers can get handed the responsibility, but the HR department may be a better choice. 

Getting organized ahead of time will streamline the offboarding process. To make sure no key action items fall through the cracks, set up your offboarding by building out a checklist, assigning responsibilities, and defining processes. You can make a master list for all employees, then break that down further into departments and roles. Some items for your offboarding list include:

  • End date
  • Steps for transitioning responsibilities
  • Collecting facility keys or other access revocation
  • Turn in hardware
  • Revocation of access to software, docs, etc.
  • Benefits termination
  • Legal contracts
  • Tax documentation

This first step is one of the most important. Employee offboarding will always be more effective if there is a process in place before it’s needed.

Step 2: Communicate the Departure

When you find out an employee is leaving, notify HR, IT, managers, and team members. Don’t wait to tell employees about a departure as that simply opens the door to rumors or gossip, which can be disruptive. Let affected parties—coworkers, subordinates, managers, and/or customers—know than an employee is leaving. If it’s appropriate, you can share why they are moving on and who will be taking over their responsibilities. Make sure to thank the departing employee for their service. 

In the case when an employee is being let go, communication is especially important, not only with the affected employee, but with everyone else as well. It can have a ripple effect on morale, and the remaining employees are watching carefully to see how the process is managed.  

Step 3: Complete Documentation 

Make sure all documentation is completed by the departing employee. This can include signing a letter of resignation, a noncompete agreement, benefits forms, and other necessary documents. 

Step 4: Transfer the Employee’s Knowledge

Someone will be taking over the departing employee’s responsibilities. Before they leave, their knowledge needs to be collected (the “How to’s” of their job) to transfer to their successor. If a successor isn’t ready to go, then create documentation for when you do have a successor. Get as much information as possible before the employee leaves including things like daily tasks, regular meetings, file locations, and contact information.

Step 4: Conduct an Exit Interview

Unfortunately, this step is too often skipped, even though the exit interview has the greatest potential for discovering areas where your organization can improve. Your exit interviews won’t realize their full potential unless you approach them right. 

Make the most of your exit interviews, with 15 of the most effective exit interview questions you can ask. Exit interviews are a valuable opportunity to give you a candid look into the workplace and how your employees are really doing. 

Step 5: Evaluate Feedback

Once you conduct the exit interview and your former employee is on their way, offboarding isn’t over. Evaluate what you learned and the feedback you received to see how you can improve your company’s work environment. And as more offboardings are completed, you can look for patterns that may emerge, giving you even more valuable data. 

An effective offboarding process can be as important for your organization as a good onboarding process. These four additional tips can help you get it right so that every employee can leave on a good note—for both the employee and the company. 

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Nathan is an SEO specialist at BambooHR. He’s passionate about staying a step ahead of the game in the ever-changing world of content marketing. Having spent several years in the small business and startup arena, he loves finding new ways of helping people help themselves with limited budget and bandwidth.





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