A lot of employers put more focus on onboarding than offboarding. But creating a positive experience for departing employees can help to increase retention, keep morale high, and make for a smooth and straightforward transition.
As an employer, you may think you have nothing to offer an employee who has chosen to leave your company. You may even feel hurt or resentful. But it’s important that you put those feelings aside and focus on how to offboard your staff member without burning bridges and providing support and direction to all involved.
How to Positively Offboard an Employee
Here are some tips you can use to create an effective employee offboarding strategy as part of your company culture.
1. Consider Your Organization’s Reputation
Some employers are tempted to let personal feelings take over when an employee decides to leave, but turnover is inevitable in almost every company at one point or another.
Employees choose to leave for a variety of reasons, and it’s important that no matter why a team member decides to leave, you keep your personal opinions in check. Do this not only to encourage a positive offboarding experience for your exiting employee and the rest of your team but to build your company’s reputation as well.
Before applying for a job with your company, many potential employees will conduct a quick online search to see what shows up. If a negative Glassdoor review is front and center, and it details a poor offboarding experience, you’re likely to miss out on qualified, high-quality candidates.
Alternately, a former employee who has a large network or who is involved in different professional groups isn’t likely to speak highly of an employer who behaved carelessly during the offboarding process to other industry experts.
2. Meet With Your Exiting Employee
It may seem obvious, but you should meet with your departing employee after they give their notice. A friendly and informative meeting can help to set the tone for the rest of the offboarding process and let your colleague know where they stand.
Cover the following topics so that you’re both on the same page when it comes to offboarding expectations and responsibilities:
- What you can do to help them
- What they can do to help you
- What you expect them to do before they leave
- Whether they need to develop training material
- Who will be handling their job duties
Remember to be kind, positive, and friendly during this meeting. The more support and guidance you offer, the more likely the employee is to help with training their replacement and wrapping up any final projects.
You can also use this as an opportunity to ask where they’re going, what their new position will be, and what made them decide to make a move. However, if you suspect that they’re leaving due to dissatisfaction or unhappiness, this is best left for the exit interview.
3. Meet With Your Team
When an employee quits, it affects your entire team. It can cause a lot of uncertainty and negatively impact morale and engagement. But one of the easiest ways to get ahead of any adverse effects is to communicate early and well with your entire team.
After you meet with the employee who is leaving and you’ve made a plan for handing off duties, you should plan for a group meeting with all of your staff members.
If you’d like, let your outgoing employee announce their departure at the beginning of the meeting and then go over any details that will affect the rest of the team, like your transition plan and whether you’ll be hiring a new employee to fill the open position or if you plan to fill the role from within your company.
This is also a good time to make a short, straightforward speech about your ex-employee by thanking them for their contributions and congratulating them on their new professional adventure. A supportive and encouraging message can go a long way, both for departing employees and your current staff.
Give everyone a chance to ask questions so that there’s no confusion surrounding any new roles or responsibilities within your team. Clear communication makes employees feel secure and eases changes in workflow and job duties.
4. Communicate About the Change in Staff
Once an employee leaves, you want to make sure that everyone knows they’re no longer with your company. This includes the rest of your staff as well as any clients, freelancers, partners, or business contacts outside of the company.
Send an email before your employee leaves notifying anyone relevant of their last day and who will be taking over their duties going forward. Make sure that the email is addressed to your entire staff, including department heads and junior employees. As much as possible, you want to ensure that no one is taken by surprise and that they know who to work with in the future.
Once your employee has left, set up email forwarding so that you can catch any important work-related emails that may be sent to their previous email address in error.
5. Keep Morale in Mind
The rest of the team’s morale can be affected when an employee leaves, especially if their coworker has a negative offboarding experience. Poor offboarding tactics — such as refusing to communicate, letting personal feelings get in the way, or failing to plan and organize a smooth transition — give the impression that you only value your team members as employees and not as people.
Alternatively, a positive offboarding plan can keep morale steady and show staff members that you genuinely care about them and that you take your role as a manager or business owner seriously.
Keep a pulse on morale to determine how your staff is being affected by your previous employee’s departure and address specific issues or problems by communicating openly and honestly with your employees.
If morale seems low and you aren’t sure what to do, try adding a few more ideas to your offboarding checklist to help with engagement and motivation.
6. Work With Your Human Resources Department
Your human resources (HR) department is an essential resource for both onboarding and offboarding.
For example, your HR professional can assist with:
- Ending health benefits, share plans, and other financial paperwork
- Ensuring a final paycheck is sent out
- Retrieving company assets, such a security pass, key, credit card, or laptop
- Removing access to company accounts and software once the employee has left
- Conducting exit interviews
- Creating a job description and recruiting for a replacement
- Reviewing documents like a noncompete contract or nondisclosure agreement
HR can also provide guidance on how to keep communications positive and productive after an employee decides to move on.
7. Ask Your Departing Employee to Help With Recruitment
When an employee leaves, don’t only focus on transferring duties and redirecting workflow. Have your former employee help with finding their replacement. After all, who knows their job better than they do?
When appropriate, ask them to:
- Write a job description to use in online job ads for new hires
- Review resumes and cover letters from potential candidates
- Sit in on interviews
- Discuss whether any existing team members would be a fit
- Meet with a recruiter or hiring manager to explain their role and responsibilities
Involving your former employee in the hiring process for their replacement helps you to find better, more suitable candidates who will have an accurate and realistic understanding of the open position.
8. Conduct an Exit Interview
Although exit interviews should always be optional, they’re an important part of any employee offboarding process. They are a great way to encourage honest feedback and learn where you can improve as a manager and as a company.
Think of an exit interview as an opportunity for you to learn about your employee’s entire experience with you — from onboarding and training to reviews, office politics, company culture, and everything in between.
Some exit interviews are conducted by managers and others by HR departments. It depends on how your company is structured. Regardless of the logistics, exit interviews should be reserved for the last day or two before you and your outgoing employee part ways. If done too early, the employee who is leaving may not feel comfortable being completely upfront about suggestions or complaints.
Although your exiting employee may not have anything bad to say, encourage them to share any tips or advice they have related to their position, the company, their team, or their manager. If they do share negative feedback, remember not to take it personally and to remain professional.
9. Offer to Be a Reference
Depending on your company policy about work references, you can offer to be a reference for your departing employee for future jobs. Knowing that they can rely on you to provide an honest, helpful, and professional reference is a great way to ensure that your employee leaves on a good note.
Most companies prefer that candidates use previous managers or employers as references, so by making the offer, you’re letting them know that you care about their professional future. Plus, it saves them from having to ask you, which can be difficult if they’re not sure where they stand after handing in their notice.
10. Get Your Exiting Employee’s Contact Information
Don’t forget to get your outgoing employee’s new contact information, like an email or mailing address in case you need to contact them with questions related to their previous role. For example, you may need to get in touch about their benefits or to ask about a company account or password. Although you can plan for a comprehensive hand-off, some details can get lost during knowledge transfer, so it’s important to know how to reach your previous hire for a quick question.
And, if they leave on good terms, you may also want to use it to send a friendly message or invite them to a workplace social event down the road.
11. Welcome a Return
Boomerang employees are workers who leave a company only to return later. These employees learned that the grass isn’t always greener and came back to work for you because they had a positive experience at your company. These employees can be a boon to you since they already know the ins and outs of your business, your customers, and the role they held at your company.
But you’ll only get boomerang employees if you facilitate and participate in a proper offboarding process and let outgoing employees know that they’re welcome to return in the future.
If you’re open to having ex-employees work for you again down the road, make sure to communicate that during your offboarding process so that they know it’s an option. If you don’t make it clear, they may assume that you’re not open to it.
12. Connect on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is an ideal way to follow your ex-employee’s professional progress and to get in touch about work-related questions, references, or job opportunities. If you aren’t already connected with your departing employee on LinkedIn, send them an invite. You can take things a step further by providing a written recommendation on the platform as well, which can give them a boost during job searches and round out their profile.
And, as a bonus for you, giving recommendations makes you look like a stellar boss to your ex-employee’s connections and network.
13. Plan an Event
Planning an event like a lunch or after-work cocktail can give current employees a chance to say goodbye to co-workers and end the offboarding process on a happy note. Offboarding can be hard for both your former employee and their team members, so offering everyone a chance to have a casual get-together to reminisce and wish each other well can be a welcome change from typical last-day scenarios.
Involve your team in planning the event, and try to choose a venue that your previous employee enjoys. If possible, have the company cover costs for a meal or appetizers to make it even more enjoyable for everyone.
14. Purchase a Gift
A personalized gift from the company is the perfect way to express appreciation and gratitude for your departing employee’s hard work over the years. Some gift ideas for ex-employees include:
- A briefcase or professional bag
- Gift cards to their favorite restaurants
- A donation to a charity or nonprofit they care about
- Gourmet coffee, tea, or chocolate
- Personalized office supplies
- A gift basket
- A bottle of wine
You can also get a cake, a framed picture of the team, or anything else you think they might like. Talk to their work friends for ideas and choose a gift that’s both appropriate and fits your budget.
15. Send Around a Card
A card is a cost-effective and common way to bid farewell to an employee. Give the whole team a chance to write a personal message and sign their name by sending it around in advance. If you have a good relationship with your departing employee, you may even want to give them a card yourself, expressing how much you have valued them and enjoyed having them on your team.
When you offboard employees with morale, engagement, and professionalism in mind, you reap the rewards of being a thoughtful and desirable employer. Your company’s reputation is a powerful tool in attracting and retaining quality hires, and how you treat previous employees can have a significant impact on how you’re viewed by potential candidates.
Keep your offboarding strategy professional, communicative, and positive to facilitate a smooth transition for everyone involved.