In the war for talent, offboarding receives a lot less attention than onboarding. Onboarding has obvious implications for a company’s brand and performance. Consulting firms must ensure new consultants are properly trained before they start working on client projects. Failing to do so will negatively impact a firm’s reputation. What many companies don’t realize, however, is that offboarding can be just as important.
Think about a departing employee’s perspective. When you leave an employer, you retain your opinion of that employer – and often professional relationships too. As such, you become a permanent brand ambassador for that organization. See it yet? As an employer, it’s in your best interest to invest in positive offboarding experiences. Not only for this “word-of-mouth” effect, but also for the sake of boomerang employees – a fancy term for workers who rejoin former employers. Consulting firms are no strangers to this concept, as many Partners dart in and out of industry roles during their careers. So, what is offboarding exactly?
By definition, offboarding is the process by which an employee parts ways with his or her employer. What might come to mind is firing, but resignation and retirement also constitute offboarding. Offboarding does not happen in one fell swoop, but rather a step-by-step approach from initial communication through final departure.
At a more granular level, the offboarding definition involves a multitude of tasks, both simple and complex. Simple tasks include things like collecting company equipment, removing IT access, and conducting exit interviews. More complex to-dos include re-aligning reporting structures, backfilling other employees, and shifting responsibilities around. Like onboarding, the offboarding process has elements of uncertainty and sensitivity. These elements, unfortunately, have the potential to breed resentment. A resigning employee can leave her manager wondering, “what did we do wrong? Could I have done something to get him/her to stay?” On the flip side, a terminated employee can walk out the door thinking, “what did I do wrong? Why was I let go?” A good offboarding process seeks to minimize questions so that both sides remain advocates of each other in the long run.
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Many organizations equate the offboarding process with employee termination or resignation. But that is just where the offboarding checklist begins. After the resignation phase, companies need to move into paperwork, work handoffs, and final relationship management. While some of these aspects may seem boring, it doesn’t make them any less important! Below is a comprehensive checklist to keep your offboarding on track. If the list seems overwhelming, there are plenty of offboarding software platforms out there that can supplement manual processes.
As mentioned already, the first step is also one of the most crucial. In the case of offboarding, communication refers to both the news itself in addition to the context. And context involves not just the employee in question but the broader team and company community.
Succession plans need to be managed delicately. Exiting employees have information and know-how that gets passed along. The exact transfer will depend on industry and function, but is always key for business continuity.
Property Retrieval and Systems Update
This step is even more relevant in the age of remote work and company laptops for everyone! Failing to collect equipment can be very costly. After turning in their laptops, offboarded employees need to be removed from internal records and directories.
During an amicable offboarding, it may seem cold to quickly move to shut off an employee’s password access. But cybersecurity breaches are ticking up every year, and companies of all sizes need to take the proper precautions.
Final Pay and Interview
The last formal box to check with the employee as a member of the company. Make sure to have your ducks in a row when it comes to monies owed. Then, be sure to conduct an exit interview. We’ve included some offboarding interview questions in this article (see below), as the exit interview really benefits both parties. It shows the employee they are valued, and it helps the organization learn about what works and what doesn’t.
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This step gets back to what we talked about up front. An offboarded employee is a permanent brand ambassador for your firm. Make a proactive effort to help them see your organization in a positive light. Plus, you never know when the circumstances might be right for an individual to “boomerang” back.
Offboarding Interview Questions
This shortlist of offboarding interview questions is certainly not exhaustive. Ultimately the structure of an exit interview should be custom tailored for each situation. With those caveats, here are a few questions you might consider including in your offboarding process. Most are tailored for a resignation scenario, versus a firing or termination:
- What compelled you to look for other opportunities?
- While working here, did you feel set up for success?
- How would you describe our company culture? Any specific examples?
- What could the company have done to keep you here?
- Were you satisfied with management, and specifically your direct manager?
- Did you feel supported in your career development goals?
- Would you ever consider rejoining us in the future?
- Would you recommend our company as a place to work to a friend or loved one?
What is offboarding? When done right, it can be a competitive advantage. Following a positive offboarding process, employees remain strong advocates of their former employers. In today’s job market where we are bombarded with information, every positive review helps. As a best practice, keep an offboarding checklist that can be flexible depending on the parties involved. Additionally, having purposeful offboarding interview questions can highlight areas of learning for both parties. And remember, while offboarding efficiency matters, getting each step right along the way is more important. At the end of the day, we are all human beings!
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