If bringing in a new hire is the HR equivalent of a carefree day at the amusement park - all fun, games and bonding - then offboarding, at most companies, is like a trip to the dentist, dreaded and postponed until the last possible moment. That's if an organization can even be bothered, given that experts report only 29 percent of companies have a formal offboarding program in place. If your group is among the vast majority of firms without an offboarding strategy, you're missing out on an opportunity to capitalize on so much potential: The opportunity to create a brand evangelist as well as someone who will refer future new hires to you, an alumni who will speak highly of your company and its products on social media and in the public, even a potential "boomerang employee" who may return to the fold one day. Shove them out the door summarily and both your company and its culture will suffer.
Think you don't have time to create and implement a cogent offboarding program with all your other responsibilities? In addition to the benefits that will accrue to your company's bottom line in the future thanks to the implementation of a strategic offboarding program, you'll actually be mitigating a great deal of risk as well as potential overspending by creating such a process. Close the door on potential litigation from embittered former employees by dotting your i's and crossing your t's with respect to matters like final pay and benefits; ensure you have fulfilled any fiduciary duties you may have in relation to your company's 401(k) plan; and do your paperwork so you're not overpaying for line items like insurance.
Ready to get started on an offboarding process that doesn't feel like pulling teeth? It doesn't have to be painful - use our 10-step offboarding checklist as a guide.
1. Communicate change as quickly as it becomes apparent that it will be made.
Eliminate the proverbial watercooler gossip by announcing the employee's departure as soon as possible, especially to their direct team. If you have payroll and/or IT personnel, or a separate benefits administrator, these folks will need to be brought into the loop as well.
Determining a way to recognize the employee's service and thank them, if appropriate, is also a great way to build culture.
If the employee is customer-facing, determining the appropriate time to share the news with their customers also is an important step in this part of the process.
2. Give the employee the resources necessary to handoff duties and transfer knowledge.
Hopefully, you'll have a replacement in mind for the employee's job. If this is the case, as soon as you've announced the forthcoming transition, get your departing employee involved with onboarding their replacement into their new responsibilities.
If you don't have a replacement ready, now's the time for your departing employee to get busy documenting their role. Ask them to lay out their daily and weekly duties, provide how-to's on key functions, and specify contact details for resources such as clients and critical vendors.
3. Prepare all paperwork included in the offboarding process for your company.
Some documents that must be given to the employee and included in his/her file:
- A resignation letter from the employee.
- An acknowledgement letter from the employee's supervisor.
- Signed nondisclosure/noncompete agreements.
- Signed form acknowledging receipt or denial of COBRA.
- Signed documents relating to 401(k) plan balances, etc.
- Signed documents relating to final pay and any paid time off balances, if applicable.
4. Request the return of all company assets.
Employee theft costs US businesses a reported $50 billion per year, and a surprising percentage of that comes from simple neglect at the time of separation when employees fail to return company property - and employers fail to request it. Be sure to ask for all physical property your employee may have in their possession, such as cell phones, computers, and for field employees, equipment. Experts recommend assigning a colleague to be accountable for the departing employee's materials as they're returned.
5. Terminate employee access to sensitive company material.
Data security is another critically important area on which to close the loop, and a recent survey showed that 69 percent of companies reported data loss of some form. The key to making sure you're not among that number is proactive access management on the part of your IT department throughout your employees' lifespan - as well as shutting down access the moment they're out the door. As software expert Mike Mason points out, "Multi-layer authentication, requiring both a password and a physical token, to gain access to technology and organization perimeters provides an extra layer of physical security."
6. Perform an exit interview to learn from the employee.
The exit interview can be a terrific opportunity to mine your employee's experience for ways to improve your company culture and your leadership and brand's relationship with the team that supports it. Structure your questions to relate to areas actually open to change, then challenge yourself to receive whatever feedback is offered and act upon it.
7. Let the employee know what to expect after departure.
Make sure your soon-to-be alumni knows when to expect a final paycheck, any changes to expect such as in insurance coverage and/or claims processes, 401(k) rollover processes.
8. Complete the final pay process.
Visit with payroll again on the employee's final day to ensure that they have all the departure details finalized and that the employee will be properly removed from payroll.
9. Thank the employee, and leave the door open for their return if possible.
Celebrate your employee if you're parting on good terms - again, this can be a very worthwhile investment in your corporate culture. And as you fête your soon-to-be-alum, remember that boomerang employees are becoming a very hot commodity in today's workplace.
10. Take a moment to reflect on what you've learned.
Just as each employee hire is a unique experience, each offboarding process offers its own opportunity for growth. What have you learned as you've walked your now-departed colleague through the steps necessary to leave the fold? Is there anything you'd now add to the knowledge transfer process for the next departure or a way you'd modify the exit interview the next time around? Now's the time to write down those ideas so that you can continually refine your offboarding strategy to be an asset for your company.