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by Jen Leigh on August 7, 2018

When Offboarding, You Only Get One Chance to Make a Last Impression

If onboarding is an often-overlooked component of the human resources (HR) function, taking a back seat to the importance of hiring, then offboarding can be nothing less than the redheaded stepchild of the HR department. In fact, this isn't just folksy hyperbole; experts report that fewer than one-third of companies have a formal offboarding program in place. It's easy to understand why this process gets overlooked though: If you're in HR, you never want to lose good people, and it's critical to dispatch bad people not only painlessly, but also as quickly as possible. Offboarding simply gets shrugged off as a cost of doing business.

Not so fast - baked into this operation is inherent value that has the potential to contribute to your overall corporate strategy, if you take the opportunity to capitalize on it. This potential falls into two categories, depending on whether you're dealing with great employees with whom you're parting on good terms, or employees whom you're firing or with whom you're mutually parting ways. Let's examine prospects for your company's success in both instances.

Offboarding a Great Employee

Putting together an efficient and effective process that leaves your most valued employees with a "warm and fuzzy feeling" on their way out the door isn't just unnecessary fluff - it can be a tremendous investment in your company's success. Here's why:

It makes your alumni brand evangelists.

Employees who leave on good terms, happy with you and your company, are more likely to recommend your brand to others. In this age of social media, these recommendations can be critically important.

Your alumni can be a great source of talent referrals, both active and passive.

When you're looking for new talent, workers who've been successful in your environment and who know the demands of your workplace from the inside are a resource for prospects. Additionally, when potential new hires go to LinkedIn or Glassdoor to research your company before applying to open roles or considering an offer, they'll glean the information they're looking for from your alums.

Employees can boomerang.

Never discount the possibility that great employees of the past could also be great employees of the future. By offboarding with care, you leave the door open that an employee could return with the additional knowledge and experience amassed in their new position and pair it with their comprehensive knowledge of your organization to apply it to a new position for you with passion and vision.

You can learn a lot from what they have to say.

As a leader, you know that your people are your most important assets. What they have to say in an exit interview could be among the most important feedback they've given you throughout their tenure with your company. Listen with an open mind and an eye toward improvement.

Offboarding a Poor Employee.

How should your perspective change if you're offboarding a less-than-stellar or downright awful employee? First off, unless there's a direct threat to the physical security of you, your coworkers or company property, the same time and care should be taken to offboard problematic employees, including those who are being terminated, as is devoted to cultivating the ones you hate to see go. Here are some thoughts on partings that aren't such sweet sorrow:

Be cognizant of data security.

Regardless of the tenor of your relationship with the employee, it's imperative to ensure that you have recovered all passwords, logins and other sensitive information from each and every worker who walks out the door. Then, close your network - many companies neglect this critical step - and make sure all electronic files are inaccessible, just as actual files would be, once an employee is terminated or leaves their role.

Mind your legal responsibilities.

In all likelihood, you have legal - and possibly, fiduciary - responsibilities when an employee leaves. There's no more important time than at a bitter end to ensure that all of these responsibilities are met and met appropriately. Considerations for paperwork to complete and deliver can include a formal letter of resignation or termination, nondisclosure and/or noncompete agreements, benefits documents and tax documents. Additionally, if complaints are registered during the exit interview, make sure they're routed appropriately. The last thing you want to have happen is for a bitter employee to turn litigious once they're out the door.

As the old saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Likewise, you never get a second chance to make a last impression. Crafting a well-considered offboarding strategy to perfect that last impression is an investment in your company's success. In fact, given that today it's highly unlikely your employees will remain with you for the course of their career, and in light of how few companies have a comprehensive offboarding strategy, act quickly and you can establish an area of competitive dominance for your operation in this area. 

Jen Leigh

Jen Leigh is a Senior Product Specialist with Inflection HR's Cloud Based HR and Workforce Management Solutions. Connect with Jenni and the rest of the Inflection HR Team on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.