After an overseas trip to see those grandparents or distant relatives of yours, you embrace and hold on to each other at the airport. Since you don’t know when you’ll see them next, you must say your poignant goodbyes. You offer departing gifts and kisses and promise to keep in touch with everyone over the phone. As you wave to your family and part ways, you smile to yourself, knowing you did all you could to give them a meaningful farewell. 

In the workplace, there are also times when you must say goodbye to people. Whether your employees leave on good terms or not, companies must be ready to orchestrate a seamless transition for the staff members who decide to move on. 

In this article, we will discuss the importance of effective onboarding and how it can enhance your organization’s reputation. We will also touch on the key elements of a successful offboarding process, along with the legal, ethical, and technological aspects involved. 

What exactly is offboarding?

Offboarding is the often overlooked and mostly forgotten cousin of onboarding. A very important part of the talent management process, offboarding requires successfully managing an employees exit from a company. This calls for activities such as knowledge transfer, exit interviews, and the protection of confidential information. 

It is during offboarding that companies have the opportunity to show their departing employees that their contributions were valued and appreciated. Former staff may be given a personalized farewell message, shown recognition for their achievements, or offered resources to help them transition to their next adventure.  

Man in suit walking out of work
Photo by Bram Naus on Unsplash

The impact on employee experience

Until the employee completes offboarding, they are still a part of your company. All eyes are on you, so be sure to take the time to organize a proper offboarding experience. 

If done correctly, offboarding can leave departing employees with a sense of respect and positivity toward your organization. In addition to all the pay and benefits received during their time with your company, you should also offer them closure, a chance to give feedback, and support in their next career move. 

A well-executed offboarding process can have an impact on the morale and productivity of the remaining staff as well. When they witness their departing colleagues being treated with respect and care, they feel good about how they will be treated when their time comes. Think about it — do you want to run your business by earning the respect of your staff or instilling fear? 

The impact on company reputation

Likewise, the way you carry out your offboarding process will either contribute to your business’s stellar reputation or put you in the doghouse. Whatever you do, remember that your current and potential staff, customers, and investors are on the sidelines observing.

If your employee leaves the company feeling positive, they will be more likely to speak highly of you. They could recommend your business to their network, encourage someone to apply for a job at your firm, or even be open to a rehire in the future. 

On the other hand, mishandling the offboarding process can lead to negative reviews online or by word of mouth, potential legal trouble, and a damaged reputation. Treat your employees using the Golden Rule, or risk being portrayed as negatively as a scorned ex vindictively tossing out their partner’s belongings.

Key elements of a successful offboarding process

Now that you’re clear on why offboarding should be prioritized, let’s discuss the components that make up this process.

1. Prepare for employee departure

Once you are notified that an employee will be leaving, it’s time to prepare. Begin by having a constructive and honest conversation about why they are choosing to leave. The goal is for the staff member to express themselves and feel heard, while managers should take notes on how they can themselves improve. 

Additionally, your communication with the departing staff should be as clear as day. There should be no room for misinterpretation and both the company and the employee should be on the same page regarding the timeline and remaining duties and expectations. The last thing you want is to have a misunderstanding morph into something bigger, whether that be a heated argument or a lawsuit.

2. Conduct exit interviews

Now that you’ve agreed to starting the onboarding process, it’s time to hold an exit interview. These interviews can surface valuable nuggets of information and shed light on the factors that contributed to your staff leaving, along with presenting ways to improve overall employee retention in the future. After all, you don’t want to be constantly hiring new workers because all of the most recent ones keep leaving. 

During exit interviews, make sure to actively listen to any concerns or suggestions that your departing employee puts forth, even if you don’t like what you hear. The purpose is to show you value their feedback and to address any issue that may have led to the employee leaving. You also want to express confidentiality and not press the employee into answering any questions that make them uncomfortable. Remember, this is supposed to be a constructive conversation, not a criminal interrogation!

Woman being interviewed by two colleagues
Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

3. Manage knowledge transfer

Lastly, you’ll need to identify and document your departing employee’s knowledge and transfer it to any remaining team members or successors.

The easiest way is to have these staff members document their processes, best practices, and any project-specific notes in an offboarding document. A valuable resource for the remaining employees, this information can allow them to continue the work without any major disruptions. It can also serve as a training guide for new employees who will be engaging in the same type of work as your former staff.

Legal and ethical considerations

There are several things to keep in mind during offboarding, specifically the following legal and ethical considerations, so that you dont find yourself in hot water later on. 

Protect confidential information

When a member of the team departs, it’s time to ramp up the security. All access to proprietary systems should be revoked, company property (e.g., laptops) should be retrieved, sensitive data should be encrypted, and any necessary confidentiality agreements should be discussed and signed. The goal is to say goodbye in a professional and safe manner. You need to prevent any data breaches from occurring and minimize the risk of unauthorized access to company information and property.

Obey the law 

Compliance with legal obligations is paramount during the offboarding period, so that you protect the departing employees rights and your company’s interests.

Remember to accurately pay out all salaries, bonuses, and accrued benefits, and honor all non-disclosure agreements, if necessary. If the employee requests any tax forms, employment certificates, or references, be sure to provide these. Lastly, stay updated on your state/province’s labor laws and regulations related to termination. You don’t want to find yourself in legal trouble for not conducting your offboarding in the correct manner. 

Pay attention to ethics

In addition to security and legal concerns, your organization must pay attention to any mandatory ethical guidelines during offboarding. Ultimately, treating departing employees respectfully and offering support throughout the process is essential for maintaining positive employee relations.

Start by offering career support to departing employees. This can manifest as career counseling, resume writing assistance, and networking opportunities to ease their transition. You must also maintain confidentiality and respect your staff’s privacy. All personal and sensitive information should be handled with the utmost care so that prying eyes will not be able to have any access. 

Technology’s role 

Now that we’ve gone through the potential legal and ethical ramifications of conducting an improper offboarding process, let’s pivot to technology’s role in allowing for a better experience.

HR software 

HR software platforms offer a range of features that automate and simplify offboarding activities. With them, you can:

  • Send exit surveys to departing employees and securely archive their information to comply with data protection laws
  • Hold documentation repositories, where former staff can easily share their expertise and tips/tricks with their successors
  • Establish predefined workflows and checklists so that all the necessary steps can be followed in accordance with legal and ethical obligations
  • Use personalized interactions and seamless communication to enhance the employee’s offboarding experience

The power of automation

As technology continues to advance, businesses have turned to automation for extra help. During offboarding, automating repetitive tasks leads to a handful of benefits. You can: 

  • Save time and resources, so that your staff can focus on the more difficult tasks. For example, you can automatically generate exit documentation, email notifications, and offboarding checklists to free up time to prepare for meetings and complete individual tasks.
  • Reduce errors by getting rid of manual data entry and switching to predefined templates. 
  • Track and monitor offboarding activities to make sure everything is done on time and to see where time is being wasted, if applicable.

Use Wrike for a smooth employee transition

When employees onboard, companies scramble to offer them a warm welcome. As for offboarding, departing team members should be given an equally nice goodbye. 

With Wrike, you can manage your offboarding processes, so that your former staff can think of you fondly long after they have moved on.

onboarding template

Wrike offers several features to help with the offboarding processes:

Ready to say goodbye to your departing employees in a positive and meaningful way? You can begin now. Start your free trial of Wrike today.

Note: This article was created with the assistance of an AI engine. It has been reviewed and revised by our team of experts to ensure accuracy and quality.