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How To Do Employee Offboarding The Right Way

Guide to Frontline Success
employee offboarding frontline manager smiling

When a new hire joins a company, a lot of effort goes into welcoming them, training them, and making them feel like a part of the team. And rightfully so. Employee onboarding plays a critical role in securing high retention rates. But not as much time and energy goes into employee offboarding, the end of the employee lifecycle. 

Discover how to achieve frontline success in your organization. 

What is Employee Offboarding?

Employee offboarding is the period of time from when an employee knows they are leaving a company until the day they are gone. It is the standardized procedure and set of steps a company takes during that transition time to create a smooth exit. 

The employee offboarding process can include:

  • An exit interview
  • Filling out any HR paperwork
  • The departing worker training their replacement
  • Deactivating keycards and ID badges
  • Returning uniforms, technology, or equipment

An offboarding employee checklist can be helpful in streamlining and guiding HR through the steps of the departure process. 

Pro tip: Use your frontline success system to automate the steps of the offboarding process that are routine and repetitive, and to track an employee’s offboarding checklist to ensure every step is completed.

Employee offboarding is a time when companies can also gain valuable feedback from departing employees who can share their insights and wisdom to help companies improve the employee experience. 

The Difference Between Offboarding and Employee Termination

When an employee is terminated, it is often a company’s decision based on headcount redundancy, budget cuts, or employee performance or behavior. 

Offboarding is the process of transitioning an employee after termination, retirement, or resignation. It is the policies that govern and guide each situation. For instance, termination might require a more immediate departure than when an employee resigns, particularly if the reason for the exit is based on breach of contract or an employee behavior that violates a company’s code of conduct.

Why Doing Employee Offboarding Right Matters

In 2022, over 50 million Americans left their jobs. With a working population of more than 160 million, almost one out of every three workers quit to find something different. With each employee’s departure, companies have a chance to create a positive separation experience.

But the employee is leaving, so why does offboarding matter?

First, a company’s biggest brand advocates are people happily employed, or people who left their jobs on a good note. While they may have moved on, they still might refer someone to their previous employer. 

According to Glassdoor, 86% of people looking for a job read company reviews. That means your former employees are posting what it’s like to work for you and the offboarding experience is their most recent memory.

A good offboarding experience is one built on mutual respect and can leave a door open should the employee decide to return. Some people decide to quit for a higher position elsewhere when one isn’t available at their current job. They might return in the future at a managerial, or even executive, level, bringing more valuable experience with them (and possibly more customers.)

Pro tip: Using your frontline success system for offboarding creates a digital space to track exit interview feedback as you continue to optimize engagement strategies for your current workforce. 

The Benefits of an Employee Offboarding Process

It’s not enough to give an employee a party, a parting handshake, and a goodbye. Companies should make the employee offboarding process meaningful and valuable for all involved.

Here are five benefits of having a formal offboarding process for employees.

1. Streamlines an Employee’s Departure

A lot needs to happen when an employee leaves a company. There’s paperwork and exit interviews, and equipment that needs to be returned, including any company computers or mobile devices. Having a step-by-step employee offboarding process, along with a checklist that both HR and the employee can follow, simplifies everything that needs to happen. 

2. Commitment to the Employee Experience

When you develop an employee experience strategy, it means the entire employee lifecycle: from the day they start to the day they leave. Having a strong engagement strategy that fizzles out when an employee is leaving takes away from the good feeling they had during their time there. Creating an authentic offboarding experience leaves the employees feeling good about their time at the company.

3. An Automated, Easy Process

When supported by a workplace communication app, the offboarding process can be quick and easy. It supports organizational-wide business alignment by centralizing all internal information. The decision to leave might have been a difficult one, and dragging the process out might be emotionally hard for the employee. Just like having a digital onboarding process, automate the offboarding process with click-to-complete forms and e-signatures that employees can do on their mobile devices. While you hate to see them go, make an employee’s departure as seamless as their entrance.

4. Reduces the Risk of Lawsuits

Just like onboarding, companies need to follow certain procedures when an employee leaves to ensure compliance. But in certain cases, particularly when an employee is being let go, having an offboarding procedure and chain of command, that includes the company’s legal representation, can avoid potential problems by addressing issues immediately to avoid a legal dispute. 

 5. Facilitates Transfer of Knowledge

Every single worker has a cache of knowledge in their brain of tips, tricks, and best practices for doing their job. This is especially true for frontline workers who are most often mobile, customer-facing teams and are often the eyes and ears of the company. Having a standard operating procedure for offboarding will include a way to transfer that experience and knowledge to their replacement, their manager, and the rest of their team.

An Offboarding Employee Checklist 

To make the end-of-employee-lifecycle process straightforward, it’s critical to have an offboarding checklist so both you and your employee know exactly what needs to be accomplished in the specified timeframe. (And while reasons, why employees leave, may vary, keep that employee offboarding template on your digital app so you can have multiple versions ready to go when you need them.)

Pro tips: Have an employee’s manager, the person they’ve worked closest with all this time, participate in offboarding. Bonds have been built and that relationship between manager and employee should continue through the end.

Here are ten elements of a strong offboarding checklist.

1. Offboarding Email to Employee

It should be customary to have an offboarding email to your employee to kickstart the process. This also includes a message through your communication app to frontline workers who might not have a computer or company email. In the note, thank them for their time at your company and outline the steps that need to happen during their offboarding process. Instruct them on using their workplace app to complete their tasks on their mobile device. Keep this note friendly and positive and always wish them well!

2. Training the Replacement

While this might not happen in every situation, it is nice when there is an overlap between an outgoing employee and their replacement. This makes the transfer of knowledge so much easier. It’s like having an understudy for the role, ready to hop in and take over when needed. The successor should shadow the outgoing employee as long as both are there. 

3. Collect Office-Loaned Materials and Assets

In many cases, an employee will have a company phone, uniform, computer, or equipment they used to perform their jobs. Before they leave on their final day, have them turn everything in. This includes keys and employee ID badges. Have both sides present as items are checked off. 

4. Information and Paperwork

Once they leave, employees will no longer be able to access their personal information on the office’s internal communications app. Make sure to provide them with all remaining paperwork about final paychecks, retirement plans, and COBRA health plans that they will need to manage on their own. Gather forwarding emails and make sure all contact information is up to date for follow-up paperwork. 

5. Remove Employees from Payroll, Insurance, Communication Lists

It seems like a no-brainer, but be sure to remove the employee from your payroll once the final check has gone out. Remove them from any health and dental plans once after specified grace periods. And remove them from company email or messaging platforms. But if you have an employee alumni list, put them on there to stay in touch with the friends they’ve made and a part of the community.

6. Inform Colleagues

Don’t let an employee leave without recognizing their time there. Send them off with a nice announcement to the whole company on the internal communications app. This gives others a chance to chime in and wish them well on the thread. A farewell party is always nice, especially with the employee’s immediate team and manager. Give a toast to new adventures ahead!

7. Send Deserving Employees Off with a Reference Letter

While a worker might already have secured a new job someplace else, it’s always nice for them to leave with a reference letter to let any future hiring managers know how this person added value to your company. Be sure to give specifics. If an employee had higher sales than any other for a period of time or found innovative ways to improve processes and cut costs at your company, include it in the letter.

8. Employee Feedback Surveys

Through your digital communication tool, have the employee complete an anonymous feedback survey. Make it optional, but consider an incentive for completing it (like a Starbucks or Amazon gift card.) You want to get the most honest information you can about the employee experience. At this point, there’s nothing preventing someone from telling you what you need to hear to improve your strategies for current and future employees. Ask specific questions and have both multiple-choice and open answers. 

9. Exit Interview

No matter their role, every employee should have a face-to-face exit interview and it should be done by HR which is often a neutral third party so the person feels comfortable answering questions honestly. You want to gather all of this feedback to inform strategies to continue to boost the engagement of your workforce and always strive to do things better: 

Here are 10 questions to include in your exit interviews:

  1. Why are you leaving?
  2. What does the new company provide that we did not?
  3. Were you satisfied with your relationship with your direct manager?
  4. What can be improved for your position and department?
  5. Did you receive enough training for your job?
  6. Did you feel supported in your job and growth here?
  7. Would you recommend this company to other job seekers?
  8. How would you describe the company culture and did you feel included?
  9. Would you consider working here in the future?
  10. Any other feedback you think we should know to improve?

10. Keep the Employee in the Loop for Future Opportunities

A good employee is hard to lose. But if things work out, there’s always a chance they’ll come back, and bring some more experience with them. Have employees sign up to receive recruiting emails for future opportunities at your company.

Best Practices for Offboarding Remote and Non-Desk Workers

Right now, many employees are working remotely (39% worldwide) or in a hybrid situation (9% worldwide). In the US, over 70% work hybrid or remotely. And another two billion workers are in frontline positions globally, and not sitting at desks with computers.

While many of the employee offboarding procedures are the same, there are a few ways to make a smooth transition for these two groups when their time at a company has come to an end. 

But first: consider making a counteroffer.

The Great Resignation has significantly added to the labor shortage, especially for frontline workers. In fact, half of the frontline workforce is currently planning to quit their jobs. If the remote or frontline employee has made the decision to leave, try to keep them with your company. Offer higher pay, incentives, or even a promotion (if there’s a spot available that they qualify for.)

It costs between 16% and 20% of an hourly worker’s salary to replace them, so if you can get them to stay you’ll be saving money, too.

If that doesn’t work, here are a few ways to make their offboarding process smoother.

Offer the Opportunity for a Video Exit Interview

Chances are both remote and frontline workers have been using digital tools to stay connected to their teams, get assignments, and communicate with managers. So allow them the opportunity to continue the same during offboarding. If they want to come in person, accommodate them, otherwise, offer a video exit interview if it works best for them.

A Fully Digital Offboarding Experience

Remote workers don’t have a chance to spend their last weeks among colleagues in person and frontline teams often only have access to paper-based processes which can be cumbersome and easy to lose track of. To ensure every item on an offboarding checklist is complete, it’s best to create them on a workplace app, like Beekeeper. That way, workers can stay connected with HR during the process, handle all required tasks from their preferred device, and everything is securely stored in the cloud. 

Managers Should Be a Part of the Process

Managers are critical players when it comes to frontline success. Frontline managers can positively, or negatively, impact the engagement of their teams. Needless to say, the direct supervisor is often the one who frontline and remote workers have the most contact with throughout their workday. Make sure managers don’t check out when an employee is slated to leave the company. Keep managers engaged until an employee leaves to sustain that connection till the end.

Things To Keep In Mind To Ensure A Smooth Process 

Saying goodbye to an employee isn’t easy. Things might be a little bumpy, especially if there’s not a new hire in place by the time they leave. But here are a few tips to make the offboarding process smoother. 

Create an Employee Offboarding Template

Don’t recreate the wheel every time. Pull up a checklist template and modify it to personalize the process. 

Start Looking for a Replacement ASAP

Ideally, you’ll have some overlap between the departing employee and their replacement. But in many cases, there’s only a couple of weeks which might not be enough time to hire someone. Remember: it’s always best to promote from within. See if there is a person on your team who might be a great fit for the job opening. Workers will see there are growth opportunities and will want to be considered for vacancies at the company.

Automate the Employee Offboarding Process

There is no reason why any administrative process should still be paper-based. And that includes offboarding. Digitize the process on a workplace app which can automate the paperwork and signatures and make the process easier for all.

Employee Offboarding Done Right

Employee offboarding is the end of the employee lifecycle. But when done right, it’s a positive experience for all and contributes to a company’s employer brand. A digital employee offboarding experience is smooth and easy and ensures employees move on feeling good about where they worked and leaves the door open for the future.

Download our Ultimate Guide for Frontline Success and learn how to build the best employee lifecycle from beginning to end.