HR departments give a ton of attention to their onboarding process, warmly welcoming new hires and quickly getting them up to speed. And rightly so.
But what about when employees leave?
It seems the care that employers offer to workers on their arrival often disappears upon their departure. That’s a big mistake.
A formalized offboarding process not only mitigates legal and security threats and helps you gain honest feedback from employees on where to improve your organization, but it can also woo stellar “boomerang employees” to return in the future.
That’s why we’ve put together this Employee Offboarding Checklist for HR managers. Download it now, then follow along as we detail all the steps you need to take to ensure a smooth transition when a worker leaves.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
1. Communicate Change Quickly
When an employee moves on or is let go, there’s a temptation to hold off on communicating the change until you have all the details:
- When is the employee’s last day?
- Who will be taking over their responsibilities in the interim?
- How soon can we get a job requisition open for their replacement?
The longer you wait, however, the more likely co-workers are to start filling in those details themselves, which can lead to the spread of misinformation.
This can cause serious damage: According to research by Stanford University, people tend to take negative gossip about others seriously. Letting co-workers believe someone got fired when that employee really just transitioned to a different department can cause irreparable harm to their reputation.
To combat this, tell managers to inform both their department and HR of an employee departure as soon as possible to keep rumors from spreading. A simple email will do. Be sure to wish the employee well, and give a reason for the departure where appropriate.
2. Prepare the Paperwork
Next is that necessary evil known as paperwork. Your offboarding process should address proper documentation of the following:
- Letter of resignation or termination
- Nondisclosure and noncompete agreements (if applicable)
- Benefits documents (e.g., explanation of ongoing benefits, retirement plan transfer, unemployment insurance etc.)
Having an audit trail of paperwork protects both the employee and the employer in the event of legal issues.
For example, terminated employees must be made known of continued health coverage, which is outlined in benefits documentation. Benefits administration software can be a valuable tool in clearly tracking and communicating employee benefits throughout the process.
On the other hand, a signed letter of termination safeguards an employer if a disgruntled worker claims they weren’t made aware of why they were let go.
To make sure nothing gets lost in the shuffle, we recommend using your talent management system to store copies of employee paperwork. When an employee leaves, you can either print out physical copies of offboarding documents or, in the case of some systems, have the employee log in to sign them electronically.
As documents are signed, the system will automatically notify HR which ones are completed and which ones still need to be done.
3. Initiate the Knowledge Transfer
When employees leave, they take their skills and institutional knowledge with them. If you don’t record that knowledge somewhere, it could be lost forever—leaving the next hire high-and-dry to figure out the role on their own.
As soon as an employee gives their notice, it’s time to start the knowledge transfer process. Here are some questions you should ask exiting employees in order to transfer their useful knowledge:
- Can you break down your daily routine into step-by-step instructions?
- Are there any projects that you repeat on a weekly, monthly, quarterly or annual basis? What are they and how do you do them?
- What files does your successor need to know about and have access to?
- Who are your regular contacts, inside and outside the organization, so we can inform them of the transition?
- Are there any systems that your successor needs training on?
- What tasks take priority in your role?
Workers can log their know-how in a series of process documents or in a more comprehensive knowledge management system, where best practices can be archived and shared throughout the organization.
4. Do the Exit Interview
It’s common to view exit interviews as a pointless formality. If an employee was reluctant to give honest feedback while they were working here, why would they change their mind on the way out?
When done properly, however, exit interviews can be an invaluable tool to discover weaknesses in your organization. They can also convince exiting employees that you will address their complaints should they return.
“Exit interviews have the potential to provide incredibly valuable insight into an organization’s strengths and weaknesses, areas for improvement, as well as insight into an organization’s competition.”
Amber Hyatt, SPHR, SHRM-SCP and director of product marketing at SilkRoad
Here are some questions you should ask employees in an exit interview:
- How did the job compare to your expectations coming in?
- Did you have the resources and support necessary to do your job effectively?
- Would you recommend this company to job-seeking friends? Why or why not?
- Is there anything that could have been done to convince you to stay?
- How was your relationship with your manager?
- What is the biggest thing we need to do to improve?
Because managers can often be a source of conflict, consider having a neutral third-party, such as an HR manager, do the interview to make the employee feel comfortable.
Assure the employee that their responses will be kept confidential, or at least anonymous, and that you will investigate any issues they bring up.
5. Recover Company Assets
Hopefully you understand the importance of recovering company assets when an employee’s tenure comes to a close. If not, here are some horror stories to drive the point home:
- An Apple employee kept their security badge to sneak back into the office and complete a suspended project
- A Walmart worker kept their uniform and stole $30,000 from three stores
- A real estate agent kept their company laptop and permanently deleted sensitive data
Be sure to collect any company-issued devices such as phones or laptops, along with any uniforms, keys, ID badges, bags or security cards. You should also close out any corporate credit cards or expense accounts in that employee’s name and process any fees or reimbursements.
Don’t put the burden on employees to remember to turn this stuff in either, as they may conveniently “forget.”
You can keep an inventory of the items loaned out to employees in a spreadsheet or a more comprehensive IT asset management system, so you know what they need to turn in before they exit the building for good.
6. Have Some Fun!
So far, we’ve talked a lot about the cold, tedious parts of employee offboarding, but it’s important to make room for some bittersweet fun as well—especially for those long-tenured workers who’ve earned a bit of fanfare and celebration.
This isn’t just an excuse to party. Just as a great first impression can have a positive impact on a new hire, a happy final impression will remain with a worker long after their last day.
Here are some ideas:
- Pass a card around and get everyone to sign it with their well wishes
- Schedule a goodbye lunch or happy hour in their honor (and pay for it)
- Get them a personalized gift that only they would love
- Decorate their desk
7. Leave the Door Open for a Return
The prevailing thought among companies used to be that when an employee left, that was the end of the road. Goodbye, au revoir, sayonara.
Nowadays—with companies dealing with a lack of skilled workers—that thinking is beginning to change. The taboo surrounding hiring “boomerang employees” has all but disappeared.
A survey by WorkplaceTrends.com finds that 76 percent of HR professionals are more accepting of rehiring former employees than in the past.
So, before your employee leaves, take some steps to leave the door open for their return.
One way to do this is to establish an alumni network of former employees:
- Whether through LinkedIn or a formal alumni management system, invite employees to join the network when they leave the company.
- Then, use the alumni network to share company news, get feedback on your organization and ask about referrals for job openings.
If an alumni network is out of reach, at the very least make sure that the employee’s contact information is up-to-date and keep their profile in your recruiting system. You never know when the perfect opening will align with that employee wanting to come back.
8. Tie Up Loose Ends
Once the employee has left, the last thing to do is tie up any loose ends. This involves IT, HR and the employee’s manager completing the following:
- IT: Remove the employee’s user account from any relevant systems and change the password on any shared accounts. Forward phone calls and emails to the employee’s supervisor or the worker designated to take over their responsibilities.
- HR: Update the company org chart, inform the company insurance provider and change the worker’s status in the HRIS. Make sure the employee’s desk area is cleaned off—leaving any remnants of their predecessor lying around is a great way to kill any good vibes you’ve built up on a new worker’s first day.
- Manager: Remove the employee from upcoming meetings and inform relevant workers of any last minute details in the transition.
Customized task lists in a talent management system or project management software can keep everyone on the same page and send automatic reminders if any tasks go uncompleted.
Keeping track of all these tasks for every employee who leaves your organization can be a logistical nightmare. Head to our talent management system page to compare platforms and find a product that can automate all of these offboarding needs for you.
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