There’s a lot of talk these days about onboarding (opposite to offboarding), which is the process of bringing someone new into your business and positioning them for success.
It’s a process that’s incredibly important, and one modern companies are increasingly putting a lot of time and effort into getting right, recognising a good induction sets an employee up to do a successful job.
However, what isn’t getting as much attention – and needs to – is the flip side of the equation. It’s called offboarding, and it’s the process by which you manage an employee’s exit from the company, either at their decision or yours.
To explain it in full we compiled this handy Q&A.
What is offboarding?
Offboarding is the overarching series of steps you take to exit an employee from the company.
Has it always been around?
In a manner of speaking, yes. People leaving their jobs isn’t a new thing, and companies have always looked after essential tasks, such as getting security passes back. But in this evolving day and age, with factors such as the increasing use of technology in the workplace, and a massive decrease in the once-common jobs-for-life mentality, it’s become much more important.
Why do we need to offboard?
To protect the company, its reputation and assets. Some tasks, such as turning off a staff member’s email account, are pretty self-evident, since you don’t want old employees having access to new information. But some things aren’t so obvious. For example, in a big company with a massive workforce, you can’t just assume accounts will just know someone has left when they don’t put in a timesheet. So unless you tell them specifically, they may not know to stop something like an automatically paid monthly working-from-home allowance.
Ok, we take the point. But how do we set up an offboarding procedure?
The first thing you need to do is write up a checklist of everything that needs to happen when it’s known that an employee is going to leave. BUT, this isn’t something that should just be done by HR. It needs to be a combined team effort between all departments, from accounting and customer services to IT. When it’s done, have it signed off by all the powers that be so it’s ready to be used moving forward.
Should this checklist be the same for everyone?
Ideally, the basic elements will remain the same, but there are always going to be variables, depending on factors such as which department the employee works for and how broad their company access is. The time frame for tasks also requires situation-by-situation flexibility. For example, if you fire a worker because you find out they’re going to join a rival company, then the first thing you’re going to do is shut down their entire access to the system. Whereas with someone who’s leaving in the right circumstances, this might be something that happens only at the end of their last day on the job.
Yes, absolutely. You also want to create an information exit package for each staff member being offboarded. This may form part of the checklist development, but it should include all relevant information about their position with the company, including what they have access to, be it a parking pass for the garage downstairs or access to confidential information such as company finances and client lists. You also need to make sure that you archive all relevant documents to their departure just in case it’s needed in the future.
What about helping them?
In a case such as redundancy, where the loss of employment has been forced by financial rather than performance reasons, helping them to transition to the next stage can be a powerful offboarding tool. This could be giving them access to a career counsellor, or maybe enrolling them in a training course. The help will never fully ease the pain, but it can remind staff they are valued and that the situation isn’t personal, which will hopefully stave off some inevitable bitterness.
Does the staff member need to do anything?
If it’s possible, participation in a thorough handover is a critical task to ensure their experience and knowledge aren’t lost. Ideally, this would be done one-on-one with their replacement. But if that’s not doable – or even if it is – a written how-to guide is a powerful legacy they can leave behind. This should include not only the nuts and bolts of their job, but also a list of go-to people and any added extras they’ve gleaned over the years, for example, how to deal with certain tricky customers. As they say, knowledge is a powerful thing.
Finally, how important is an exit interview?
It really depends on the situation. In some cases – again, when you’ve had to fire someone- there’s probably not a lot of useful information you can draw out of the process. But when someone is leaving on good terms, it’s a great chance to pick their brains. You don’t want to make them feel like they’re dobbing on colleagues who are staying, but it’s an almost unmatchable opportunity to get some good constructive feedback on what they think works well and what could do with improvement. One idea is to have the interview conducted by a neutral third party so they feel more confident in speaking freely without offending the interviewer. Finding out why the employee is leaving can also help to protect, and prepare, you with regards to future liability. BUT, in order to be effective, all information needs to be forwarded to relevant departments for consideration. After all, you can’t change what you don’t know.