The Importance of Offboarding

Most organizations realize the importance of an effective onboarding experience for new employees.  They’ve moved past the ages-old idea that onboarding merely means a day of new employee orientation accompanied by checklists and realize that onboarding is a seamless experience that begins at the time of the accepted offer and continues well past the employee’s first day, week or even month.

Alas, however, most organizations don’t put as much thought or effort into an effective offboarding experience for employees.  Quite often the scenario goes like this:

  • Employee gives 2 week notice
  • Manager expresses either shock, dismay, or outright hostility
  • Co-workers stop copying employee on emails or inviting her to meetings
  • Employee is treated to either a going-away lunch, after work happy hour celebration, or ‘party’ complete with sheet cake (frosting and roses!) in the employee break room
  • HR representative conducts a perfunctory Exit Interview
  • At 3:42 PM on employee’s last day the IT Department disables all system access, her badge is deactivated and the head of Security comes round to collect her keys

Opportunities lost.

Organizations need to understand the value that an exceptional offboarding experience can bring.  After all, we tend to have all sorts of discussions about the candidate experience but we rarely consider putting the same care and concern into the experience for departing employees.

Why should we, you ask?  After all, by leaving they’ve signaled either their displeasure or lack of loyalty, right?  What can that departing employee do for me?  “Who needs them anyway” the thinking often goes.

Let’s stop that.  The employee who opts to leave (or, let’s face it, is part of a RIF or downsizing) will continue to have an extended relationship with your organization:

  • The boomerang effect.  Some departing employees will wish to return one day either when they’ve acquired more skills or because they really miss you. I’ve always found it mystifying when organizations (and they do exist!) have a policy of never hiring employees who resign with only xx amount of tenure or without sufficient notice.  Why wouldn’t you want to welcome back an employee who understands your culture and operational model?
  • Referral source.  If an employee has left with a pleasant experience they may continue to refer both potential employees and customers.  More business, great candidate referrals – who wouldn’t want that?
  • Brand Ambassadors. Your former employees will always share their story, whether that experience was positive – or negative. Wouldn’t you want them to leave with an affirming last impression rather than a bad one?

The role of the individual manager cannot be emphasized enough here; this is not a job for the human resources staff although they need to set the tone, expectations and structure. 

Just as in the onboarding process there will be administrative things to get done like sending out COBRA notices and calculating final PTO or Bonus payout but the way in which you say good-bye to a departing employee is just as critical as the way in which you say HELLO.

Think about it.

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