3 Ways to Take Your Offboarding Strategy to the Next Level

April 11, 2019

3 Ways to Take Your Offboarding Strategy to the Next Level

It’s no secret that the American workplace has undergone significant changes in recent decades. We now have a record four generations in our active workforce. And, we’re seeing more frequent job movement among those various generations—not only because of the rise of the gig economy, but as a broader trend where employees no longer stay with a company their entire career.

In fact, the median job tenure is 4.2 years, and for younger workers aged 25-34, that number is even lower (2.8 years). On top of that, about 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 every day. As a result, employers and their HR teams are continually recruiting and onboarding new employees, but they also have to think about the other half of that equation. Frequent job changes mean that offboarding employees now happens on a regular basis.

What used to be the occasional send-off or retirement is now a typical occurrence. What can employers do to adjust?

1. Roll out the red carpet.
Just because an employee is leaving doesn’t mean you can’t show them that they’re valued—and developing an offboarding process facilitates that goal of treating employees well as they transition to a different organization. A key first step in creating a positive offboarding experience is establishing a formalized exit interview process. This gives you, the employer, a chance for an open and honest dialogue around an employee's thoughts and experiences—are they dissatisfied and if so, why? Are they pursuing a dream opportunity? Are they looking to develop or learn new skills? This candid conversation can give you insights into any workplace or culture issues impacting your organization. By discovering the pain points your workforce may be experiencing —whether they be large or small — you can proactively address them and improve the day-to-day working lives of employees and thus overall retention. 

The exit interview also gives you an opportunity to leave things on a positive note with your departing employee. This is important to consider given that an increasing number of workers are returning to previous employers, otherwise known as “boomerang” employees. And HR is on board with this trend as well: 76 percent of HR professionals say they are more likely to hire back old employees than they were in the past.

This trend of boomerang employees is happening across varying employee age demographics, with the same survey finding that 46 percent of Millennials, 33 percent of Gen Xers and 29 percent of Baby Boomers would consider returning to their former employer. The rise of the boomerang employee means that you should encourage departing employees who are in good standing to keep the door open. Upon their return, these employees can bring back their valuable skills as well as their familiarity with your company’s culture and onboarding process—which saves your organization time and money.

2. Maintain meaningful connections.
Regardless of whether a departing employee decides to return in the future, it is always beneficial to keep bridges intact. You can maintain the lines of communication with an employee by asking them to join an official alumni network so that you can keep in contact. Whether it is through LinkedIn or Facebook, these groups are increasingly easy to establish and they provide a useful way to keep in touch with former employees. 

Why would this be important? There are a couple reasons. First, potential recruits are likely to utilize platforms like LinkedIn to ask current and former employees what your company is like, so it’s valuable for your future recruiting efforts if you retain positive relationships with those former employees. Your recruiting staff can even connect applicants with alumni via these networks to provide high-touch service as you’re recruiting them. Secondly, alumni are a rich source of referrals, and keeping them in a network makes it easier to share information about open positions and provides them a conduit to pass referrals your way. While an alumni network may seem like only an acknowledgment of past employees, it can actually improve your workforce going forward.

3. Implement robust benefits technology.
With today’s increasingly diverse workforce, employees leave for various reasons based on their life stage. Older workers may be going part-time or freelance as they reach Medicare eligibility but aren’t ready for retirement. Young workers may be trying a new industry or pursuing a start-up opportunity. No matter the reason, the right technology can make the transition easier for them as well as your organization.

It is easy to see the value of a benefits administration platform for onboarding and engaging current employees with their benefits, but that technology is just as valuable for the offboarding process as well. The right platform will allow your departing employees to engage with their benefits after they’ve moved on to another role or during that transition time. They can enroll in plans that meet ACA requirements if they choose not to enroll in COBRA. Employees can also enroll in or maintain voluntary benefits such as vision coverage, accident insurance, or pet insurance. This reduces the stress and anxiety that can accompany a job change, as your employees know they’ll have coverage and be able to seamlessly access their benefits information. By investing in an employee's well-being past the point of their employment, organizations can maintain positive relationships and create a favorable brand perception for potential new hires. 

Benefits platforms should also use state-of-the-art communications with departing and former employees to encourage that all-important ongoing engagement. Mailings of offboarding paperwork are still important, but don’t overlook email and text communications, as well as social media connections. By maintaining these lines of communication, you can ensure departing employees can access the benefits administration technology that contributes to a positive offboarding experience. 

The trend of job mobility shows no sign of slowing down, and with Gen Z entering the workforce in greater numbers and Baby Boomers continually reaching retirement age, offboarding can and should be a standard practice for your HR department. By embracing a step-by-step process, supporting an alumni network, and using the right technology, your HR team can ensure a smooth transition for employees as well as your organization. With these sensible strategies, you can make job mobility another asset for your HR department and your workforce.

The Authors: 

Rae Shanahan is Chief Strategy Officer of Businessolver.