You have a process for offboarding, whether you know it or not.
Whether that process includes a thoughtful checklist or feels more like an afterthought, you still have a process. And that process reflects your company culture and ultimately impacts your current employees as well as your recruiting efforts.
Ensure that impact is the one you’ve designed. It’s time to take a closer look at what offboarding is and its purpose, adopt a new mindset about exiting employees, and start celebrating.
Offboarding is the closing bookend of an employee’s journey with your organization, and is not talked about or planned for as much as onboarding. However, ending an employee-employer relationship is just as important as its beginning and should be thoughtfully designed.
“Employee offboarding is the process during which an employee parts ways with the people and the organization they worked for. The purpose of an offboarding period is two-fold. On the one hand, it’s meant to help the organization grow wiser in hiring and employee experience and to keep the impact of the departure on the business to a minimum. On the other hand, it is used to shape the critical last impressions employees will have of the company – and the image they’ll portray to the outside world.”
– Academy to Innovate HR (AIHR)
When thoughtfully developing the offboarding process for your organization, it is essential to look beyond simple logistics – collect badge and keys, etc. Consider your organization’s role in the exiting employee’s overall professional development journey and envision the offboarding process with the goal of leaving your relationship intact.
How do you accomplish this successfully? A shift in mindset is required.
A Fresh Perspective
The end of an employee’s time at your company should be a time for celebration.
No, there are no typos in that sentence, and you didn’t misread it. We should actually celebrate someone when they move on.
Even if you’re happy that they’re leaving, someone hired that person.
Even if it didn’t work out, we should still wish them well.
Even if they’re a high performer and you’re disappointed at the your team’s loss, we should still celebrate their contributions.
I’ve seen many leaders become uncomfortable or resentful when one of their people gives notice. The same is true when the leader has to let someone go. Those feelings come from a short-sided view of the relationship between them as a leader and the employee.
Your role as a leader is to help your people grow and win. When an employee takes a position elsewhere, that means that you’ve fulfilled your role. When you have to let someone go, you’re also fulfilling your part to help them grow and win differently.
A clear understanding of your role then makes celebrating that employee – however, they’re exiting your organization – an authentic and genuine experience that conveys respect and dignity.
Respect and dignity are vital values in the offboarding process. When your offboarding process is about treating an exiting employee with respect and dignity, you create an advocate for your organization to the outside world, and your current employees feel valued.
A leader I once worked with from a car manufacturer put it best: “I want anyone exiting our company to feel so valued that the next time they go to buy a car, they buy from us.” This is your new goal.
Now, it’s time to celebrate.
How to Respectfully Offboard an Involuntary Exit
There is a balancing act when it comes to “celebration” in terms of involuntary exits. This, of course, isn’t a “high five” moment, but leaders do need to realize that this process needs to be as organized as possible, so people aren’t fumbling at the end with details. Details like having their final check ready and outlining a respectful process for collecting their belongings all make it as comfortable for the employee as possible and set the tone for the meeting to be a peaceful parting of ways.
Unfinished business, lack of good communication during the employment, not explaining where the employee might have been falling short, not providing adequate training, and more make the termination process terrible. Leaders will have to reflect on these issues at a later time and work on improving them the future. However, leaders can use the offboarding process to focus on maintaining respect and dignity for the exiting employee, and allowing that employee to provide information in regards to open-ended projects, meetings, and more. The employee may not be as helpful as we would like but give them the opportunity is the important thing.
Remember, the goal is respect and dignity, no matter the circumstances of the employee’s departure. When it comes to offboarding an employee for an involuntary exit, I cannot stress enough that every step of the process must focus on achieving that goal.
How to Celebrate When an Employee Chooses to Exit
The notice period of an employee who chooses to exit should not be filled with resentment, guilt, or Hail Mary’s salary offers (you should always have your best offer out there). Also, ditch the party planning that inevitably features forced feelings of inequity, and that will no doubt leave the exiting employee and your current employees uncomfortable. The offboarding celebration done right is not about a gathering.
To celebrate in a way that provides healthy closure for the employer and exiting employee, commemorate their contributions to the organization and respectfully transition their responsibilities.
As a leader, start by meeting with the exiting employee to congratulate them. This should be a positive, meaningful conversation. Ask them what they’re most looking forward to and show genuine excitement for the next step in their professional journey.
Then, talk logistics, like tying up loose ends and getting their recommendations for who could take over parts of their job in the interim. And, if you’re planning to rehire for that position, ask the exiting employee if they have any suggestions for skills to look for in candidates. This employee has valuable insight into the challenges and opportunities associated with their position that could focus your recruitment process and make finding the next ideal candidate that much easier.
Then, get the whole team involved. Instead of planning a party or ordering a cake with a cheesy message, pass around a thank you card. Ask anyone who interacted with the exiting employee on a regular basis to sign it if they wish. Lead by example and write a congratulatory message for their next step that also highlights the employee’s contributions to your organization.
Express gratitude for the time the exiting employee invested in your organization to leave them feeling respected and valued. Consequently, your current employees will feel the same knowing that they will be treated equally when it’s their time to move on.
Offboarding is so much more than logistics and should never be an afterthought. Invest time in structuring your process to celebrate your exiting employees with respect and dignity.
For more ideas to elevate your offboarding process, join TWC’s CEO Anne Laguzza for a live webinar on Oct. 22. Save your seat here.