While human resources departments often put ample resources into creating an effective onboarding strategy, offboarding an employee is often an overlooked area of focus with 71% of organizations claiming they do not have a formal process in place. Whether a person is leaving due to finding a new job, retiring, or involuntary termination, it’s important to prioritize making the transition out of your company an easy shift for all involved.

When a company can turn their offboarding process into an organizational strength, there are numerous benefits such as it being a valuable way to obtain feedback. Hearing the reasons for their departure and opinions of the company will help the organization improve relations with their employees moving forward. This is also an opportunity to have the employee feel heard and end the employer-employee relationship on as best terms possible. Employee or former employee’s views on a company does affect their reputation and as such, negative reviews can impact when trying to attract new talent. By having all parties feel respected and valued leaving the situation, you’re leaving the door open for them to return to the company at a later time as well.

Furthermore, effectively offboarding staff is a vital element to minimize risks down the line for the company. One risk with improper offboarding is the potential of complaints or lawsuits, which is why having an effective process can reduce this risk. Another issue is the potential of data breaches if an offboarding process is not executed quickly or properly, as a former employee may be able to access and disseminate confidential information that could put the company in jeopardy.

Ultimately, how an employee exits is integral in a company’s long-term success, which is why it’s imperative to plan and prepare for an employee’s departure ahead of their final day. To help you offboard your employees, below are tips to ensure your process is carried out legally, successfully, and effectively.

Create a Communication Strategy

The offboarding process begins the moment human resources is made aware of an employee’s departure regardless of whether it’s a resignation or termination. As such, the first step to this process is to create a communication strategy on how you will notify the rest of the company of the individual’s exit, as well as any additional stakeholders such as a Board of Directors, clients of the employee, ect. It’s important to notify everyone in a timely manner while articulating the specifics of the departure clearly. We suggest including when the employee’s last day is, who will be handling their responsibilities in the interim, and when the job opening will be posted in your internal communications. Sharing the aforementioned specifics will help to alleviate any concerns from staff and clients.

Plan the Transition Process

This is an essential part in the process of offboarding an employee to ensure there’s a seamless transfer of work and responsibilities to an existing or new employee. The transition plan should start off with deciding which employees will take over the tasks of this position in the interim and long-term. It’s important that every step of this plan is communicated with affected employees ahead of time. Once the tasks have been transitioned over, it’s critical that regular check-ins are made with the employees who have taken over the responsibilities to ensure that they are not overwhelmed with the addition of new tasks, as well as to ensure the projects the former employee were working on are progressing forward. 

Transfer Institutional Knowledge

When an employee leaves a company, they often take years of company knowledge with them, which is why it’s important to obtain and retain as much information from them as possible before their exit. You’ll want to have relevant employees meet with the individual leaving to learn their processes, share their expertise, and understand where to find pertinent data. As this information has been collected for the span of the employee’s career at the company, it often comprises crucial knowledge on projects and trends that can define an organization’s history and future.

Obtain All Company Assets

If equipment has been provided to the employee during their tenure, the company should make arrangements to have the hardware and other items returned to the office on their final day. Ahead of time, human resources should create and provide a checklist of those items to the employee, the checklist may include items like laptops or computers, accessories, mobile phones, keys, ID badges or corporate credit cards. These items are not only a security liability if not returned, but also are a large fiscal loss for the company.

Secure Digital Access

One of the most critical elements of the offboarding process is to secure your networks and remove your former employee from having digital access to any networks. Ultimately, this step in the process is to ensure your company’s data security, compliance efforts, and business continuity. As such, human resources will need to work closely with an IT team to complete the following actions:

  • Revoking Access – Once all hardware is retrieved, you’ll want to lock the user out of their accounts and clear any associated sessions across all platforms. You will want to plan to do this with as much advance time as possible so that it takes effect immediately upon their departure. 
  • Directory Cleanup – You’ll want to maintain organizational hygiene by having the user hidden in the directory so that their name will not auto-complete in emails and is not visible in any groups, calendars, etc.
  • Transfer Data – To preserve data compliance, as well as have access to company pertinent information, you will want to transfer the data from their devices to the user’s manager, their replacement, or an archive service account.
  • License Management – The next step will involve transferring or removing licenses to applications or platforms you no longer need. While this isn’t a security issue, it will protect the company from many unnecessary fees.
  • Delete Accounts – After a period of time has passed, you will want to complete the final step of securing the company’s digital access by permanently deleting the user from all the platforms and applications, such as Google, Office 365, Dropbox, Salesforce, ect.

Complete All Documentation

As standard procedure, all companies should ensure they have the proper documentation completed should any legal issues arise after an employee’s departure. Documentation to include could be the termination or resignation letter with dates, noncompete or nondisclosure agreements when applicable, as well as any benefits documents. Specifically when it comes to a terminated employee, you will want to have internal documentation that proves the reasons for letting go of the employee as valid.

Conduct An Exit Interview

Exit interviews are a great way to end the offboarding process as it’s an opportunity to gain valuable feedback that can inform the company to make better decisions in the future. Try to understand why the employee left, what issues there were, and how the company can increase its organizational strengths. That said, the exit interview is moot if the company doesn’t take concrete actions from this conversation to improve the workplace moving forward.

Additional Considerations

Lastly, one of the most important things to remember throughout the offboarding process is that you should have a high level of respect and empathy for the individual leaving your company. How you treat them in the weeks leading up to their departure matters and it’s important to acknowledge their contributions to your organization’s success during their tenure. Offer a letter of reference for them and make sure to thank them upon their departure. We are seeing more former employees boomerang back into companies they’ve previously worked at, bringing with them additional experience, knowledge and connections, so it’s important to leave the relationship on a good note.

Our seasoned recruitment professionals at LRO Staffing have consulted on and helped design successful offboarding processes for Canadian private and public organizations of all sizes. If your company needs help establishing an offboarding process, feel free to contact us.

Alita Fabiano

Author Alita Fabiano

Specializing in strategic communications, digital accessibility, as well as diversity and inclusion, Alita Fabiano has a passion for championing a stronger workforce through inclusion. Alita’s insights have also been published in the Ottawa Business Journal and Canadian SME Magazine, as well as she has been invited to speak to several organizations about inclusivity and accessibility.

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