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What is employee offboarding? 6 best practices to get started

Alicia Raeburn contributor headshotAlicia Raeburn
February 13th, 2024
6 min read
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Offboarding helps employees leave your company. It’s a process, with steps to reduce security risks and make a smooth transition for both departing employees and their remaining team. Read about the six best practices to build an effective employee offboarding process and the benefits of doing so.

Effective onboarding helps new employees find their place in the company and reduces the sense of stress that comes with starting a new job. But it’s equally as disorienting to leave a job behind. And while many companies implement a robust onboarding process for new hires, some overlook the importance of employee offboarding when that same individual decides to leave.

Employee offboarding is more than a good-bye cupcake and reference offer. When done well, employee offboarding can build up your employer brand, boost morale, and provide invaluable feedback that you won’t get anywhere else.

What is employee offboarding?

Employee offboarding is the process of transitioning a departing employee when they leave a company. Through the process, the departing employee and their manager go through a series of steps to ensure that they leave on good terms and all loose ends are tied up. This can include capturing any institutional knowledge, conducting an exit interview, and fulfilling HR requirements. Offboarding has the added benefit of preparing your team to work with one less team member, which might include distributing previously handled responsibilities or training someone new. 

Create an employee offboarding template

Onboarding vs. offboarding

An onboarding process helps new hires get acclimated to their new role and the company at large when they join. Onboarding can be fun, with swag bags and welcome parties, but it also includes practical trainings, a new hire checklist, and the distribution of company assets such as laptops or company credit cards.

Offboarding reverses these processes to complete the employee lifecycle. Your offboarding process should include many of the same elements from your onboarding, including returning those same assets and connecting with HR and IT teams to ensure a smooth transition. For example, you may set up time with the HR team to sort out your employee’s final paycheck and collaborate with the IT department to make sure your employee returns all company equipment.

7 best practices for employee offboarding

Employee offboarding is a shared responsibility between the manager and HR team. Your HR team should guide your offboarding employee through all the necessary legal processes and paperwork they need to fill out in order to transition away from the company. But as their manager, you're in a position to support them throughout the process as they transition off the team. Taking the time to coordinate an offboarding process ahead of time ensures that departing employees leave on the best possible note. Make your offboarding actionable and repeatable, incorporating these best practices listed below.

1. Managers, lead your employee’s offboarding

As the employee’s manager, you should be present throughout the offboarding process the same way you were during onboarding. Often, the manager is the person that knows the offboarding employee the best. You don’t want them to feel abandoned just because they’re leaving. Make sure to closely follow your team members’ offboarding process, continuing to support the employee’s last days in the same way you did on their first.

2. Capture institutional knowledge

Before they go, work with the employee to comb through their workflows. What are they currently responsible for? What processes do they manage? Make sure everything is documented and shared properly, including:

  • Transferring ownership of any digital information, like Google Docs or spreadsheets.

  • Recording all of the tasks they do on a weekly basis.

  • Determining who they collaborate with for projects they own.

  • Writing down undocumented processes or guides that they use.

3. Stay on top of administrative tasks

Just like hiring, an employee exit requires a lot of paperwork and administrative tasks. Check in with your HR and legal team to confirm your employee has all of the information they need to offboard. Your HR department will walk the team member through any final administrative tasks they need to complete. This may include:

  • Notifying IT of the employee’s last day so they can change access to specific software.

  • Alerting payroll for final paychecks.

  • Connecting with HR to discuss benefits closure.

  • Getting all paperwork signed including a letter of resignation and non-disclosure agreement, if needed.

  • Returning id badges, laptops, and any other company property.

  • Scheduling their exit interview.

4. Collaborate on a staff announcement

Write a coordinated statement from you and the employee to announce that they’re leaving. It’s important to give them the opportunity to share that they’re leaving with their colleagues in a way that feels right to them, instead of doing it yourself.

5. Set up an exit interview

Usually run by the HR department, an exit interview allows you to get meaningful feedback on the team, your managerial style, and the company as a whole. Since the employee is leaving, feedback is more likely to be honest. Exit surveys are one of the few opportunities where your company can gain insight into how to improve retention, processes, and the overall employee experience.

Sample exit interview questions:

  • What did you think of the onboarding/offboarding process?

  • How can we best support our new employees?

  • What growth opportunities would you have been interested to pursue here?

  • What made this a positive work environment? A negative one?

  • Did you feel supported by your manager? You co-workers?

  • What motivated you to look for a new opportunity?

  • What was your best day or accomplishment here? What about your worst?

6. Develop a temporary plan

If there’s no new hire to replace the employee right away, you’re going to need a temporary work plan to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. Have the employee document their daily tasks. As you review them, evaluate the work they're doing and potentially defer, delegate, or delete unnecessary work about work. If needed, temporarily assign tasks that cannot be ignored to other members of the team. 

If this is going to be a long-term change, you might want to use change management to help you with the process. For example, if you’re not planning to refill this position, you can use a change management strategy to come up with a plan for restructuring the team and redistributing work. 

7. Hire the replacement employee

Work with your HR team to kick off the backfill hiring process as soon as you can. In the interim, use the transition plan you created to keep work on track. That way, you don’t feel pressured to hire the first candidate you speak with and can focus solely on finding the best person for the role. If you have a longer runway before the departing employee leaves, it’s ideal to hire the replacing employee while they’re still there for a smoother transition. This overlap leaves time for the leaving employee to go through a knowledge transfer to the new one, training and preparing them for the role. 

Create an employee offboarding template

What are the benefits of offboarding employees?

Offboarding an employee helps everyone impacted—the employee, their team, the manager, and the company overall. Here are some of the many benefits:

  • Employee experience:Provide a good experience for your employees from the first day to the last day. 

  • Reinforces employer brand: Offboarding leaves the employee with a positive final experience, so they’re more likely to walk away touting the benefits of working for your company.

  • Hire back boomerang employees: Employees who leave and return to the same company are known as boomerang employees. You never know why an employee is leaving. They might have experienced burnout or need a sabbatical, and would like to return after they’ve had some space. An offboarding process helps them to feel more comfortable coming back to work if and when it’s the right fit.

  • Reduces security risks: Recover computers, change account passwords, and revoke access to company software to help prevent security breaches.

  • Gain valuable feedback: Employees tend to be more honest when they’re leaving. This is a great time to identify opportunities for improvement and hear feedback that can truly move the needle on your team, leadership style, and organization.

What should be included in your offboarding? 

The offboarding process is the last impression your leaving employee will have of you and your company. It should be thoughtful and inclusive, with clear steps that help everyone feel comfortable long before the last day.

Here are some things you should include in your offboarding process to make it a success:

  • Exit interview

  • Employee offboarding checklist

  • HR offboarding meeting to review benefits options and payroll questions

  • Process to gather company assets, including credit cards and laptops

The best offboarding process? An automated one

Less work for you means more time spent strengthening the relationship between you and the employee who’s leaving and focusing on what your team will need in their absence. Automation reduces this work, allowing you to create a reusable offboarding process with triggers and dependencies that simplify every step.

Using a project management tool, you can build out: 

  • Offboarding templates to use repeatedly whenever an employee leaves.

  • Offboarding workflows so every team member knows what they’re responsible for and when they should be available during the offboarding process. 

Build an employee offboarding process that works

Employee offboarding can be the difference between an employee walking away feeling ok about leaving or filled with hope that they can one day return. After all, they’ve worked hard for you. Offboarding is the last and final step in what was hopefully a long, fulfilling work relationship—make it count.

Automating your offboarding process reduces the time you spend on work about work. This way, you can stay focused on what matters most—making the best possible employee experience every step of the way.

Create an employee offboarding template

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