What is offboarding?

Offboarding is the process of disengaging an employee from their position within a company, a practice used both for people who choose to leave, and for those who are laid off.

While the onboarding process is reminiscent of boarding a plane (and helps new hires acclimate to a new job), the offboarding process is akin to to disembarking (and provides employees with a structured framework when leaving a position). 

A good offboarding program should:

  • Minimize disruption within the company
  • Protect confidential company information
  • Gain helpful feedback from the exiting employee
  • Include a gracious goodbye party
  • Provide the departing employee with outplacement services, if necessary

<<Use our free offboarding checklist to give your people an exceptional offboarding experience.>>

Why is offboarding important to HR leaders? 

A well-planned and smooth offboarding program is key to maintaining:

Successful offboarding allows the employer and the exiting team member to maintain a relationship of mutual respect during and after the end of the business relationship.

What is an offboarding policy? 

An offboarding policy is a detailed and formalized plan, outlining every facet of the exit process and enabling a smoother transition during the offboarding period for both the person leaving and the organization they leave behind. Without a clear offboarding policy, employers leave themselves vulnerable to potential security threats and legal issues, along with damage to the relationship between the company and exiting employee. 

An offboarding policy helps companies to: 

  • Manage the logistical challenges of a changing workforce and reassign responsibilities 
  • Develop an exit interview template 
  • Create a consistent offboarding experience for all employees 
  • Minimize security risks by reclaiming company assets and withdrawing access to company accounts 
  • Prevent legal issues, e.g., contract disputes, compensation disputes, or wrongful termination
  • Protect their relationship with the person leaving

What is an offboarding email? 

An offboarding email is a formal declaration from the employer evidencing the end of someone’s time with an organization. Whether offboarding is the result of a resignation, retirement, or termination, the HR department must provide a formal letter to manage the last days of employment. 

An offboarding email is important because:

  • It’s an acknowledgement of the leaving person’s contributions and achievements during their time with the company 
  • It often includes either exit interview questions or the opportunity for former team members to provide feedback on their experience, which can help the company to improve over time
  • The specific wording used will impact–either qualifying or disqualifying–the leaving employee’s recourse to financial support from the government, if needed 

What are the best practices for successful offboarding?  

HR can create a comprehensive and compassionate offboarding program which includes these components:

  • Update co-workers. HR can email company members as soon as they know team member will be leaving. This minimizes rumors that could potentially damage the departing person’s reputation.
  • Draw up necessary legal documents. A letter of resignation or termination, benefits documents, and a letter of non-disclosure are documents which protect both the employer and employee. It’s best to prepare these ahead of time and store in the company’s applicant tracking system.
  • Transfer of expertise. Ensure that the departing team member’s experience and knowledge is organized and ready for the next hire. If the employee was in contact with clients, forward client emails to a co-worker.
  • Retrieve company property. Keep an inventory of all items which the departing team member has in their possession, to ensure a full recovery of all company property. This includes: laptop, keycard, ID badges, uniform, etc.
  • Communicate with IT. Protect company privacy and classified information by ensuring IT deactivates the employee’s computer, internal computer systems, and removes data access.
  • Plan an exit interview. Aim to be sensitive to the person’s needs and perspective. This is a key opportunity to learn from the departing employee about company flaws which need to be improved upon. 
  • Show gratitude. HR can organize a goodbye party and personalized gift to show goodwill, as the employee embarks on their next journey.
  • Recommend outplacement services. Inform the departing team member that the company can help them look for a new job (if necessary), through partnering with an outplacement services agency. This can provide them with an advantage when back in the job-market.

<<Use our free offboarding checklist to give your people an exceptional offboarding experience.>>

Offboarding vs. onboarding 

At first glance, onboarding and offboarding appear to be at opposite ends of the spectrum. Instead, think of onboarding and offboarding as the first and last chapters of a book: The introduction sets the scene while the conclusion ties up any loose threads. Yet, both are similar in that the complexity–and sensitivity–of each requires step-by-step planning, meticulously organized paperwork, and plenty of tact. 

Onboarding is the process of familiarizing new team members with their organization,its culture, and its people. Offboarding, in contrast, is focused on maintaining a positive relationship with the person leaving, while tying up any loose ends and protecting the company from both legal and security threats. 

Neither onboarding nor offboarding are without uncertainty and risk for employees and organizations. Without preparation and a formalized process on both sides, miscommunication and discontent can escalate. 

Offboarding and boomerang employees

When a company takes the time to create a positive offboarding experience for departing team members, they not only end on good terms, but leave the door open for future possibilities. An increasingly competitive job market has given rise to a phenomenon recruiters refer to as “boomerang employees”—people who return to an organization at which they were previously employed. 

Recent research from The Corporate Culture and Boomerang Employee study highlighted there are plenty of reasons to consider hiring a boomerang employee: 

  • 56 percent of HR professionals and 51 percent of managers give high or very high priority to boomerang job applicants who left in good standing
  • 33 percent of HR professionals and 38 percent of managers agree that familiarity with a company’s culture—and fewer training needs—are the biggest benefits of rehiring former team members

How can a smooth offboarding process improve company culture?

A good offboarding process benefits both the departing team member and those remaining, allowing the departing employee to leave on good terms, while maintaining company loyalty and employee engagement.

Amicable offboarding also leaves the door open to “boomerang employees.” This shows that the company is so good, it’s worth coming back to.

A comprehensive offboarding process which takes into account the wellbeing of all employees, those departing and those staying, can lead to a smoother transition period for everyone and builds a company culture that embodies a vibrant spirit of wellbeing.

Automating offboarding processes with HR tech 

The effort required to successfully and smoothly complete an offboarding process cannot be underestimated. HR tech can help organize and streamline the entire exit process by:

  • Creating a consistent offboarding process 
  • Ensuring that the person leaving has a positive exit experience
  • Offering prompts, flowcharts, and checklists to ensure that all necessary handover tasks are carried out 
  • Providing an exit interview script
  • Automating specific offboarding procedures (some programs can automatically send documents such as final pay summaries)