September 13, 2023

Offboarding 2.0 - the last impression counts just as much

Saying goodbye is always difficult. Therefore, the right approach should also be taken when offboarding an employee. The following checklist will help you to think of all relevant aspects for a successful exit management.

In our last article, we shared professional onboarding with you. But not only the first impression counts—the last impression is just as important! Because when employees leave, they often take know-how with them that will then be missing in your company. And that is only one of many reasons. It is also about your employer brand, the corporate culture and your sovereignty as a company. Because in offboarding, you can especially shine with sovereignty!

Exit Management aka Offboarding

First of all, it is important to understand offboarding as a process with several phases and not as a one-off event. Offboarding or exit management is about saying goodbye to an employee in a confident, positive and appreciative way. It includes the entire farewell on a technical and social-emotional level in different phases. Internally, we should recognise and establish offboarding as an important area of responsibility in HR. Especially in times of a shortage of skilled workers, it also shapes the corporate culture and the employer branding of your company. At the same time, we should shape it positively and with foresight in the sense of networking.

Checklist for Offboarding

A structured offboarding process is crucial to ensure that employees' departure goes as smoothly as possible and leaves a positive final experience. We've put together some key points to include in your offboarding checklist:

1. Communication, planning and formalities

  • Inform employees in good time about the departure date and the start and scope of the offboarding process.
  • Clarify open questions regarding holiday entitlements, overtime, accounting, etc.
  • Inform all relevant departments about the departure.

2. Handing over tasks and responsibilities

  • Identify important tasks and responsibilities of employees.
  • Open projects and tasks must be carefully documented.
  • Name a successor or hand over tasks to other team members.

3. Knowledge transfer and documentation

  • Document staff knowledge and make it accessible to the team.
  • Encourage staff to share important information and best practices.
  • Ensure that work documentation(s) are reviewed and updated.

4. Access rights and IT aspects

  • Disable or transfer employee access rights to internal systems, emails, cloud storage, etc.
  • Secure important files and information.
  • Check that all company resources have been returned.

5. Exit interview and feedback

  • Conduct the exit interview to get valuable feedback.
  • Ask about the reasons for leaving and possible areas for improvement.
  • Give the employee the opportunity for constructive feedback.

6. Farewell and appreciation

  • Plan a casual farewell event (e.g. lunch) or informal gathering to show appreciation and recognition to the employee.
  • A cool and/or useful farewell gift with a company logo as a token of appreciation will show your aplomb and keep you in good memory.

7. Alumni programme and maintaining contacts

  • If available, inform the employee about an alumni programme.
  • Try to maintain contact with former employees in order to take advantage of possible networking opportunities afterwards. Because it is not uncommon for alumni to come back. The keyword is Boomerang Hiring.

Please note that this checklist is a very general summary and of course needs to be adapted to the specific needs of your company. Furthermore, we would like to give you a few golden rules for offboarding.

1. Transparent Communication

Clear and open communication during the offboarding process is crucial. Basically, this is how it should always be communicated, in every relationship. Both the departing employee and the remaining team should be informed about the reason for the separation in order to avoid misunderstandings and especially rumours. This demonstrates a strong corporate culture and strengthens trust among the staff.

2. Appreciation and Respect

Every departing employee should be treated with appreciation and respect. Acknowledging work done and openly showing gratitude contributes to a positive farewell. As in any good relationship, most of the time you spent together was positive, otherwise you would not have stayed together for so long—talk about that time. Then it will be much easier to show your appreciation.

3. Exit Interview

A structured exit interview provides the final opportunity to clarify unanswered questions, provide feedback and receive valuable feedback from departing employees. By asking questions about satisfaction, suggestions for improvement and reasons for leaving, you can gain valuable insights and improve future departures. Or, at best, prevent them, which should be the primary goal. As a company, you can continue to gather valuable data to also work on your company brand and address possible grievances.

4. Know-how Transfer

To ensure a seamless transfer of knowledge, measures must be taken early on to pass on the knowledge of the departing employee to the remaining team. This can include the documentation of processes, training or the introduction of a mentoring programme. In the best case, documentation takes place steadily and does not have to be initialised during offboarding. Otherwise, one person will always be a single point of failure, which we know all too well from IT.

5. Seamless Execution

A smooth transition is equally conducive to ensuring that ongoing projects and tasks can continue without major interruptions. Again, digital checklists (Asana, Clickup, Trello, etc.) help to document all the necessary steps and ensure that nothing is forgotten.

6. Scheduling

A well-planned offboarding process involves a well-structured time schedule. This time is of course directly dependent on the last termination date and must extend and adapt to this period accordingly. This allows both the departing employee and the company to prepare for the transition and take the necessary steps in a timely manner. For companies, the transfer of know-how is often critical, as it takes the longest.

7. Digitisation

Digital processes are also particularly helpful in offboarding. Especially when it comes to formalities. But also when it comes to data protection and data security.
In the case of terminations without notice, things have to move quickly - data protection mishaps or the loss of operational information are practically pre-programmed here without a digital system, which particularly covers item 1 and item 4 of our checklist.

8. Positive farewell

Saying goodbye to the outgoing employee officially in an appropriate setting can help to positively influence the working atmosphere and strengthen the company's image. This can be achieved, for example, through a small farewell party, a speech of thanks or other forms of recognition. And last but not least, former employees are also always ambassadors of the company. A positive farewell also helps to avoid a loss of image.

If you follow these rules and have a checklist like this at your disposal, you can only have a professional and positive farewell. And who knows, we also know of cases where the rudder was turned around because things came to light in the process that should have been discussed long ago. In any case, you often get valuable information that you would not otherwise get. Your staff will thank you for it.

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