While onboarding and performance management get extensive attention from HR, the offboarding process is often treated as merely operational. However, good offboarding processes can make or break your employer brand.
You should want your former employees to be loyal advocates of your company, not antagonists.
As advocates, not only can they recommend you as an employer of choice to other top talent, they could recommend you to potential clients, especially if they’re leaving to go to a different industry, in which case, their new employer is not likely to be your direct competitor.
If your offboarding programme merely consists of instructions for handing off job responsibilities and perfunctory exit interviews, you’re on the wrong track.
Instead, whether the employee is leaving voluntarily or as a result of layoffs, offer to do whatever you can to assist in his or her transition and set up an alumni programme through which you can stay in touch with them.
OFFBOARDING AS PART OF TALENT MANAGEMENT
In fact, offboarding should be seen as part of an ongoing employee experience programme that kicks in long before an employee exits.
Good offboarding programmes are closely integrated and aligned with talent management policies. In other words, your offboarding objectives should be geared towards attracting and retaining top talent even as you bid goodbye to some employees.
The programmes should also be aligned with your mission and vision. How you treat your exiting employees sends powerful signals about how seriously you take these lofty ideals.
BE COMMITTED TO BUILDING CAREERS FROM START TO END
When high-performing individuals join an organisation, most managers hope they’ll stay until they retire, but this is unrealistic.
Career development should apply to every employee regardless of how long they plan to stay with you. In fact, research shows that companies that invest in talent development manage to better retain top talent. In addition, if you show yourself to be a great employer, the individual will be a staunch advocate even after he or she leaves, benefitting the organisation in the long term.
When employees begin their career with your company, be sure to provide resources for them to grow. This can be done by funding training programmes, giving them stretch assignments, providing mentorship and having regular career conversations with them throughout their time with the organisation.
We think that even when employees talk about moving on to bigger or different things outside the organisation, managers should continue an advisory and supportive role. It might feel counterintuitive, but persuading the employee to stay against his or her instincts is not likely to yield positive results in the long term anyway.
Managers should approach potential exits with the following mindset: You are valued and we’d like you to stay, but if you want to leave, we will do our best to support you and prepare you for the next chapter of your career.
TAKE AN INTROSPECTIVE APPROACH
Never treat an exiting employee heading to a competitor as a disloyal traitor. There could be many reasons for this including the possibility that you weren’t fulfilling his or her career aspirations or needs. Take an introspective approach instead.
ACKNOWLEDGE THEIR CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE FIRM
Whether the employee has been laid off or is leaving voluntarily, acknowledging their contributions to the company can go a long way towards leaving them with a positive impression of their time with you.
When it comes to layoffs, in addition to retrenchment benefits, outplacement programmes that help employees find their feet will certainly make them your most loyal advocates.
Such programmes could include job-search coaching, skills and career assessments, counselling and job placement services.
THE QUALITY OF EXIT INTERVIEWS
Exit interview questions should be standardised and departing employees should always feel assured that the information they provide will be confidential and used constructively to improve practices and policies where necessary.
In fact, in your exit interviews, consider asking employees for their thoughts on the offboarding process as well.
SET UP AN ALUMNI PROGRAMME
A robust alumni programme demonstrates a long-term commitment to employees’ careers and well-being.
Have dedicated websites and company newsletters to keep employees close to the organisation. Showcase both alumni members’ and current employees’ achievements on such platforms. Invite them for networking events. In fact, ask them to speak at these events as subject matter experts or invite them into the organisation to conduct courses for current employees.
This will strengthen the connection and make them true advocates of your brand.