Why Everyone Should Invest in Employee Offboarding

Catered breakfast. Balloons Scavenger hunts. When it comes to welcoming new hires, we've heard about all sorts of novel and fun ways to celebrate their arrival. It's well documented that first impressions matter and the effort you make for your new hires can directly tie in with their satisfaction and longevity at your company.

But what happens on that fateful day when an employee hands in their notice? Or when you’re responsible for managing an involuntary departure like a layoff or a firing?

It turns out that offboarding is an oft-neglected part of the employee lifecycle. Research conducted by Bersin by Deloitte found that "retention and engagement" were the top concerns of many business leaders. And yet, according to Aberdeen Group, only 29% of organizations have a formal offboarding process in place.

This can cause sticky situations for a number of reasons—if your offboarding is inconsistent, you are at greater risk for failing to comply with various laws and regulations, you can potentially destroy feelings of goodwill among former employees, and you can easily overlook administrative issues like knowledge/responsibility transfer, asset collection, and properly closing out all accounts.

But creating an offboarding program is not just about avoiding negative consequences—there are actually a number of benefits to setting up a cohesive and comprehensive system for ushering employees out of your organization.

Let’s take a look at four huge advantages you can gain from a standardized offboarding program. 

1. Former employees can be excellent brand ambassadors.

Think about it: No one knows your organization as well as the people who have worked within it. While they may not be contributing to your bottom line on a daily basis anymore, former employees have the power to continue to share your story with various stakeholders.

Here’s one simple way to frame your relationship with former employees: Treat them with the same respect and attention you devote to customers.

If you begin to think of exiting employees as customers, it will be a lot easier to provide a positive experience. Here’s a small assignment for you: Spend some time thinking about what else you can do to encourage former employees to take on the role of brand ambassadors.

2. Your alumni network can be a highly effective source of job referrals.

It’s no secret that applicants who come from job referral programs tend to be more successful than those who don’t have any prior connection to the company. In fact, Dr. John Sullivan reports that 88% of employers rated employee referrals above all other sources for generating quality new hires. It makes sense—existing employees understand the company culture and can clearly communicate this to their friends and contacts.

None of this changes when an employee leaves your company. They still have that valuable insider knowledge, and if their perception of the company is still largely positive, they’ll be much more inclined to encourage others to join you.

There have been a number of studies on the power of weak ties both for networking in general and specifically in the job search process. If you limit referrals only to existing employees, you may soon run out of options. Opening the process up to former employees can expand the network of candidates—and your chances of finding talent.

3. Boomerang employees can return with purpose and passion.

What exactly is a boomerang employee? This term refers to employees who leave and then return to your organization at some point in the future. 

The average millennial (who now comprises the largest share of the American workforce) is expected to change jobs 6.4 times before they turn 30. And it stands to reason that they may be open to returning to a previous employer, provided that they left on good terms.

There are a number of benefits to hiring boomerang employees: They already understand your company culture and industry, they will likely require less time to get up to speed during onboarding, and they offer a unique blend of outside perspective and insider knowledge of how to get things done in your organization.

Don’t neglect the power of the boomerang employee!

4. You can uncover insight into your company’s successes and failures.

No matter how positive of a work environment you’ve created, chances are there will always be room for improvement. You already know that employees choose to leave for a range of personal and professional reasons. But formalizing your offboarding process can allow you to gain insight into areas for improvement.

The best way to gain an understanding of feedback from departing employees is through exit surveys. These surveys help managers and HR staff understand negative trends and gather the information they need to improve the offboarding process.

It can be hard to hear negative feedback, but this is a key element of strategic offboarding programs. Madeline Laurano writes, “An enterprise-wide approach to offboarding requires organizations to step outside of their comfort zones and accept both positive and negative feedback.”

If you aren’t taking the time to learn from exiting employees, you may even damage goodwill among current employees if there are serious issues that remain unresolved for an extended period of time.

What’s next?

If you’re convinced that it’s time to create a strategic offboarding program, what comes next?

First, separate out the administrative tasks (requesting official resignation forms, collecting badges, settling outstanding reimbursements) from the strategic ones (creating a consistent and positive experience, establishing a method for collecting feedback, and offering employees clear guidelines about the nature of their relationship to your organization moving forward).

If you don’t already, make sure that all concerned parties (HR, direct managers, IT staff, and the employee who’s leaving) have a clearly outlined checklist and plan of what needs to happen and when.

It won’t be an overnight process, but it’s one that will benefit everyone in your organization.

Convinced that you’re ready to invest in offboarding? Download the Employee Departure Best Practices eBook for more practical tips and ideas for building out your program. Click the button below to download your copy.


Melissa Suzuno

Melissa Suzuno is the Content Marketing Manager at Greenhouse, where she gets to share her love of the written word and endorse the use of the Oxford comma on a daily basis. Before joining Greenhouse, Melissa built out the content marketing programs at Parklet (an onboarding and employee experience solution) and AfterCollege (a job search resource for recent grads), so she's made it a bit of a habit to help people get excited about and invested in their work. Find Melissa on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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