Offboarding is all about saying goodbye and giving employees an easy, stress-free exit. At least that’s the idea, anyway.
In reality, the typical off-boarding process too often turns into a vortex of transitioning projects to other team members, managing mountains of paperwork, and navigating exit interviews.
In other words, anything but stress-free and easy.
At Biteable, we decided we couldn’t afford to let this happen. As a rapidly growing startup with ambitious goals, employee offboarding is just too important; we can’t shortchange the process.
The offboarding period at our company is intentionally designed to ensure a smooth transition for the employee, a positive send-off, and minimal impact to operations. Here’s how we do it and why we believe it’s so important to our success.
The role offboarding plays in company success
Offboarding isn’t just a formality. It’s a vital part of company operations for these reasons:
Former team members are brand ambassadors
Last impressions last. The way your company says goodbye is something team members remember forever. You never know where you might cross paths in the future.
Those with fond memories of final days at a company will speak well of their former employer, creating a positive impact on your company’s brand and by extension, its appeal to prospective candidates. Those with a bumpy transition period may not have the same good things to say.
Former employees can become future employees
People leave companies for many reasons. Some team members leave due to lack of growth opportunities, while others leave because their company doesn’t offer them the possibility to work remotely, or with flexible hours, or because they’re looking for a better culture, or simply because they’ve received a more competitive offer.
But as life circumstances change, these reasons for leaving often become moot to a former team member, and a return to your company becomes an attractive option.
From an organizational perspective, there are advantages to rehiring former employees. A rehire is more cost-effective than an outside hire, since your ‘new’ team member will be operational and productive sooner, based on their previous experience with the company.
And it’s not out of the ordinary. Workplace Trends found that 15% of employees have returned to a company at which they previously worked and another 40% would consider returning to a former employer in the future.
Since recruiting is becoming tougher, and the talent shortage is still growing, most companies won’t say no to a returning employee.
And neither would we. Especially at a startup, where lean operations and small-but-mighty teams keep the wheels turning. Retaining every bit of institutional knowledge from departing team members is critical to our success.
Biteable’s offboarding process
We know why it’s important, but what does an ideal offboarding process look like? The exact details will depend on the nature of your company and the job role you are offboarding, but we follow these steps at Biteable.
1. Communicate the departure, control the message
At our company, the departing team member’s manager is responsible for discussing a mutually beneficial transition process. They’re also responsible for notifying all leadership, HR and project owners in a dedicated Slack channel so we can work out a transition plan, together.
After questions are answered, we align on a format and date for announcing to the larger organization, often the same day or the following, to ensure a transparent announcement with as much information as we can give.
The longer you wait, the more likely it is that the news will get out amongst other colleagues, and team members will begin to fill in the details themselves. Now a voluntary departure ends up looking like a messy firing or another unwanted situation, and instead of controlling the message, you’re responding to it.
To avoid this type of situation, I always recommend managers inform their team, department, and HR as soon as possible about a staff member’s departure through cascading communications.
It’s best to be transparent and honest. Tell employees as much as you can about the departure, why it’s happening, and how you plan to transition. It’s okay to say, “this person is leaving, but we won’t have details on a transition plan until later in the week.”
2. Thank the departing team member
When an employee leaves, start by thanking them for the work they’ve done and the time and energy they’ve invested. It’s important to acknowledge that this person has worked hard for your organization and likely impacted many colleagues outside of their own team and department.
At Biteable, we create a video that highlights the achievements of the departing team member and thanks them for their hard work.
Where possible, we include stats that show just how much of an impact this person had on our organization. We also like to send them off with heartfelt messages from their manager, fellow team members, and leadership.
3. Enable knowledge sharing
Whether or not a successor is ready to step in, ensuring you keep the departing employee’s knowledge inside your company is critical.
Your first step is to lay out how you’ll transfer the knowledge, who you’ll transfer the knowledge to, and along what timeline. The next step in the process is to encourage the person who’s leaving to share their knowledge.
Each role is different, but I recommend sticking to these guidelines when you develop a transition plan:
Clarify the details
Make sure you have a clear understanding of the departing employee’s daily routine and who they work with most, both inside and outside the company.
Ask which tasks are a priority, versus which ones can be fulfilled by supporting roles or by software. This may help you understand what needs to be included in a successor’s workload and what may not need to be included in the role moving forward.
Gain access to the software, data sets, and files the employee uses.
Many staff members work online and use software services that host projects and files they use most. Getting access to tools and online accounts post-departure could be a headache and may lead to awkwardly contacting the former employee for assistance.Please add: “A good offboarding process will also ensure that employee access to company systems is adjusted or removed through automated access provisioning during offboarding. “
Set up training between the departing team member and supporting coworkers to ensure information is transferred successfully. The supporting coworkers might sit in on a video call to hear how to pitch clients or attend a meeting to observe how to collaborate with other departments.
Create a transition document or video
Include useful tips for the departee’s successor and remaining team members. In addition, if there are tasks the departing team member can help automate or transition to other employees, this is the time to do so.
Don’t ask the departing expert to write a lengthy how-to manual — instead, ask them to share examples of how they handled problems in the past.
4. Hold an exit interview
An exit interview can provide your company with a wealth of information. A well-organized interview gives insight into your organization’s strengths and weaknesses and how to improve the latter.
Choose a neutral party
Since employees sometimes leave their managers rather than their jobs, assign a neutral party, like someone from HR, to do the interview instead.
Take all feedback seriously
Remember that the exit interview is a moment that matters, so how you go about it will play a big part in how the employee remembers you as an employer.
Ask questions that help you improve your organization
This is what we ask at every Biteable exit interview:
- If we could improve in any way, how would we do it? What’s not fun about working here?
- Who is really kicking ass in the company / who do you admire?
- What are we not doing that we should be doing?
- Is there anything we could have done to make you stay?
- Did the job live up to your expectations?
- Would you recommend our company to job-seeking friends?
- How was your relationship with your manager?
- What is the culture like on your team / your department / at our company? What did you like? What didn’t you like?
- What did you think of your onboarding process when you first joined? How would you improve it for future employees?
5. Update your org charts
Updating your company’s org charts as soon as possible helps prevent a lot of internal confusion. Once a team member leaves the company, update your organizational charts and directories.
If there is a successor, include this person’s details. If there isn’t, include the details of the team member filling in temporarily.
Make the best impression, always
Whether it’s a team member’s first day at your company or their last, the actions you take will have a lasting effect — on the departing employee, their remaining team members, and your company’s long-term reputation.
To do their best work and feel included in the company’s ongoings, team members need regular, transparent updates when coworkers are transitioning away from the organization. Without it, you lose control of the message and risk morale taking a hit.
It’s important to share the knowledge you have as quickly as possible, while also taking time to celebrate the many accomplishments of the departed. Make sure they know their time at the company was valued, their opinions are important, and their work won’t be forgotten.
Brent Chudoba, Biteable CEO
Brent is passionate about leadership, communications, and the modern workplace. Follow on LinkedIn for insights from the trenches.