The Power of Departing Employees, or Why Offboarding is Critically Important

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Dec 4, 2015
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

Though most companies today are laser-focused on the onboarding process, many overlook the importance of offboarding. In fact, Aberdeen research finds that only 29 percent of organizations have an offboarding program in place.

In many ways, offboarding — the strategic process for transitioning employees out of the workplace — is equally important to a company’s success as onboarding.

Why? Departing employees have power.

The power of departing employees

Along with the industry experience, company knowledge and other intellectual property they gained at the organization, they also have the freedom to openly share their opinions about the company in whatever way and with whomever they see fit.

In other words, departing employees can either be an advocate or detractor for the company.

To ensure the former, companies must understand that offboarding means more than just the logistics of returning keys, badges and computers. It means seizing the opportunity to tap into the power of departing employees and making sure they remain a positive voice for the company.

Know this: gone are the days when former employees vanish after their last day. Today, they are free to speak their minds on Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Facebook and any number of other social networks. While there’s no way to absolutely guarantee they won’t post scathing thoughts, it’s far less likely to happen to companies with strong and strategic offboarding programs in place.

Though no two offboarding programs can – or should – be exactly alike, SilkRoad has observed that the most successful ones are defined by three key characteristics:

1. Departing employees are “alumni,” not “ex-employees”

Lacking a crystal ball, there’s no way to predict exactly what’s ahead for departing employees. Among other futures, they could become a customer, a competitor, a contractor, or even a boomerang employee.

Companies must ensure that departing employees leave with a positive mentality and favorable opinion of the company.

This begins simply enough: Treat them like you’d like to be treated. From there, companies should consider them “alumni” with the power to be champions for the company in all social and professional forums, rather than thinking of departing workers as merely “ex-employees.”

2. A systematic process is in place

For departing employees, the difference between having a positive or negative offboarding experience can often be determined by the smallest of details.

To ensure no stone is left unturned, companies must adopt a systematic, enterprise-wide offboarding process that considers and consistently treats all aspects of:

  • Post-employment payment arrangements;
  • 401 (k) and other financial transitions;
  • Health care insurance transition;
  • Exit interview (in person or online);
  • Physical property handover;
  • Intellectual property handover;
  • Non-compete and non-disclosure reminders.

Clearly, the list is long, and for many companies, it can be complicated. But, automation technology can help simplify the process.

As companies with successful offboarding programs are increasingly demonstrating, automated employee life cycle management systems not only increase compliance with administrative issues, but also ease facilitation of networking components.

3. Make sure the house is in order

Before or immediately after a teammate departs, companies need to notify remaining employees and help guide them for success. This process should include:

  • Having protocols in place to ensure that projects and knowledge transfer seamlessly and successfully.
  • Communicating openly and honestly with remaining employees to mitigate speculation and other issues that invariably arise when an employee leaves the company or layoffs occur.

The bottom line

Just as they are now dedicated to creating a positive onboarding experience for new recruits, companies must be equally committed to engendering goodwill among outgoing employees.

Ultimately, no one understands a company – its values, its culture and the way it does business – more than the people who’ve earned a living there. When this understanding is shared in a positive light, it can only contribute to the success of the company.

As Aberdeen’s research points out, opportunity exists for nearly three out of four (70 percent) of companies to make strides in improving their offboarding initiatives. Effective offboarding programs don’t happen overnight. They begin with an understanding of why, when, where and how departing employees should be advocates for the company – and as a result, contribute to its ongoing success.

With that understanding, companies can plan the strategies – and identify the many milestones that need to be achieved – to ensure this success. While that’s much easier said than done, the introduction of automation can ease the process.

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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