What is the opposite of onboarding? Meet "Offboarding"


ave you ever wondered what the opposite of onboarding is?

Chances are, you are very familiar with onboarding. Onboarding is the process of bringing a new employee into the company and equipping them with the knowledge and culture necessary to be a productive member of the team. But what happens when a team member leaves?

So, what is the opposite of onboarding? Meet "Offboarding".

What is offboarding?

Offboarding is the process of managing the departure of an employee from your company. 

It’s a fact: all employees eventually leave. It’s a sad thought, as there are plenty of colleagues we wish would stay around forever. However, even the best employers must eventually wave goodbye. 

Reasons that employees may leave include:

  • New job opportunity/career development
  • Retirement
  • Career change
  • Relocation/remote work opportunities
  • Injury or disability
  • Extended period of leave
  • Redundancy
  • Frustration or discontent
  • Poor relationships with colleagues
  • Malpractice or criminal activity
  • Poor conduct
  • Underperformance

The reason an employee departs can greatly impact the manner in which an employee is offboarded.

Why is offboarding important?

All too often, companies focus on the processes of offboarding, such as returning equipment and wrapping up payroll, without considering the less tangible impacts of losing a team member.

When a team member leaves, they take months or years of unique knowledge and skills for maximizing the productivity of their role that can be difficult or even impossible to replace. 

Just think, how many tricks, techniques and shortcuts have you discovered in your own role? What information or skills do you have that no one else does? This kind of knowledge is invaluable to the smooth running of a company - yet it can easily walk out the door when you do.

The chance to capture this knowledge is one of the key advantages of a well-formulated offboarding program.

Offboarding is the opposite of onboarding.

An offboarding program is also a crucial time for managing relationships. When employees leave on a positive note, they may become a source for future referrals, or even send talented job seekers your way.

Maintaining a positive relationship with a departed employee and keeping opens lines of communication also allows you to ask quick questions (e.g. "Where did you save that document about the important thing?"), even after they have moved on.

It’s also important to manage the emotions of the team they leave behind, who may be sad about the loss and apprehensive about their replacement. This management can be particularly challenging if an employee leaves on a sour note, as they may leave shock, hurt, anger or discontent in their wake.

Overall, getting the offboarding process right is very important for businesses.

Offboarding checklist

A good offboarding process includes a mix of formal and informal tasks. They may vary depending on why the employee is leaving.

Tasks to include in your offboarding process

Establish a handover process

No one knows a role as well as the person in it! As noted earlier, the departing employee will likely have valuable knowledge about how to manage their work effectively. Capturing this knowledge before they leave is essential for a smooth transfer to their replacement.

Sadly, too many companies rely on awkward emails and lengthy handover documents that focus on dry processes. These documents are time-consuming to produce, and then rarely referred to by their incoming replacement.

Instead, try using a training platform like HowToo that allows departing employees to create fun and engaging digital courses to capture and share their knowledge and skills. These courses can also be shared with other members of the team to develop their skills and give insight into their roles.

HowToo is quick and easy for anyone to use, and courses made with HowToo can be completed on any device, anywhere, giving employees ultimate flexibility to learn at the time and place that suits them.

Communicate departure to the team

Make sure to let their teammates know that they are leaving, as well as when and why. Phrase this communication carefully, particularly if you have experienced a recent uptick in departures. Ensure this message is honest and respectful, without straying into slander or defamation.

This is an important time to publicly thank the employee for their service to the company if possible, though it may not always be appropriate if they have left for reasons such as poor conduct or malpractice.

Exit interview

An exit interview is a formal discussion with a departing employee to gather feedback. This is often the time when employers ascertain the reason for departure.

Exit interviews are very helpful as departing employees often feel more confident to provide feedback on aspects that they found difficult or frustrating in their role. Listening to this feedback with an open mind offers a highly valuable chance to make improvements to your company and reduce future turnover.

Return company property

Finally, (and this may be a no-brainer), but it’s important that the employee returns any property belonging to the company before they leave, such as laptops, mobiles, key cards or even cars. Your business should keep a clear record of all property used by employees, and the date that it is returned to prevent theft (accidental or otherwise).

This is a good time to ensure that all digital documents are securely backed up, as in rare cases, an angry employee may attempt to alter, destroy or even steal company documentation.

Lastly, double check that all their passwords and logins have been shared with another team member to ensure you do not lose access to important accounts.

Tips for managing the offboarding process

There are a number of ways to ensure the offboarding period is a smooth and positive experience.

Set the right exit date

Setting an exit date is often dictated by an employee’s terms of employment, or extraneous factors, but in cases where the date may be flexible, there are few things to consider.

First, it is important to give the employee enough time to farewell their colleagues and hand over their role. This enables a smooth and positive offboarding period.

However, this must be balanced with not drawing out their remaining employment too long, as departing employees may reduce their productivity as their motivation declines.

Gather the reason for departure

Even if you think you know why the employee is leaving, it’s important to formally ask why they are leaving as you may discover a reason you were not expecting. This becomes increasingly important as the size of your business grows, as formally collecting this information may reveal patterns.

For example, you may discover that many employees are leaving because they feel they are unable to grow in your company. As a result, you might need to invest in a learning and training platform, like HowToo, so that your employees can grow professionally without leaving. HowToo includes a wide range of pre-built courses with topics that allow team members to upskill flexibly.

Celebrate their achievements

Celebrating the achievements and input from a successful employee is critical to a positive onboarding. Your employee has dedicated significant time and effort to the success of your company and they deserve to be recognized for it.

Skipping this risks the employee feeling rejected and unvalued, and may affect how they talk about your company in the future.

Consider showing your appreciation in a few different ways, such as writing a note or card, sharing their success with the broader team, posting a “thank you & goodbye” social post on the company account and giving a gift. Different people will respond to different kinds of appreciation, so it is good to cover your bases.

Departure gifts

Departure gifts are one of the best ways to show your appreciation for a departing employee. A delighted employee may choose to upload a photo to their personal social media, spreading the word that your company is a great place to work. You can also gift them company-branded merchandise, such as a t-shirt, bag or stationary, allowing your employee to help spread awareness of your company.

Reap the benefits of offboarding your employees with these tips.

How to offboard an employee leaving on bad terms

No one wants to see an employee leave on bad terms, but sadly, it may be unavoidable, particularly if the employee has engaged in destructive behaviors such as malpractice, negligence, poor conduct or criminal activity.

In these situations, it is advisable to obtain legal advice before proceeding to ensure your business is fully justified in its actions and protected against possible retaliation. 

From there, it is almost always best to wrap up their employment as quickly as possible to avoid any possible further damage to the company or its image.

Once they have departed, there are a number of things that should be communicated to your team, including:

  • Make your company’s stance clear on any behaviors that are unacceptable.
  • Share any plans or reviews to prevent a recurrence.
  • Be clear about any aspects that should not be shared outside the company.
  • Recognize the feelings your team might have about the departure and any related events.
  • Offer to discuss the matter further with anyone one-on-one.

Managing the impact of the departure on your team is critical for maintaining positive relationships and a quick recovery.

You may also need to re-educate your team on important company policies, such as your code of conduct and privacy awareness, or compliance topics such as fraud awareness, cyber security and safety. 

Unfortunately, many of these topics exist as dry documents skimmed over by even well-meaning team members, which can lead to unintended breaches. That’s why HowToo transformed them into fun, interactive and engaging digital courses. Roll out these courses and more today on our Growth plan.

Offboarding Successfully

Overall, a smooth and positive offboarding experience is as essential as your onboarding process. Putting in the time and effort to manage the offboarding of an employee can not only reduce risk and damage, but actually come back to positively benefit your business for years to come.

With the help of HowToo and our library of simple and easy to use templates and ready-to-go courses, unlock your workplace knowledge and transform it into beautiful digital courses. Leave boring handover documents and awkward emails behind.

Company training and offboarding made easy. Get started

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Jan 18, 2022

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