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Three Ways to Elevate the Employee Offboarding Experience

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The exit process and offboarding experience is the last chance a company will have to leave a lasting positive impression. It’s an opportunity to part on a good note and cement a long lasting relationship going forward.

Companies invest significant resources in onboarding new employees into their organizations. Beyond the first day paperwork there are new employee lunches and 90-day plans designed to get that new employee up and running quickly — all while introducing them to the company’s culture and values. However, when the employee leaves the organization, they are often left with a less than stellar goodbye experience in comparison.

One often forgotten piece of the employee lifecycle is transitioning them out of the organization and onto the next phase of their career. A former employee can either be a positive (or negative) brand ambassador depending on their overall experience, and the exit process is an opportunity to leave a lasting positive impression. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were signs that the workforce was shifting. From boomers approaching retirement to millennials who make up the largest percentage of the workforce, employee turnover is rising and expected to be a major factor in 2021 as part of “The Great Resignation.

Companies will have policies and procedures in place to handle the administrative components when an employee leaves as required by employment laws. Where many companies fall short is on the softer side of that transition where they’re missing the best opportunity to connect and build a lifelong relationship.

Make the Exit Interview Count
Well-conducted exit interviews will give key feedback on areas within the company that need to be addressed to retain top performers, or to learn about trends on when/why people leave. This should be a well-designed experience that includes a variety of materials from thank you notes, how to join the alumni program, and more. We put together 7 ways to get the most out of exit interviews here, but there’s always more that can be done. For example, we learned 38% of organizations currently offer outplacement services such as career counseling, cover letter and/or resume development assistance, interview training, or career search coaching.

Elevated Experience: Consider a casual follow up conversation with the departed employee a few months after they leave conducted by a senior leader. An employee’s reasons for leaving may change once they have some distance — they may have a fresher perspective, or they may feel they can speak more freely. It’s also an opportunity to provide a personal touch and ask if they have joined the alumni program yet.

Acknowledge Contributions
Recognizing an employee’s contributions during their time at an organization serves multiple purposes — the employee gets to reflect on the work they did as they prepare to move on, the teams see examples of how one person orchestrated their career at that company, and the management gets an opportunity to thank that employee for what they’ve added to the organization during their time. It gives everyone some closure and clears the path for the next steps in the transition.

Elevated Experience: Determine what aligns best with your company’s mission and values to create a farewell that helps the employee leave on a good note — whether it’s a farewell lunch, a card, or a party — employees want to feel that their time and efforts mattered. At the very least, including a thank you note from the CEO or another senior leader is a nice touch.

Transitioning to the Next Chapter
In professional services it’s often said that your former employees have the potential to become your best clients. At the same time, companies are tapping into referral networks and hiring boomerangs back into the organization. The offboarding process is an opportunity to support the departing employee to help them succeed in their next role and is a chance to learn about where they might be headed that could benefit either the business development team in the near term or the recruiting team in the distance future.

Elevated Experience: Gather information such as a personal email address before they leave. Is the departing employee interested in staying in touch? Does your organization offer an alumni network? Do they know about the benefits you offer to former employees such as an alumni referral fee? Assembling all of this into a “Welcome to the Alumni Program” document is a great way to encourage them to stay engaged.

An employee’s departure from an organization deserves the same care and attention as when they joined and can breed loyalty to a company that goes far beyond the exit date. A clear offboarding strategy that includes engaging with former employees can build referral networks, leads to business development, and actionable cost savings for the employer.