How you welcome your new employees sets the tone for business and team growth. Overall, a positive, structured onboarding process contributes to new employee productivity and company loyalty in the long-term.
That’s because first impressions are integral to the success of any relationship. And the employer-employee relationship is no exception.
But what about final impressions? Your business’s offboarding process is just as important as its onboarding process. A smooth and productive offboarding process allows departing employees to leave on a good note. And it contributes to positive perceptions of your brand.
Offboarding can help you preserve contacts, foster future partnerships, pave the way for potential referrals, and shore up your employer reviews. So make sure your offboarding process gets just as much thought and attention as your onboarding process.
Follow these six steps to make your offboarding process nothing short of excellent.
1. Plan as much as possible
As soon as your employee gives their initial notice, start planning their remaining weeks out with them. Decide which responsibilities they’ll need to round out during their remaining time with your business. Which projects do they need to tie a bow on? Which direct reports do they need to set up for success during the transition period? Which external contacts do they need to notify about their departure?
You should also discuss transfer documentation for their core responsibilities. Learn more about the processes they own that no one else in the company knows how to do. Get them all down into a document that someone else could pick up the day after this employee leaves.
You can even create a production schedule for your departing employee, so they can gradually check off their last duties with a sense of purpose.
2. Communicate changes to everyone affected
Employee departures can be difficult for company morale, especially when the employee manages or collaborates with many members of your team. Get ahead of things by communicating the departure with your team. Delivering the message to your employees yourself gives you the opportunity to shape the conversation.
You should also be as transparent as possible while explaining the departure. Of course, use your best judgment if the nature of the departure is sensitive. If you’re worried about a general announcement, then consider speaking one-on-one with the departing employee’s closest colleagues. Additionally, you can encourage managers to speak candidly with any of their direct reports who have questions.
Communication is a crucial step in your offboarding process. It can help quell rumors and ensure everyone is on the same page.
3. Encourage team members to chat with the departing employee
Odds are your departing employee has valuable skills and knowledge about your company. If your departing employee is leaving on a good note, they’ll likely be willing to impart their wisdom on other teams.
Encourage team members—especially those who are more junior than the departing employee—to grab coffee and talk shop. This not only allows your departing employee to share their expertise and advice, but it can also provide them with a greater sense of purpose during their final weeks.
4. Ask your departing employee to help search for their replacement
See if your departing employee would be willing to help search for their replacement. They may have a list of industry contacts that they could refer to your newly open role. They could also help write the job description and even interview candidates.
If the timing works out, they might even overlap. That would allow your new team member to access hands-on training from their predecessor. Contributing to the search for their replacement will help your offboarding employee foster a relationship with “The New Them.” As a result, the departing employee will remain invested in your business long after they leave.
5. Be selective with hand-off documentation
Many managers instinctually make the offboarding process about documenting every single process the departing employee owned. And it makes sense. Wrapping your head around losing a valuable employee is difficult. It’s natural to want them to write down every single part of what they do well.
Keep in mind, though, that your employee’s value can never be condensed into a document—no matter how many pages that document might be. Be smart and selective about the hand-off documentation you squeeze into your offboarding process. Talk to your employee about the processes only they know how to do. And see if they can share their knowledge through conversation rather than a formal document.
All in all, hand-off documentation will likely be your departing employee’s least favorite part of the offboarding process. Assign it sparingly, and save your employee’s bandwidth for tying up more weighty projects.
6. Celebrate your departing team member
Finally, show your appreciation for your departing team member. If you’re running a small business, you could invite your whole team to toast them. If you’re running a huge company, have your employee’s closest colleagues gather to celebrate. No matter how big or intimate the celebration, make sure your employee feels the love.
A good final impression for your departing employee will make them more likely to recommend others to your company. And it increases the chances that they’ll boomerang back to you if the situation is right. “Boomerang employees” are becoming more common. A positive offboarding process will help them overcome any baggage or stigma of returning.
Perfecting your offboarding process: Some final thoughts
Every business will have different needs for their offboarding processes. Depending on size, industry, culture, and location, the perfect offboarding process will look different from team to team.
Regardless of the nature of your business, though, a warm, thoughtful, and well-planned offboarding process will make your employee feel appreciated, bolster your brand, and help your company culture run smoothly in spite of the turnover.
Eric Goldschein is an editor and writer at Fundera, a marketplace for small business financial solutions. He covers entrepreneurship, small business trends, finance, and marketing.