Using Employee Offboarding as a Strategic Staffing Practice

by Chelsea Jensen, MBA, SHRM-SCP, PHR, Human Resource Services

Benefits,  Bulletin,  Hiring,  Leadership,  Retention

At some point, you have probably read or heard about the importance of new hire onboarding. It can have a tremendously positive impact on your organization’s employee recognition, engagement, and productivity. A previous Bulletin article discusses three essential items to consider when building out a structured onboarding program. As crucial as onboarding employees is, offboarding could arguably be even more critical as employers continue to battle a competitive labor market.

Offboarding is a combination of all the decisions, actions, and processes that take place when an employee leaves an organization. An effective offboarding process shows both prospective and current employees that your organization values them, even at the end, for their contributions. First impressions are generally based on brief assumptions before there is a strong knowledge of a person or organization. The last impression, however, is one that comes after a relationship is developed based on trust and mutual respect, and therefore is more deeply remembered. Bamboo HR, an HR software company, states that offboarding is an essential part of maintaining your organization’s reputation, improving your current employees’ working, and preserving networking opportunities. How you treat employees as they leave an organization will affect if they decide to come back and work for your organization in the future.

Historically, when someone left an organization, it was frowned upon and, in some cases, employees were even blackballed from ever returning as they were deemed un-loyal. Today, employers need to shift that thinking by embracing and even encouraging what’s known as a boomerang employee (returning employee). The newer logic is that an employee who wants to return is most likely extremely engaged and motivated to contribute to the workforce.

If you are wondering if you should revamp or create an offboarding program, consider the following boomerang employee stats from The Corporate Culture and Boomerang Employee Study by Workplace Trends:

  • 15 percent of employees have boomeranged back to a former employer.
  • 40 percent of employees say they would consider boomeranging back to a company where they had previously worked. This data includes 46 percent of millennials, 33 percent of Gen Xers, and 29 percent of baby boomers.
  • 76 percent of HR professionals say they are more accepting of hiring boomerang employees today than in the past.
  • 40 percent of HR professionals say their organization hired about half of their former employees who re-applied for a job with them.
  • 56 percent of HR professionals and 51 percent of managers say they give high or very high priority to boomerang job applicants who left in good standing.
  • 33 percent of HR professionals and 38 percent of managers agree that already being familiar with the organization’s culture and having fewer training needs are the most significant benefits of hiring back former employees.

Below are three best practices when offboarding an employee that will help create a lasting impression.

Have a plan

Having a well-thought-out plan in place will help you prepare for the employee that is leaving your organization. Be thoughtful about the logistical details so you can be present during the offboarding process, exit interview, or layoff meeting. Train the employees conducting the meeting/interview so the process goes as smoothly for both the employee and the person delivering the message. In cases of a layoff, a good practice would be to provide outplacement services for displaced employees allowing the exiting employees to have access to coaching and other career transition support. Consider creating an offboarding checklist that includes items like, when they will receive their final paycheck, the proper way for them to return company items, the transition of duties, notification of their rights and benefits of continued health insurance coverage, COBRA, or state continuation coverage.

Conduct an exit interview

Exit interviews can provide valuable information that employers can use to bring about improvements and change within the organization and allow the employee to share why they are leaving the organization. Management must be prepared to take action on issues that are revealed in exit interviews. If not, the program could lose credibility or be a waste of time.

Consider the following agenda template when conducting exit interviews:

  • State purpose of the interview
  • Discuss:
  • the old job
  • the new job
  • the organization
  • reasons for leaving
  • Ask for the employee’s suggestions
  • Close

Stay connected

You want to make sure that former employees have a way to keep in touch with your organization so you can keep them informed about future career opportunities. For example, Deloitte provides its former employees with a range of networking opportunities, sends them a newsletter, offers training on resume writing and interviewing, and shares the profiles of successful alumni. Sodexo has as a branded alumni network called Reconnexions, which is included under the company’s talent acquisition division. An employee receives an e-mail invitation asking them to join the network within 30 days of leaving. A career microsite is accessible to former employees who want to pay attention to career opportunities, and the former employees who return to the company are featured in its publications. If the above options are not currently feasible, making a connection with the former employee on LinkedIn may do the trick!

Organizations need to pay attention to how employees feel when they leave, even in the case of stressful events like a layoff. Maya Angelou said it the best, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Employers Council is here to help you create a better offboarding experience for your employees. We also offer templates, best practices with exit interviews as well as sample interview questions. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with questions.

About the author
Chelsea Jensen, MBA, SHRM-SCP, PHR, Human Resource Services

Chelsea is a consultant in Employers Council's Human Resource Services department. She works with employers on issues such as policy development, employee relations, and benefits. She also conducts training for HR and management professionals. Prior to her work at the Council, Chelsea was a Benefits Specialist at a large bank in Buffalo, NY. She received her MBA with a concentration in Human Resources from Niagara University located near Niagara Falls, NY. Chelsea has been certified by the Society for Human Resource Management as a Certified Professional (SHRM-CP).