HR Coach: Parting Ways: Effective Offboarding
BY AMY COOLEY
In the HR world, we spend a lot of time talking about hiring and onboarding practices. How does an employer set up an employee for success? How do we ensure compliance with federal, state, and local mandates? What paperwork do we need to complete? How do we effectively provide orientation and training? What tools and systems will new employees need access to—email address, logins, equipment?
As a result, we develop an onboarding process and checklist to make sure that we are consistent, compliant, thorough, and effective when we bring on new employees. Onboarding is integral to employee success and retention, so it is no surprise that so much effort is focused on this process; it is foundational to the employee’s experience of your culture and their understanding of their own role.
Unfortunately, when it comes time to part ways, the same level of care is not always given. The fact is, offboarding is also a crucial process, with implications not only for compliance but for improving your employment and management practices. And if you don’t have a clear procedure to follow, you’ll likely miss some important steps—and possibly repeat some of the same mistakes with your next hire.
Here’s a simple checklist to ensure that you are covering all your bases when employees leave your company.
❱ Complete the proper paperwork. This typically includes a termination or resignation letter, information on continuation of benefits, and their last paycheck if you are in a state that requires the paycheck be given on the date of termination/separation. If the employee is moving, it is important to get the new address for tax documentation purposes.
❱ Process reimbursements and any PTO pay. If the exiting employee has any expenses due for reimbursement, ensure that all transactions have been processed for payment. Many states require you to pay exiting employees their accrued but unused PTO time, while other states leave it up to the company and the policy created and communicated through its employee handbook. If you are unsure of your policy, refer to your employee handbook or talk to your HR consultant to guarantee you are following state guidelines.
❱ Return of company property. Collect all company property, such as devices, uniforms, keys, iPads, phones, computers, badges, and credit cards, and ensure that gas cards and credit cards are deactivated with balances reconciled.
❱ Employee emails and system access. When the employee leaves the company, you need to ensure that their emails are forwarded to the appropriate new party during the transition period and that their access to apps and computer systems has been shut off. A good rule of thumb is to create a checklist of required systems for onboarding and use that same checklist when they depart. It’s a good idea to maintain separate checklists for chauffeurs and for office staff.
❱ Communicate the change as quickly as possible. To prevent unnecessary gossip and speculation, send a message to the company and a separate one to all relevant clients, if applicable. The communication does not need to explain why the person is leaving; however, in a situation like a retirement, sharing that information is a great way to publicly acknowledge or thank the employee. Avoid being negative or critical.
❱ Conduct an exit interview. Although an in-person exit interview is a great idea, it is sometimes not feasible or constructive. In those cases, email a form to the exiting employee. Exit interviews are a great opportunity to get honest feedback on various company-related topics, including management style, culture, training, suggestions for changes, complaints, and praise. This information can and should be shared with the management team so changes can be made where needed, pushing the company to improve performance at all levels.
❱ Hand off projects/work. If you are given a two-week notice or more by your exiting employee, dedicate scheduled time for a proper handoff of work, projects, and knowledge. A seamless transfer of work will instill confidence in both your employees and your clients.
In February 2023, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that almost 4 million Americans voluntarily left their jobs every month, not counting layoffs or other involuntary terminations. As much as we strive to keep employees motivated and committed to the organization, employee turnover is an unavoidable aspect of running a business. Establishing an appropriate offboarding procedure will enable you and your team to adhere to regulations and maintain order, while also guaranteeing that company assets, both tangible and intangible, are handled and preserved correctly. [CD0523]
Amy Cooley is HR Leader for The LMC Groups. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.