According to a 2018 study by Mercer, one-third of all employees plan on quitting their job in the next 12 months. Employees leave organizations for many reasons. Some employees find better paying jobs while others go back to school. Sometimes it’s their choice and other times they follow a spouse who's been transferred to another state. Whatever the reason, employee turnover is costly and disruptive, and can have a negative impact on your employer brand. We’ve written before about improving retention, results-oriented employee retention strategies, and improving retention after a layoff or restructure. In this post, we’ll specifically cover best practices for offboarding exiting employees when they leave of their own accord.

What does an effective offboarding strategy look like?

As soon as your employee has put in notice and has an offboarding date, you and your HR team can kick off a series of touchpoints that best support this individual.


1. Start by listening with empathy.

Consider the two-week timeline (on average) that you have to offboard your outgoing employee. The first thing you’ll want to do is acknowledge the resignation and offer support as a HR representative for anything your employee needs during the final weeks. This is not the same as the exit interview (see item 4). This is you at your most empathetic, making a connection with someone who might be leaving your company because of a poor employee experience. It could be as simple as a better offer from another company, but your perspective at this stage is to find out what you can do to assist your outgoing employee - whether that means sitting in on a meeting with their direct supervisor to assist reallocation of their job responsibilities or simply making sure they’re comfortable doing this on their own.


It’s important to treat departing employees with respect and empathy throughout the employee offboarding process. Ensuring graceful offboarding experiences is key to improving existing employee retention rates and your company’s reputation or employer brand.

Ensuring graceful offboarding experiences is key to improving existing employee retention rates and your company’s reputation or employer brand. @jmillermerrell #SmartTalkHR @RiseSmart


2. Gather information from the outgoing employee’s direct supervisor.

This is a “discovery phase” and your goal is to mitigate the impact of the loss of a team member, as well as find out what the team leader’s plans to backfill the position. You may also consider talking to the supervisor’s manager.


The role of the individual manager is crucial to the success of your offboarding program. While HR can offer support, the manager is responsible for ensuring that the exiting employee is well-treated. HR sets the tone, expectations, and structure for how managers should handle offboarding, from accepting a resignation to communicating the change to the rest of the team. It’s a good idea to have regular manager trainings on working with outgoing employees.

The weeks following an employee’s resignation can be the worst time for the employee unless management is open and communicative, as well as supportive. Your role as an HR representative is to ensure the experience is positive.

The weeks following an employee’s resignation can be the worst time for the employee unless management is open and communicative, as well as supportive. @jmillermerrell #SmartTalkHR @RiseSmart


3. Celebrate your outgoing employee’s success.

Yes, this means cards and well wishes and possibly a party. NOTE: This is the 3rd step for a reason. Once you complete 1 and 2, you’ll have a better understanding of why the employee is leaving and whether or not you CAN communicate with transparency to team members. If it’s simply for a better role elsewhere, to stay at home with children, relocating due to a partner or spouse’s job, or one of the dozens of other reasons that will not involve your company dealing with a lawsuit, do encourage the employee’s coworkers and managers to organize a farewell party for the employee, acknowledge his or her contributions, and talk openly and positively about their time in the company.



4. Conduct an exit interview.

This is a wrap-up meeting between management representatives and someone who is leaving an organization, either voluntarily or through termination and can help you understand:


  • Reasons for an individual employee departure
  • Trends in employee dissatisfaction
  • Gaps in benefits 
  • Disconnects with leadership
  • Competitive compensation issues
  • Other culture and workplace problems

This opportunity for feedback is critical for your exiting employee. This is your last chance to leave them with a positive impression of your organization. The interaction will stick with them throughout their career and will directly correlate to future sentiments – including what they choose to share with peers, friends, family and other colleagues about your company.

Related content: How Exit Interviews Can Impact Your Recruiting and Hiring Success

How offboarding fits into the employee lifecycle

The employee lifecycle is made up of the phases or steps followed by employees during their tenure with an organization, beginning with talent acquisition and onboarding, followed by cultural affinity, performance management, training, development and employee relations, and ending with offboarding and transition. This life cycle includes the totality of the experience your employees have before, during and after working with your organization.

We put a lot of time and effort into recruiting, retention, onboarding, and employee experience strategies. But as it fits into the employee lifecycle, having an offboarding strategy for employees who are leaving your company for reasons other than layoff, restructure or terminations is just as important.

When employees exit your organization, whether voluntarily or due to a restructure, you want to continue to nurture the employee-employer relationship knowing that those same employees may go on to become great resources either for referrals or as rehires—often referred to as boomerang employees. Boomerang employees are important to your talent brand and, depending on their reason for leaving, they may return to your company at some point with more diverse experience as well as insider knowledge that allows them to hit the ground running.

06 June 2019

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