Many organizations are focusing more attention on onboarding—and for good reason. And of course, most companies are ramping up retention efforts. But did you know that having a great offboarding process also influences an organization’s success?

Too often, a departure results in hurt feelings or even hostility. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Thoughtful offboarding can certainly nurture an ongoing, mutually beneficial relationship with former employees.

But what exactly is offboarding? What steps does it involve, and how can you do it right? We’ll answer those questions and share a comprehensive checklist for the offboarding process.

Table of Contents

1. Definition of Offboarding

2. Benefits of Thoughtful Offboarding

3. The Biggest Offboarding Mistakes

4. Choosing the Right Offboarding Tools

5. Employee Offboarding Checklist: 7 Steps to Success

6. Employee Offboarding Checklist Template

7. Offboarding Survey Questions

Definition of Offboarding

Offboarding is the process of facilitating a departing employee’s smooth exit from the company. This should involve several areas of focus:

  • Transferring the departing employee’s responsibilities to a new employee. 
  • Gaining the employee’s perspectives on the company and role.
  • Taking steps to maintain a good relationship with the employee in the future.

Unfortunately, many companies ignore or minimize the latter two steps. Instead, they focus mainly on shuffling duties from one employee to the next. While that’s important, good offboarding involves much more.

Benefits of Thoughtful Offboarding

Two women colleagues, seated reviewing offboarding documents
Credit: Alexander Suhorucov/Pexels

According to behavioural scientist Daniel Kahneman, people judge an experience based on what happened at the end and the most intense point. This is called the peak-end rule.

“This means that employees may pay more attention to how companies manage exits than to how they welcome new hires—and goodwill between a departing employee and an employer can instantly be undone by a poorly handled offboarding,” write professors Alison M. Dachner and Erin E. Makarius in a recent report on the vital importance of offboarding. 

Being intentional about offboarding brings many benefits. Instead of focusing on what you’re losing, focus on what you’ll gain by following best practices.

You’ll learn why they’re leaving

This knowledge is invaluable. While it probably won’t prevent their departure, it will help you grow stronger. You’ll gain insights about issues current employees might also be experiencing. Departing employees may speak up more frankly since they have nothing to lose.

Of course, some departing employees may simply be retiring. Their feedback and ongoing support are still invaluable!

Departing employees will help create a smooth transition

When new employees come in, departing staff will often show them the ropes. A strong offboarding process will help keep departing employees engaged through their very last day. This means they’ll enhance the training process for the new employee. The new hire will also learn best practices and pro tips for carrying out the role.

Rehiring happens

You may very well rehire that departing employee in the future. Additionally, bringing back these “boomerang” employees holds major advantages. Giving them a great offboarding experience will make this more likely to happen.

Doubtful that they’ll return? A full 80% of employees are willing to return to a former employer. They fill positions 50% faster than other hires, Dachner and Makarius report. And hiring alumni reduces time to productivity by 73%. But in most organizations, alumni remain an untapped asset.

«A well-managed offboarding process can turn employees into loyal alumni who become customers, suppliers, boomerang employees, mentors to current workers and ambassadors for the firm,» says Makarius, professor of management at the University of Akron.

Moreover, they could even become a client or vendor in the future!

They’ll recommend you to colleagues

A great offboarding process gives departing employees a strong impression of your company. That means they’ll speak highly of your organization. What’s more, they might encourage colleagues to apply for open positions down the road—or even right now. And they can become brand ambassadors to potential customers and partners as well.

You’ll impress your whole team

The departing employee’s team members are watching and listening, too. If you show consideration for the departing employee, they’ll take note. Not to mention, you’ll affirm why they love working for your company.

“Those who remain will see that the company cares about its workers as people, not just as cogs in a machine that are easily ignored or discarded when they cease to be useful,” writes David Sturt in Harvard Business Review.

The Biggest Offboarding Mistakes

A bad offboarding process leaves employees with a negative impression. Here are some surefire ways to end on the wrong foot:

  • Treating departing employees like they’ve betrayed the company. Very few employees stay with a company for the duration of their career. Still, be kind and respectful about their choices.
  • Piling too much on their plate. Sure, they may need to train a new hire. But don’t overwhelm them. Managing a full workload along with training requirements may be too much.
  • Having a supervisor conduct the exit interview. The departing employee might want to express issues with the supervisor’s approach. Talking to a neutral person will generally feel much easier.
  • Ignoring their departure. Make an extra effort to share gratitude in the weeks leading up to their departure–and afterward!

Avoid those common pitfalls by following the steps we’ll share in a moment. Employees will then feel honoured and appreciated rather than disrespected.

Choosing the Right Offboarding Tools

Black professional woman smiling at mobile phone
Credit: Ono Kosuki/Pexels

Using the right offboarding technology will streamline your process. Here are several key tools to utilize.

Survey software

Use software to carry out your offboarding surveys. In fact, the best survey programs offer templates with questions that you can customize as needed.

Benefits management solutions

Software is invaluable for benefits management, too. So a good program can help manage benefits or severance pay for departing employees.

Analytical tools

Use analytical tools to pinpoint employees’ biggest contributions. Performance management software can highlight their accomplishments and areas of growth. And similar tools can help you track the results of performance reviews. Then, you can thank them accordingly.

Employee-Offboarding-Checklist-7-Steps-to-Success

Smiling Asian woman sitting at a desk with a man holding documents
Credit: Kampus Production/Pexels

Taking all of these steps will ensure a smooth offboarding process. Use the template below to stay on task. It’ll surely help.

Ask if anything could change their mind

Maybe they’ve absolutely made up their mind to leave. But it’s worth asking whether you could make any changes that would persuade them to stay. Don’t be too pushy, but do pose the question. If nothing else, they’ll be flattered.

Express understanding

You don’t want to create any awkwardness or tension that would affect their relationship with your company. So, show that you respect their reasons for moving on. Share congratulations for the new opportunity they’ve accepted or the life change they’ve embarked on.

Establish expectations for their final weeks

Discuss what their responsibilities will involve between now and their last day. Set priorities together and establish expectations for training a new hire, if applicable. 

Share information about pay and benefits

Provide information on severance pay and benefits just after they give notice. Process the appropriate forms in a timely manner to make sure they have what they need. 

Conduct well-planned exit interviews

Hold exit interviews with all employees who depart voluntarily. Ask thoughtful questions to gain powerful insights. (We share interview questions below.) Also, try to make it a relaxed conversation. Be personable and practice active listening, withholding judgement. Remember, they are sharing their own experience—there are no wrong answers.

A neutral person should conduct the exit interview. Choose someone to whom the employee doesn’t report directly. For example, an HR manager is often best.

Show gratitude for their contributions 

Thank them face to face for their work in your organization. Point out their specific strengths and accomplishments. Give them a handwritten card and perhaps a gift as a token of appreciation.

Want to go the extra mile to share gratitude? Host a thank-you party with the departing worker’s team. HubSpot does this regularly, Dachner and Makarius note. And at Apple, staff gather to cheer for departing employees.

Stay in touch

You might send an occasional newsletter to keep them apprised of new developments. For example, you can encourage them to tell friends about open positions. Better yet, pack it with career development info they’ll find personally valuable. 

Some organizations set up an alumni program, say Dachner and Makarius. This may include a talent directory that highlights their achievements and shares company updates. For employees who were let go, it can also include job search support. Ebay even hosts reunion dinners for staff who worked there during a particular year, they note.

Encourage mentors to stay in touch with their departing mentees, too. Their relationship might be those employees’ strongest anchor to your company. 

Conduct a follow-up survey

Several months post-departure, conduct a follow-up survey. Find out how satisfied former employees feel with your offboarding process. Did it support them in taking the next steps in their career? How do they feel about your company now?

This simple template can help you stay on track throughout the offboarding process. If multiple people are handling offboarding tasks, they can each sign off on steps they’ve completed.

Employee Offboarding Checklist Template

TaskDate CompletedBy Whom?Notes
Inquire about whether anything could persuade them to stay.
Share info about pay and benefits.
Establish expectations for their remaining time with your organization.
Conduct an exit interview.
Show gratitude—choose a gift and/or plan a celebration.
Establish means of staying in touch (e.g., introduce them to alumni network or newsletter).
Conduct follow-up survey.

Offboarding Survey Questions

You can ask these exit interview questions one-on-one or in survey form. We recommend sending a survey first, then asking follow-up questions face-to-face. 

  • What did you enjoy most about your role? 
  • How often did you do that type of work?
  • What did you least like?
  • What is the biggest reason for your decision to leave? 
  • Were there any other important factors in your decision?
  • How could we have prevented you from leaving?
  • What drew you to your new job?
  • Have you attempted to voice any criticisms about your role, manager, or organization? What was the result?
  • What type of relationship did you have with your manager?
  • Can you describe your manager’s style or approach?
  • Did our organization support you in developing professionally in ways that would help you achieve your goals?
  • Do you feel satisfied with how you grew professionally in this position?
  • How often did you receive feedback about your work?
  • Did your job change in any ways that aren’t reflected in the formal job description?
  • How clear and effective was this feedback?
  • How well could you envision a pathway forward for yourself in our organization?
  • Did you feel you had a reasonable workload?
  • Would you recommend our company to family or friends looking for a job? Why or why not?
  • How would you describe our work culture to a prospective employee?
  • Describe your relationship with your coworkers.
  • How effective was communication on your team?
  • How satisfied were you with your salary and benefits? 
  • Did you feel satisfied with the level of recognition you received?
  • How could we improve the employee experience?
  • What skills or qualities should we look for in your replacement?
  • Would you ever consider returning to work here? What might entice you to join our team again?

More resources

Read more on conducting exit interviews in our post, “Exit Interviews: The Definitive Guide (with Questions).” You can also check out SHRM’s exit interview questionnaire templates:

You’ll undoubtedly still feel sad to see good employees go. But just remember, departure is a normal part of most employees’ career trajectory. Make a great impression, and you’ll continue building a fantastic employer brand!

Want to see how Primalogik’s software can benefit your offboarding? Request a short demo today!