Creating a Positive Offboarding Experience for a Remote Workplace

How you say goodbye to employees impacts your employer brand, and encourages your best employees to consider returning in the future

Now that “normal” is in sight, get ready for the return of one more trend: experts are predicting a “turnover tsunami” in 2021. Even with your best efforts in place to retain talent and keep your current employees happy, up to a “quarter of workers plan to quit their jobs outright once the COVID-19 pandemic subsides and recruiting efforts ramp up.” So be prepared to update your offboarding experience for a remote or hybrid workplace.

Leaders often ask us why offboarding matters—after all, former employees are no longer working with your team; why should their experience be your problem? However, the offboarding experience can shape their opinion of the company, which can be shared on platforms like Glassdoor, and ultimately, impact your employer brand and reputation. In fact, “86% of workers would not apply for, or continue to work for, a company that has a bad reputation with former employees or the general public.”

As employees resign or retire or otherwise exit your organization, generate goodwill by demonstrating how much you value them:

  • Revisit your employee experience map. If you’ve already mapped out the employee experience from beginning to end, review whether your offboarding experience is still up to par given hybrid and remote workplaces, and iterate where needed. And if you haven’t mapped out the employee experience, this is a good time to start. (Good news: we can help.)
  • Acknowledge others’ pain. Some departures can be more painful than others. Protecting the morale of the employees who stay is especially important in these uncertain times. Proactively share the person’s departure date, and invite team members to speak with their managers about how they’re experiencing the departure.
  • Book a celebration moment. Set up a virtual meeting so everyone has the opportunity to say their goodbyes. Make it open so that anyone can drop in, and consider scheduling this closer to their last day so that it feels like a bookend. Give people time to share, toast, and enjoy each other’s company.  This becomes especially important in a remote environment in the absence of the goodbye lunch or goodbye hugs.
  • Consider a physical memento. Before Covid, leaving a job meant cleaning up your desk, packing your things making the final rounds; there were rituals that helped give people closure—but in a virtual environment, those rituals must be reinvented. Consider mailing them a signed card from everyone or a small token of appreciation.
  • Fiercely protect company knowledge. Employees take up to 70% of company knowledge with them when they retire or take another job, altering your company’s culture and workflow, so have a process in place to transfer knowledge as best you can. Consider shifting the person into an advisory role, reassigning all their projects and actions to current team members. While in the advisory role, they can teach and transfer context to the team. Some areas to probe for might be:
    • Dreams or hopes they had for how to improve the work
    • Project dynamics to be conscious of
    • Pivotal decisions made on projects
    • Technology passwords or subscriptions they might own
    • Internal projects they own
  • Actively plan for their return. It may seem counterintuitive, but be supportive of their growth and leave the door open. If feasible, you may even want to demonstrate how much you value them by offering them a counter-offer. Employees who do boomerang return not only with deep knowledge of your company, but new tools and ways of working that they’ve absorbed from other experiences.
Published April 12, 2021

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