Employee Offboarding Process: A Comprehensive Guide For HR Aspirants


The employee offboarding process is just as important as the onboarding process, but employers mainly focus on the onboarding process and often neglect the offboarding process. A good offboarding process allows employers to establish a positive relationship, gain honest feedback, and uncover insights that were first unknown.

Saying goodbyes to employees is not easy, some might be leaving after retirement, some could be leaving to explore new opportunities, and some are asked by the organization to leave. Whatever the reason is, the employee offboarding process should be given importance by the HR department. A well-structured offboarding process could yield beneficial results for the organization.

What is an Employee Offboarding Process?

The employee offboarding process is the exact opposite of the onboarding process. The offboarding process is what leads an employee to formally leave an organization. It basically includes all the decisions and processes that take place when an employee leaves an organization, and it ensures that the employee is given the necessary resources and information that could move the company toward success. An effective offboarding process ends up with a happy departing employee, a resourceful employer, and satisfied existing employees.

Importance of Employee Offboarding Process

It is right to think that when an employee is already leaving the organization, what is the point of conducting an entire process. We might think that an offboarding process would be highly time consuming, however, it is quite the opposite of what you think. An employee offboarding process can yield insights and provide solutions that an HR team wouldn’t have even imagined. The importance of the employee offboarding process is highlighted in the following points:

Supports Departing & Current Employees

An offboarding process cultivates a sense of value in existing employees and makes them feel that for this organization their employees do matter. Other than that, for the departing employees, whether they are leaving on their own, or the organization has asked them to leave, in either case, the employer must make sure that the departing employee is leaving with a positive experience. To ensure that, employers opt for an offboarding process.

Employers Gain Feedback

A crucial part of the offboarding process is the exit interview. An exit interview is conducted to gain useful information about the organization and to have an insight into the departing employee’s opinions.

When an employee is working in the organization, they might be keeping their feedback and suggestions to themselves, however, when an employee is leaving, they are more comfortable and open to sharing their experiences and thoughts. A well-conducted exit interview can gain the employee’s honest feedback which in turn would help improve your business.

Reduces the Risk

The biggest risk for an HR professional is to have an employee leave the organization with a bad experience. Negative words spread faster than positive words, and when an employee has a bad impression of the organization, they are going to destroy the brand image of the organization. To reduce this risk, an offboarding process is conducted.

A strategic offboarding process allows you to help departing employees leave with a more positive impression of the organization, thus reducing the risk of negative comments. Negative reviews matter a lot for an organization, as they can put off potential applicants applying for positions within the organization, and it could also result in customers trusting your business less.

Difference Between Voluntary Resignation & Involuntary Termination

Voluntary Resignation

Voluntary resignation is when an employee is leaving on their own. They may have gotten a new job offer, getting retired, taking a break, and so on. In either case, the employee is leaving of their own will. No matter the reason for their resignation, it is up to you to make sure they know the organization supports them and their decision.

Involuntary Termination

Involuntary termination is when the organization decides to part ways with the employee. This could be caused by behavioral, procedural, or financial misconduct, and even when the organization is downsizing its employees. Employees who are terminated by the organization have a high chance of spreading negative words and reviews about the organization, therefore, HR professionals have to be vigilant during involuntary terminations.

Step By Step Employee Offboarding Process

Conducting an employee offboarding process is not a piece of cake. Even though the employee is leaving the organization, it is still the HR professional’s duty to depart them with utmost respect. Here are a few steps that you could follow to offer a delightful offboarding process to your employee:

Step 1 – Communicate About the Departure

When an employee is departing from the organization, rumors start spreading about them regarding the reason for their departure, the cause, etc. To avoid this drama, you must communicate about the departure to the entire organization. you don’t need to give details about the reasons for departure, but letting the other employees know can hold off rumors.

More importantly, other departmental heads should also be communicated about the departure, so that if there is any pending work, it can be completed before that. This will also help in smoothening other processes, such as receiving paychecks, removing security access, etc. If the employee is working closely with clients, then HR professionals need to convey about the departure to them as well, so that any last chores can be completed.

When communicating, you neither have to go to every person individually and tell them, nor have to announce the departure loudly. You can communicate via email, as that would look professional and is a much quicker option too. Mention the employee who is leaving and if you already know who will be taking over their responsibilities, make sure to include them in the email too.

Step 2 – Send the Relevant Documents

The next important step is to organize the relevant documents that need to be sent, by this you can ensure an employee’s departure is official and logged. When an employee leaves, the HR department needs to provide them with a final pay slip, so that the employee can retain it for their own records.

If applicable, it is also important to issue an employee a non-disclosure agreement. After signing the non-disclosure agreement, the employee would be legally obliged to keep the organization’s confidential information secret after they leave the organization.

If an employee has voluntarily resigned, then you need to issue them a formal letter confirming their last day of service and accepting their resignation. This letter should state all the details, clarifying any untaken excess holiday entitlement, any outstanding loans, any recoverable training fees, any item owed by the employee, etc.

These are just some of the common documents that are sent to the departing employees, but they are not limited to this. You could also include any other bank-related documents, any legal documents, etc. depending on the situation. Make sure that whatever documents you send to the employee are sent in one go only.

Step 3 – Transferring the Knowledge

The worst part of the offboarding process is that after the employee leaves the organization, the HR department needs to find their replacement. Replacements of an employee are not found easily, and even if you are successful in finding the ideal candidate, explaining the entire task to them could be more troublesome. Therefore, to avoid trouble, the departing employee should make a plan of action so that the replacement could easily work.

The departing employee can create a document breaking down their role, from their daily routine, projects they repeat on a timely basis, any systems or files they use, regular contacts, existing projects, and what takes priority in their role. With the help of the manager, the departing employee can create a plan of action that clearly addresses what is important to have documented and what are their duties.

When an employee leaves the organization, the next most important task is to find someone to take over their role. The HR professional needs to assess the situation, whether the work will be split up amongst current employees, or a current employee will be promoted, or will a new hire be taking over this position. Once you are clear on who can manage the position effectively, then you can decide the best handover practice.

If the departing employee is associated with some technical or niche work, and no current employee can fill up their position, then training is also an option to fill up the position. An existing employee could be trained by the departing employee, giving him a comprehensive guide to the position. This is a great method, which is not too time-consuming as well.

Step 4 – Assessing the Needs to Rehire

Offboarding employees is also linked with the onboarding process. When an employee decides to leave the organization or the organization is laying off that employee, in either case, the particular position becomes vacant. Most of the time, the position is filled by promoting an existing employee, however, in some cases, the organization also needs to rehire.

If there isn’t enough staff to temporarily cover the position, then you have to hire a new employee. It is advisable to hire the new employee early, i.e., while the departing employee is still with the organization. If the departing employee and the new hire are both with the organization, then the handover process gets a lot easier.

Step 5 – Carrying Out an Exit Interview

The most crucial part of the offboarding process is the exit interview. An exit interview is referred to as a discussion between a departing employee and the employer. It basically provides a great platform for the departing employee to give any feedback to the organization and to highlight any issues they have faced while working for them.

Even though conducting exit interviews is important, not every employee is comfortable giving face-to-face exit interviews. In this case, the employer shouldn’t force them to participate in the interview, in fact, an effective alternative to an exit interview is a questionnaire. Through questionnaires, employees can provide honest feedback and they can also shed light on various issues.

If the employee agrees to a face-to-face exit interview, then consider who the most appropriate person is to conduct the interview. A direct supervisor or manager of the employee should never hold the interview, because if the employee wants to highlight some of the supervisor’s own problems, then with them conducting the interview, the employee would not be open or free to talk. Instead, you should choose an employee with whom the departing employee gets along well and is likely to gain the most useful and insightful information from them.

In today’s world, where people are doing online or remote jobs; when these kinds of employees are leaving the organization, the employer must conduct interviews with them as well. An interview can be conducted through a video call or other digital means, but make sure that you consider their feedback too.

  • An employer can ask any organization-related question, such as:
  • What led you to start searching for a new job?
  • What did you like best and least about your job and this organization?
  • Do you feel you were given adequate support, resources, and tools to succeed in your job?
  • What did you enjoy about working here?
  • Do you feel that your contributions have been recognized and valued?
  • Were your working conditions flexible enough?
  • How would you describe the organizational culture?
  • How effective was your manager in supporting your professional growth?
  • What do you think the organization could have done differently to retain you?
  • Were there any specific policies or procedures that you found particularly challenging or frustrating?
  • Do you have any more suggestions for how we could improve as an organization?

Asking these questions can help you identify a lot of issues that you would be unaware of, and these questions are also a great way to get feedback on organizational culture, management, employee training, etc.

Step 6 – Retrieve Company Assets (If Any)

During an employee’s time with the organization, if they have received any sort of company items, you must retrieve them before their dismissal to avoid security breaches. Company devices should also be retrieved, such as laptops, headsets, mobile devices, keys, ID badges, uniforms, company credit cards, and so on.

To become more efficient in the retrieving process, you can also set up an offboarding software or spreadsheet, where you can easily log which items have been and haven’t been received from an employee. More importantly, if an employee is leaving on bad terms, then you have to ensure that every item has been recovered properly.

Step 7 – Revoke System Access & Benefits

To safeguard the organization’s systems and data, you must ensure that the departing employee is logged off and has denied access to all of the company’s systems. Therefore, it is important to tell all the departmental heads about a departing employee, because then accordingly, the IT team can disable access of the employee.

It’s also advisable to remove the employee from the organizational chart as well, regardless of whether there’s already a replacement for them or not. When the employee leaves, you need to work closely with the IT department and check that all the accounts have been closed down and all the passwords have been reset (only the ones the departed employee had access to). This stage is vital for all organizations for security purposes.

Step 8 – Thanking an Employee for Their Contributions

The final step of the offboarding process is to thank the employee for their contributions. Even if that employee has been with the organization for a short time, appreciating their work can create a very strong positive impact on the employee.

In many organizations, employees who have been with them for a long time, to appreciate their hard work and efforts, the organization organizes a farewell party for them. It doesn’t have to be something as grand as a party, you can even give them a card, a gift, or flowers on their last day, these small gestures mean a lot for a departing employee, and this is definitely going to leave a lasting impression on their minds.

Other than this, small efforts increase the morale of existing employees, since this would show how appreciative and valued the organization is towards its employees. The departing employee has left the organization, and now you have to focus on existing employees, showing these kinds of warm gestures will increase employee satisfaction and engagement. This would also have a positive effect on organizational culture and brand image.

Wrapping Up

For every organization, the offboarding process should be given the same importance as the onboarding process. The offboarding process is the make-or-break process for the organization, it is considered as a final shot to retain the departing employee (only in cases of voluntary resignation). Each one of your employees is an asset, use them wisely!