A vast majority of organizations understand the importance of onboarding a new employee. It’s all part of the effort to get a new hire off to a great start and become as productive as possible, early in their tenure. But what about those employees who’ve given their two-week notice and are on their way out of the organization? Shouldn't there be a process for offboarding them that extends beyond a brief exit interview and farewell lunch? Further, what are some of the biggest mistakes we make when offboarding employees -- and how can we avoid destroying an otherwise golden opportunity?

Employees leave organizations for a limitless amount of reasons; some positive, some negative. Many leave because they’ve been offered a chance to grow professionally with another company, earn a higher salary, or relocate to a desired region. Others leave because they didn't quite fit in as expected and need a change of environment in order to succeed. Whatever the case may be, departing employees are worthy of our time as human resource managers. They can be a rich source of information, connections, and objective insight that can be difficult to discover otherwise.

Why worry about offboarding employees?

In the grand scope of all the duties that human resource professionals have to keep their organizations running smoothly, offboarding employees may not seem like that big of a priority.

To expand on the above points, we spend a great deal of time trying to appeal to new hires, making their transition into the company warm and fuzzy. But most employees who are leaving a company experience sort of a cold shove out into the world, without so much as a quick good-luck from an HR person. It can be a rude kick-in-the-behind to someone who has dedicated hard work and loyalty to a company, however brief it may have been for.

This needs to stop. Departing employees have just as much value, if not more, to the success of organizations. How, you may ask?

  • They know a lot about your business, including its clientele and business objectives
  • • They have the ability to share either negative or positive reviews about the company on Glassdoor, hindering or amplifying the success of future hiring programs.
  • • They may encounter your company again in the future if they remain in the industry
  • • They might decide to return to your company in a new employment role
  • • They may or be a great source for new hire referrals in a skills-shortage
  • • They could be your biggest brand ambassadors or even a customer in the future

With these factors in mind, it’s time to stop making mistakes when it comes to offboarding employees. Here’s what to watch out for:

The 11 biggest mistakes made with offboarding employees

Whether you are onboarding or offboarding employees, there’s a right way to do it and there’s a wrong way to do it. Try to avoid these mistakes.

#1 - Treating the departing employee with disdain.

It’s natural to experience mixed feelings when a member of your team expresses the desire to leave the company. But this is not the time to treat him or her with a negative attitude or disrespect. Sadly, employees often become the target of nastiness and ostracism from peers once the word gets out that they are leaving. Heather R. Huhman, Founder and President of Come Recommended and a contributor to Entrepreneur says a negative experience can make former employees turn to social networks to vent, and around one-quarter of job seekers are checking out social media sites to see what others have to say about these employers.

#2 - Pilling on training and extra last-minute work.

Another mistake that supervisors are guilty of concerns the amount of work that is given to a departing employee. In a rush to get one of their more skilled employees to produce, they pile on extra work. This only adds insult to injury as the departing employee becomes overwhelmed and negative about the whole experience. It’s better to use this time to delegate the work to other capable employees.

#3 - Taking the departure overly personal.

The shock of hearing about an employee’s decision to leave the company can be sudden. However, it’s a mistake to think a reaction like this will give any satisfactory results. People are adults and they should be treated with respect, not guilted into staying. HR and management need to work together to make sure the employee has a positive departure without all the drama.

#4 - Hiring their replacement immediately.

Another big mistake that happens in many companies is when the HR team is too quick to hire a replacement, thinking that it’s up to the departing employee to conduct training. This is not only counterproductive, but it places unreasonable burden on the employee who is leaving. In many cases, it just serves to convince the employee that they are being disrespected and it gives them a chance to share this venom with the new hire.

#5 - Giving the employee a negative performance review.

It can be tempting to look for the faults in an employee who is getting ready to leave for good. This is tied to the emotional response again. But this is a mistake. Instead, draft a kind reference letter and let things go. It’s far better to wish someone well than to make their last few weeks on the job a misery.

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#6 - Reducing the employee’s capacity to complete work.

It may be part of your company’s process to limit the resources that departing employees have access to. From computers and classes to passwords and keys, this can be very disheartening for an employee leaving. There is no need to do this too far in advance. Instead, wait until the employee’s last 24 hours on the job.

#7 - Skipping a thorough exit interview.

The exit interview is perhaps the only chance you will have to get an honest and open commentary going with the employee. They have nothing left to lose and they are more than eager to share what your company can do better. Never make the mistake of skipping this step or rushing through it. Invite the employee for a private meeting in safem quiet office and use a checklist to go through all the necessary questions.

#8 - Not making an offer to stay.

Studies have shown that the main reason why employees leave for greener pastures is because they want to earn more money. However, a recent Gallup poll showed that around half of all employees leave because of poor management or problems with their boss. During the time that the employee has given notice, find out if there have been conflicts with the employee’s manager and see what you can do to retain them. Perhaps a small raise or a shift to another department can do the trick? We all know that employee turnover is costly, so why not try to prevent it when possible?

#9 - Neglecting to furnish all needed information.

Human resources administrators are tasked with making sure that employees have all the information they need when they leave the company. Not having a written termination letter, information about the employee’s final pay and benefits, and instructions for their final week is a big mistake that can cause confusion and upset. Make sure this is prepared in advance in a neat package to hand to the employee on their last week. Sapling’s offboarding solution has helped thousands of employees be successfully, and compliantly, exited from a business.

#10 - Not having a system of processing offboarding.

As mentioned earlier, it’s just as critical to have a system for onboarding new employees as it is to having one to offboard them. There are proper steps to take, documentation to capture, and resources that can help to reduce the stress experienced by all involved in a well-managed onboarding system. This can be facilitated much like an onboarding program, just in reverse.

#11 - Not keeping in touch with former employees.

A huge mistake that companies make all the time is neglecting to offer departing employees a chance to stay in touch. This alienates former employees and adds to any negative experience they may have had. Instead, create a LinkedIn employer alumni group and invite all former employees to participate. This can help them to remain connected to the company, share positive insight, and keep abreast of future career opportunities. A social network is easier to monitor and control too, should the former employee choose to vent publicly.

Why not try an offboarding solution, like Sapling, and discover the red-carpet employee experience for yourself?

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