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Offboarding in lockdown: why a conscious digital process is essential

If you're forced by circumstance to carry out employee offboarding remotely, there are several things to consider. First, your organisation is at greater risk of giving both a poor experience to your leaver, and second, you may be exposing your company to the risk of sensitive data falling into the wrong hands and wasting money on erroneous access and licensing. 

Completing the employment lifecycle with as much emphasis on good offboarding as onboarding creates an atmosphere of respect and professionalism while giving invaluable insight into your employee churn and protecting against data security risks.

Waist up portrait of smiling young businesswoman holding box of personal belongings leaving office after quitting job

Breaking up is hard to do

Whether an employee has resigned, been let go, accepts a redundancy offer, or is retiring, the decision to leave has no doubt been a difficult one. But, whatever the situation, there’s no reason the time you have left together should be wasted ­– as long as you take a conscious, well planned approach to rounding out the experience and saying goodbye.

Start by considering the time and effort both you and your employee have invested in your relationship up to now – and how those years of commitment, engagement, trust and loyalty can be broken if your employee leaves your company feeling ignored and devalued. Think about how different the outcome could be if you asked yourself what you can do to make sure this person looks back and thinks, “Wow, those were some of the best years of my career.”

Don't waste the notice period

In much of Europe, and in the Nordics in particular, long notice periods are pretty standard. This means you and your leaver will spend quite some time together – maybe even a few months – before you part ways. How will you use that time? You can either make the assumption that your employee has mentally already checked out (leaving them feeling worse by the day), or you can put the time to good use with a thoughtful, personalised offboarding schedule.

A man and woman at a construction site shake handsObviously, the notice period is a key time to transfer knowledge and perform handover tasks, but it’s also a chance to gain important insights into how your employee felt about working with you and, if they resigned, why they are leaving. You are now dealing with someone who has very little to lose by being completely honest with you, so make sure you seize the opportunity to get honest feedback by creating an atmosphere of safety and trust in which they can do so. While a formal exit interview is standard practice in most companies, during a long resignation period there is an opportunity to take this in stages rather than conducting a single interview session in the final week.

When offboarding remotely, this becomes even more crucial. Connection is difficult between remote employees and their managers and teams at the best of times, but during a notice period, it is even more important to maintain engagement. If it suits the situation, add some extra check-ins to help manage your leaver's workload and feelings during the notice period so they are neither bored nor swamped. Avoid the temptation to micromanage, but instead offer support and assistance as they finish out their time with you.

A happy former employee is a walking advertisement for your business

You should also think about this period as a time to shape the final memories your employee will take away with them. Why does this matter? Because a happy former employee will talk positively about their time with you, will give favourable referrals to prospective new hires, and may even consider reapplying for future positions with you after they’ve had time to develop their career and skills elsewhere.

If you’re sad to see this employee go, make sure they know how much you appreciate everything they’ve done. And even if the circumstances aren’t so pleasant, you can still make sure the situation is handled with sensitivity and professionalism so that everyone involved parts ways with their dignity and respect intact.

A man and a woman wave goodbye

Think of it as sending a new brand ambassador out into the world – one who could make or break your reputation, depending on how you handle your final weeks together. Just as you only have one chance to make a first impression, you only get this one last chance to make a lasting impression. And don't forget that your other employees are watching how you handle this process. If a departing employee is seen to feel a twinge of regret over leaving because you’re treating them so well, others will feel happy about sticking around.

Close all the loopholes

In remote working situations, it can be a logistical challenge to make sure all equipment is returned. If your employee can't get their laptop or phone back to the office in person, offer a pick-up or courier service to collect them, or at least offer to cover the cost of transport. This way you know the equipment and all the sensitive data it may hold is returned safely, and your employee has a record of having returned it with little trouble on their part.

All this might seem like a lot of work to do while you’re also handling the practicalities of an employee exit, but this is where automation can save the day. Routine tasks that are common to every employee’s exit – handover checklists, removing system access, signing resignation forms, etc. – can be managed by a digital system while you spend time on creating more valuable, personalised final experiences for your employee. This makes a remote offboarding a much simpler process when all these tasks can be carried out online with an automated flow that lets everyone involved know what they need to do.

Make it a celebration not an escape

Any relief you or your exiting employee may feel should come from knowing everything was rounded up neatly, not because this journey is finally over. The key to a positive exit is celebrating your leaver’s achievements, congratulating them on their new opportunities, and making sure they feel that they’re moving on, not escaping.

To find out more about how a digitalised approach to recruitment, onboarding and offboarding can give you more time to spend on the human side of human resources, download our e-book, Your Guide to Digital Recruitment, Onboarding and Offboarding.

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Hope Mears Østgaard

Hope Mears Østgaard, 26 March 2021

Hope Mears Østgaard is VP of Marketing at CatalystOne. She loves tech marketing and has over the course of her career built the marketing teams for successful growth of several SaaS companies. She is a passionate leader, tech advocate and communicator.