I’m of the opinion that offboarding is every bit as important as onboarding in the employee lifecycle. In fact, I think we all – as employers – now recognise that excellence at every stage of the lifecycle is imperative if we are to win in the war for talent and this doesn’t end at attraction and engagement. Whether as a result of resignation or termination, the impact of our offboarding strategy on our talent brand is massive:
- Former employees remain representatives of our brand (even more so with the rise of alumni networks) and can either be evangelists or detractors. One thing they will always remember is how well they were treated on the way out.
- Former employees have the potential to be great talent scouts for our firms; creating goodwill through effective offboarding can make departing employees more likely to refer talent.
- Past employees often decide to come back (these so-called boomerang employees have many benefits) and bad offboarding may deter them from doing so.
- Exit interviews, properly conducted, are an invaluable source of information on your employer brand and corporate culture which you can use to improve the entire span of your employee lifecycle.
One of our biggest concerns surrounding the departure of an employee, most especially a valued one, is knowledge transfer. How can a company manage the transition in such a way as to retain valuable institutional experience, expertise and product knowledge? Typically, departure is a flurry of paperwork and a quick ‘handover’ when what we need to be doing is finding ways to transfer business critical, experience based knowledge and behaviours – all the aspects that made this person a valued employee. Here’s how, with thanks to Rebecca Knight of Harvard Business Review:
- Make a plan. Buy as much time as you can and then make a plan: what knowledge needs to be transferred, how are you going to do it, to whom and along what timeline. Even better, employees should regularly capture their knowledge, experiences and processes and share them with their fellow employees in a singular, easily accessible place (rather than wait for the end of employment).
- Motivate the departing employee. This can be tricky if the employee is dissatisfied but find a way to motivate them to want to share their knowledge.
- This will depend on how much time you have for transition but if possible pair the departing employee with 1 or 2 apprentices so they can observe, learn, practice and receive feedback.
- Team learning. If time is short and you have no identified successor, hold team ‘workshops’ in which they share stories with colleagues about how they handled challenges during their tenure. Make these facilitated Q&A sessions and they will yield insight into patterns of the departing employee’s thought processes. Also dig deep into how they know what they know: what do they read, what websites to they visit, who do they talk to.
- Document intelligently. Instead of a bulky handover document, rather have apprentices and team members keep ‘learning logs’ of information.
- Focus on the relationship. You may want to go to them with questions, engage them as a consultant or hire them back some day so let them know you care and deal with them with courtesy and respect.
This, of course, is in addition to the practical: managing payments, health insurance, exit interviews, non-competes, referees and intellectual and physical property handover. As you can see, handling the offboarding process effectively can increase your ability to attract and retain talent.
As always, if we can be of any assistance, please get in touch.