First impressions matter when it comes to new hires. These days, most companies know this, and many provide strong onboarding experiences to help their newest team members get up to speed fast and stick around for the long haul.

An employee’s final impressions of your company matter just as much, yet comparatively few organizations put the same amount of thought and effort into their offboarding processes. In fact, only 29 percent of employers have formal offboarding processes in place, according to Aberdeen.

Every person you hire will eventually leave your organization, whether of their own accord or because you need to let them go. Departures are a critical piece of the employee life cycle, and the organizations that embrace offboarding gain an important opportunity to improve their processes and practices. Companies cannot afford to ignore offboarding any longer.

Why a Consistent and Repeatable Offboarding Process Is Necessary

Offboarding is a strategic process meant to transition employees out of an organization. No matter the circumstances surrounding an employee’s departure, a great offboarding process can make the separation a positive experience for both the company and the employee.

A smooth, consistent offboarding process that helps employees exit the company on the best possible terms secures your brand. If a departing employee has a negative experience, they may speak negatively about your company on social media, on company review sites, and to their professional connections. On the other hand, if your employee has a virtually painless offboarding experience, they’ll be more inclined to speak highly of your organization, which gives you brand a boost with future candidates.

An effective offboarding process also allows HR managers to identify opportunities to improve employee engagement and retention. By facilitating dialogue with an exiting employee, you can gather their feedback on current talent management practices. Their input may help you spot processes and procedures in need of reevaluation and readjustment, which in turn leads to a better employee experience for remaining and future employees.

What Makes a Great Offboarding Process?

To guarantee a consistent experience for all departing employees, it’s best to automate the offboarding process as much as possible, and there are plenty of solutions to help you do that.

However, offboarding is never a totally hands-off process. There is still plenty that HR pros and exiting employees need to do themselves. Want to ensure your process delivers a great experience for both the company and the employee? Follow these three steps:

1. Create an Offboarding Checklist

As the employee’s final day draws near, the HR manager should construct a master list of offboarding steps to be completed to ensure a smooth transition. Similarly, the exiting employee should also create a list of tasks they must complete or delegate before departing.

Here are some tasks HR managers should consider adding to their lists:

  1. Acquire the employee’s resignation notice
  2. Provide written acceptance of the employee’s resignation letter
  3. Schedule a meeting with the employee to discuss the offboarding process
  4. Inform payroll and IT about the employee’s exit and enter employee termination into the HR database
  5. Review conflict of interest statements, non-disclosure agreements, non-compete agreements, and confidentiality agreements
  6. Process any pending employee fees or reimbursements and close out any company-issued credit cards
  7. Determine whether the employee has any accrued leave they haven’t taken
  8. Process the employee’s last paycheck
  9. Schedule a meeting with the employee to review their benefits (insurance, 401(k), etc.)

Meanwhile, employees may be encouraged to tackle the following tasks:

  1. Discuss with manager(s) any pending or ongoing work requirements that are expected to be met before you leave
  2. Construct a standard operating procedure (SOP) for your position; this document should outline workflow processes and tasks your successor will need to know in order to succeed in the role
  3. Ensure your successor and/or team members have any relevant information, data, or files they may need to reference in your absence
  4. If applicable, train your replacement
  5. Settle any pending expenses/reimbursements
  6. Return any keycards, keys, company-issued credit cards, mobile devices, etc.

For both HR pros and employees, following a clear checklist tailored to the needs of the organization will ensure that everyone adheres to best practices during the offboarding process.

2. Communicate the Change

The last thing you want are rumors surrounding why an employee is leaving. Gossip will only disrupt workflows and possibly lead to bigger problems for the organization than a departing employee. Don’t delay in letting your team know an employee is moving on.

Be sure to notify the employee’s direct team members, as well as IT and payroll, as all of these stakeholders will likely have their own offboarding processes that need to be conducted. If the employee works directly with clients or vendors, it’s a good idea to notify them as well. That way, they won’t be surprised when they begin dealing with a new person.

3. Listen Carefully to What the Departing Employee Has to Say

Wouldn’t you like to know what you could’ve done better to keep a departing employee, or how you could improve your organization for future employees? Exit interviews can give you that insight.

When the time comes for an employee to depart, exit interviews create space for the employee to talk candidly about their experience at your company. This makes the exit interview a prime opportunity to gathered unvarnished, totally honest feedback about your company culture, employee morale, and other facets of the organizational environment.

Here are a few exit interview questions to consider asking:

  1. What did you dislike/like about your role?
  2. Did you feel you had the tools, resources, and working conditions to be successful in your role? If not, what have could been improved and how?
  3. How would you describe the culture of the company?
  4. What do you feel the organization did well?
  5. What can the organization do moving forward to improve morale?
  6. Do you have any concerns about the company you’d like to share?
  7. Is there anything you feel we should know or anything you’d like to say?

Once an exit interview has been conducted, it’s important to follow through on the improvements addressed during the conversation. Summarize the key discussion points and share them with company leaders. Keep track of common themes that crop up often in exit interviews. These are important red flags that can help you uncover serious problems before they become disastrous.

Offboarding doesn’t have to be complex or painful. With the right technology, tools, and processes in place, companies can offboard every employee with ease.

Don’t wait. Turn offboarding into a win-win for your company and your departing employees by adopting the tactics outlined above today.

A version of this article originally appeared on the ClearCompany blog.

Sara Pollock is head of the marketing department at ClearCompany.

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