HRM Five: Drama-free offboarding

An employee exit doesn't have to be an awkward or otherwise negative affair.

Last week, we talked about onboarding. But what about the other end of the employee life cycle?

Turnover is a natural part of business operations. Employees will come, and employees will go. With the latter, it is sometimes an uncomfortable situation where an individual employee must be let go, or restructuring means that entire departments are made redundant.

But most often, employees are simply moving on to the next step in their career. And if they have been chased out due to tension between them and their line manager, the off-boarding process provides HR with a way to smooth things over and find out about problems that need to be addressed.

Here are some tips for making sure the process stays drama-free for all parties involved.


1. Let the relevant people know

There is a tendency to hide that employees are leaving until their last day. This is a bad idea just in terms of transparency -- do you really want to be promoting an office culture that prefers obfuscation rather than open communication?

Additionally, there are other parties that need to be brought in when an employee is leaving -- for instance, IT will need to disable the relevant log-ins and passwords, payroll will need to update their records, and administrative staff need to be able to amend telephone directories and organisation charts.


2. Ensure knowledge transfer

Sometimes, the stars align and the departing employee will around to directly train up their successor. But when this doesn't happen, HR needs to work with line managers to make sure that the affected team is able to take on the temporary burden of knowledge transfer -- both from the departing employee, and also towards their replacement.

If the headcount is being eliminated, and the employee's workload redistributed, those who are getitng extra work need to be appropriately briefed.


3. Recover relevant assets

Obviously, don't get anal over a ballpoint pen or a few sachets of instant coffee. But you don't want to realise months later that you're one laptop short. Rogue ex-employees have been known to use security badges and uniforms to steal property.


4. Do the exit interview & provide letters of reference

You definitely don't want line managers running exit interviews -- they can have their own informal one-to-one chats, of course. But a formal exit interview run by a third party provides HR with a chance to better understand the highs and lows of a departing employee's experience, and how things can be improved for current and future talent.


5. Be gracious

If the departing worker has made strong contributions to your organisation, why not thank and recognise their efforts? After all, they might just return a few years down the road -- but this is less likely if their off-boarding process leaves a bitter aftertaste.

Organising a farewell card costs next-to-nothing and doesn't require much effort. On the other end of the spectrum, some companies even have alumni programmes -- these are a way for employees to help grow your talent brand even when they're no longer with the business.


Yamini Chinnuswamy offers five important points on everything you wanted to know about HR practices today, but were too afraid to ask. Check out previous editions of HRM Five here.


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