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Three Keys to Effective Offboarding

Nicholas Newton | 6.1 min read

Employee Offboarding: What is it?

Much like onboarding, having an efficient offboarding process for outbound employees keeps your operation centered and organized toward the main goals when you learn of an employee’s intention of leaving: 

  • Maintaining your brand
  • Minimizing negative impact to the operation 
  • Recovering as quickly as possible 

Again like onboarding, this process should be sleek and forward-thinking and should be focused on the outbound employee with the human element in mind while following through with closing the wound for the company.

Maintaining Your Brand

It is never easy to hear that an employee has chosen to leave your operation. Whether you’re an owner or a manager, it’s likely that you invested a lot of time, effort, and thought into painstakingly building your workgroup into a success. You may even have all your boxes checked — production is up, morale is up, team chemistry is high, and efficiency is where you’ve always wanted it. Losing a key team member now can be frustrating and you don’t want that to affect your business further. Now is not the time to put the outbound employee on the spot by digging into why they’re leaving (there’s time for that in the exit interview). Here is a short flow list to give a few examples of how to begin the conversation.

1. Be approachable: If you’ve been in the business of leadership for any length of time you have come to recognize when these conversations are coming: The tone of their voice. Their facial expressions. Their body language. “Can I speak with you for a minute?”

No matter what’s going on in the moment, be ready and open for that conversation. Doing this will make the conversation easier on both parties.

2. Be Positive: Though it may be hard to hide your disappointment—especially if the outbound employee was a good team member—be positive once they deliver the news to you. Remember that it’s not easy news to deliver from their side either.

Show that you’re still interested in them as a person even though their status as an employee is ending. Ask questions about their new opportunity. Express that you think everyone has a right to do what they feel is best for them. Show excitement for them. If it’s true, express to them that you appreciate their contributions to making your workgroup a success thus far and if things don’t work out in their new opportunity, that they’re welcome to rejoin your company.

It cannot be overstressed how much this happens. Regaining an already trained, good employee as an asset down the line is often a question of how they felt when they left, and this can be a timely shot in the arm if you find yourself in another offboarding situation later.

3. Be Organized: Keep the conversation brief, but when it winds down you have to be organized. Ask your employee for their estimated last day of work and make note of it. Mention to them that you would like a chance to sit with them in a formal exit interview and schedule this with them. It’s now time to start the damage control process.

Minimizing Negative Impact to the Operation

If you want an essential employee’s exit to have minimal impact, you must act swiftly. It’s time to inform the rest of the workgroup and prepare staff to close the gap until a new team member comes on board and gets up to speed. It’s appropriate to email the management team with a brief, concise email to reassure them and give an accurate sense of the resulting situation for the rest of the team. Here’s an example:

“Good Evening,

This afternoon Jane Goodworker informed me of her intent to leave our company. Her last day will be October 28th. We will have a management team meeting before informing the rest of the staff where we will come up with an action plan on how to handle Jane’s caseload and clientele. In the mean-time, please be sure to let Jane know how much her work has meant to us and wish her well on her new venture. If it is a good time for everyone else, we will meet first thing tomorrow morning in my office.”

Follow this up with a calendar invite and put together an agenda for the meeting with your management team. This meeting should be geared toward how to inform the remaining floor employees of Jane’s decision, and how to divvy up any workload, tasks, or clientele between your remaining team. (Do not forget to reach out to communicate these changes to your clientele and reassure them that their service will not suffer or be interrupted.)

Once your action plan is established, act quickly to involve the other employees and have the huddle. The same rules apply. Be positive and encouraging. This meeting should be as informative as it is reassuring to the other team members that you have the situation in hand. Letting your remaining staff know how vital they are to a seamless transition is just as important to your employee retention as the onboarding process or any other aspect and is a part of a good, productive relationship.

The final act of this scene is to have the exit interview with your outbound employee and a member of Human Resources. The goals of this huddle should be to:

  • Give the outbound employee closure to the situation and leave the relationship strong and the bridge intact.
  • Garner any information that could help you improve your operation or even your onboarding process. Ask the outbound employee for any suggestions on improving day-to-day operations, or any opinions on the company at large.
  • Get to the bottom of why they are leaving. Pay? Benefits? Distance to home? Shift? Personal reasons? Sometimes, the end of an employee/employer relationship comes for reasons completely neutral and benign to the relationship itself. Realize that it just happens.
  • Get any company equipment back, final documents signed. Here is what a checklist may look like:
    • Keys to the building/ badge/ company ID/ FOB turned in
    • Uniforms turned in (don’t forget to cancel these if applicable)
    • Termination papers signed canceling benefits and payroll
    • Company-owned publications, tools, equipment turned in
    • Locker cleaned out

It’s also appropriate to generate an email to IT, HR, or any other departments so that outbound employee access to company email, software, and other infrastructure can be cancelled. Software choices can affect how much or how little work is involved with this, and it’s recommended to make these considerations when choosing software infrastructure. Modern software is all-inclusive and streamlined and can make this process a breeze.


This is where your offboarding process dovetails together with your onboarding process. Once your outbound employee is offboarded, it becomes even more important to continue to care for your remaining staff. Check in on your employees. Let them know you are actively looking for a replacement and make sure their additional workload is not getting the better of them. Make adjustments day-to-day while interviewing and keep your workgroup informed. 

As outlined, a swift, well thought-out, concise action plan for your offboarding process is as prudent a measure as having an onboarding procedure. These two processes, in concert with the right choice of software and good hiring practices will allow for increased employee retention and a good return ratio for employees who did turn over. As a result, your business will maintain a high performance during an offboarding situation and recover quickly.

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Nicholas M. Newton is a freelance writer and poet from Cincinnati, Ohio who has written on a wide variety of topics including leadership, parenting, and divorce. He also writes short fiction and enjoys the game of chess when not spending time with his children and fiancé.