1. Discuss the initiative with leadership, the rest of the People Ops team, and other departments’ leads
Explain why the remote offboarding process should be changed (or created, if you still don’t have anything in place) and what could be gained from this initiative.
Listen to the feedback, needs, and concerns of leadership, peers, and department leads, and take that into account as you move through the next steps of designing the process.
2. Create and run over an admin checklist
Prepare a checklist to guide you through all your future offboarding processes. Each time someone leaves, go through the list to ensure nothing is being forgotten. Your list should cover topics like:
- Legal compliance and paperwork to be completed and submitted to the relevant authorities;
- Benefits like pending vacation days (to be dealt with according to your company’s policies and local regulations), 401k, and company stocks;
- Notice periods per individual contract and local regulations;
- Hardware and other physical assets currently in use by the departing employee (e.g., company laptop, car, USB sticks);
- Software credentials used by the exiting employee and data security best practices (more on that below);
- Software subscriptions managed by the employee. If they’re listed as the manager of a software account, ownership will need to be changed;
- Payroll and tax compliance.
3. Prepare a standard employee exit survey to be sent to all leaving employees
Employee exit surveys have the potential to provide valuable data on your company culture, management, communications, structures, and processes. And if your company has a psychological safety issue, you may not be getting the full picture with engagement surveys alone.
Exit surveys can also help you to:
- Uncover systemic issues and negative trends;
- Think of new solutions and initiatives to improve the organization and employee satisfaction, including training opportunities for managers and individual contributors;
- Proactively show your staff that you care about their opinion and that the company wants to evolve;
- Close the relationship with employees who are leaving in a constructive way.
Read our playbook on how to run an employee exit survey and download our free template with best-practice exit survey questions.
4. Create an interview template to be used for all exit interviews
Interviews should be scheduled after exit surveys have been completed. Exit interviews allow you to dive deeper into answers and survey trends by asking for more clarity on any topics and adding a couple of follow-up questions if you need more input.
Exit interviews are also important to end the employee-employer relationship on a humane note.
We also wrote a detailed playbook on how to conduct an employee exit interview.
5. Inform your people about the new processes
A people-first company culture (see FAQ) should value transparency. And exiting employees shouldn’t be caught by surprise. They must know what to expect when they’re leaving.
After all, moving on from a job can be an emotional process and involve a lot of work, even when it happens for an exciting reason (like a lifestyle change or a dream opportunity). Especially if everything is done remotely, without the subtleties of face-to-face interaction.
Communicating your new onboarding process to your people is also a way to prove that the organization is open to reflecting upon its practices and invested in becoming a better workplace.
Announce your new or revamped offboarding process in your company’s all-hands meeting or team standup. Then, send out an email or Slack message with more details on the purpose of your offboarding program and the processes involved. It would be even better to include this in your employee handbook or other documentation accessible to all.
Make sure that new joiners are also aware of your offboarding processes. If your organization values transparency, all offboarding steps should be part of your onboarding documentation. Don’t forget: How you offboard an employee is the only shot you have to turn your former team member into an advocate.
6. Once someone quits or is let go, discuss next steps, risks, and needs with the person’s manager
Schedule a meeting with the departing person’s manager to:
- Ensure the manager understands that they need to develop a task handover and knowledge transfer plan. Ideally, this should be done alongside the soon-to-be former employee. It’s even better if knowledge transfer is baked into your everyday operations and processes are consistently documented.
- Understand if you should look for a replacement or if this would be a good opportunity to promote someone from the team to take over this role. Here, you may still need to cover the position of the promoted employee. Align the next steps for recruitment with the manager — i.e., will they send you an updated job description? What would be expected of a new hire?
- Evaluate the situation and mitigate security risks. Depending on the situation, no changes to the employee’s access to data and passwords will be required before their last week or day. But it can also be that access to certain databases, platforms, and processes should be immediately revoked. If there are any safety concerns, these should be discussed, and you should change passwords for shared accounts and services.
Follow your company’s security protocols and include this information in your offboarding documentation. Otherwise, your employee may feel personally targeted.
7. Share an offboarding plan with the departing employee
If you’ve followed step one, this won’t be the first time someone hears about the company’s offboarding method. But you shouldn’t expect your people to know all the steps by heart.
Share the documentation with the person who’s leaving via email, encouraging them to read through the guidelines once again and let you know if they have questions.
You could make your offboarding — especially remote — much easier by creating an offboarding learning path with a platform for personalized learning (which all departing employees can use).
8. Decide how to inform the team that someone is leaving
There’s no “one-size-fits-all” way to go about this. How you’re going to tell your people that someone is leaving depends on your organization’s size, structures, and culture. And you may need to consider the best approach on a case-by-case basis, especially if you had to let someone go and/or circumstances are challenging.
If your company is a small startup with a culture of transparency and closeness between departments, give the soon-to-be former employee the option to announce their departure at the end of a company-wide standup. Or, depending on circumstances, the person may not feel comfortable sharing this openly.
At the very least, their reports and colleagues from the same department should be informed as soon as possible. If the situation is sensitive, the department’s head may share this individually during 1:1s with their reports. If not, the departure can be shared during team meetings.
Whatever the chosen path is, and regardless of what led to someone leaving the company:
- Treat them with respect;
- Don’t feed into gossip;
- Don’t disclose personal information;
- Don’t treat people like traitors; and
- Protect their dignity.
Take some time to reflect upon your culture and outline best practices to be followed and guidelines to assist case-by-case decision-making.
Here, too, the purpose is to foster transparency and don’t let anyone in the dark. Especially as someone leaving can impact the work of others, who may have to temporarily take on more work and support with recruiting and handover tasks.
10. Conduct exit surveys and interviews
According to the work you’ve already done in steps 3 and 4.
10. Collect equipment and send a goodbye package
Make arrangements to collect any company equipment the remote worker might have at home. You could send them a box for the equipment and a return label with sufficient insurance coverage, shall any issues happen during transportation.
And why not take this chance to send a goodbye package to your former employee? This would be another step to turn them into an advocate and close the relationship positively.
Personalize it: Include a thank-you card and other things you’ve learned that they enjoy during your time working together — like flowers, board games, sports supplies, whatever they like! Company swag may not be the best choice (not to mention they may already have those items).
11. Schedule a goodbye video call and offer to send out reference letters and recommendations
Be proactive about turning your alumni into brand ambassadors. Schedule a friendly video call to thank them for their work and remind them that the doors are open for them (if, of course, that is the case).
Offer to write LinkedIn recommendations (and ask their former manager to do the same) and send out reference letters they can share with future employers if they want to.
Follow-up best practices for conducting an employee exit interview
(Continuously) dig into the data collected during offboarding
As you conduct exit surveys and interviews with more people, you’ll have more consolidated data that might help you spot trends that weren’t so clear before. Working with data to improve the employee experience and increase employee retention is not a one-time thing.
Running exit surveys and interviews without committing to change is just lip service and not a good employer branding idea. Consider scheduling recurring meetings with other stakeholders — these can be C-level executives, founders, people ops colleagues, or other people interested in supporting these initiatives.
Have a clear agenda, share positives and negatives from exit interview data, and brainstorm solutions and changes.
And don’t try to focus on multiple topics at once. Work on a few areas for improvement at a time, starting with the most critical. Usually, those will be issues pertaining to the lowest scores or most negative sentiment analysis.
As an example, you might find out that many people left because of a lack of career opportunities and progression. Here, focus on creating development frameworks for your company’s various departments, with transparent information and average timelines to achieve the next level.
Keep your people in the loop
Transparent communication drives engagement, and that includes sharing the good and the bad. Sharing the results of every exit survey and interview analysis would be tiring for all, so share a roundup with trends and, most importantly, initiatives and results of these actions.
You can do this in an all-hands meeting, or send a simple presentation with simple graphs and key points with your team, making it clear that you’re happy to answer questions that may arise.
— Besides investing in better offboarding, don’t miss out on creating a memorable onboarding experience for all employees (including remote ones) and maximizing your employee lifecycle! Check out our step-by-step playbook on how to onboard remote employees and don’t forget to give your people recognition and appreciation while they’re still with you. 😉