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Most of today’s workforce are too young to remember early 1960s teen heartthrob Neil Sedaka, but they likely know that his signature song “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” continues to ring true in any decade.

Sedaka’s sad song may be at the top of some Spotify playlists as big-name employers are “breaking up” with employees during a wave of mass layoffs centered around the tech industry in the U.S.

“Tech jobs feel like they’re vanishing quicker than steam from a pot of boiling water lately,” reported USA Today. 

The website keeps a live count of the recent layoffs with 377 tech companies having laid off 107,930 employees already in 2023. This is a pace that could lead to nearly a million tech employees being laid off this year.

Offboarding: The Process When Employees Leave a Company

From Wall Street to Main Street, saying “goodbye” to employees is a delicate event for both employers and employees.

“Layoffs are a life-altering event: People are left without income and health coverage, and with the loss of steady employment can go a sense of purpose, community, and routine,” reported CNBC.

For employers, these layoffs trigger a process, offboarding, that can be difficult to execute properly.

“Offboarding an employee isn’t as simple as disabling passwords and gathering company equipment,” said the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Kristen Parisi, writing for HR Brew argues that the key to offboarding is that the process should be streamlined, consistent, and tailored to your business.

“A well-managed offboarding process can turn employees into loyal alumni who become customers, suppliers, boomerang employees, mentors to current workers, and ambassadors for the firm,” Erin Makarius, associate professor of management at the University of Akron in Ohio, told SHRM

The Basics of Offboarding

While you need to tailor offboarding to your company’s specific situation, there are some basic components of offboarding across all businesses.

HR Brew says that some of the A-B-Cs of offboarding include:

  • sign any paperwork relevant to their exit (including privacy agreements),
  • review documentation (such as information on when their benefits will end), and
  • return any company equipment and technology.

“As soon as you’re notified of a resignation, contact payroll and IT to begin offboarding procedures,” says SHRM. “In addition, have the employee sign any necessary paperwork, such as a resignation letter or a non-compete or non-disclosure agreement, and notify the individual of benefits end dates and any COBRA considerations. Whenever possible, follow the same procedures for each employee.”

It doesn’t matter if an employee’s departure is voluntary or involuntary, the offboarding process should be activated.

Forbes says the transition of processing an employee from employee to former employee should be the following:

  • Offboarding allows a company to gracefully separate from a former employee.
  • The process should help your company grow and improve.
  • An offboarding strategy eases the transition from one employee to the next.
  • Offboarding can also protect your company from lawsuits, wrongful pay continuation, or other problems that can arise after an employee’s departure.
  • Offboarding will prepare your company with information about what you are looking for when hiring new employees or redesigning your company’s structure.

Some HR experts, says HR Brew, also recommend conducting an exit interview to better understand why an employee is leaving and how the business can do better moving forward.

Why Offboarding Done Right is Crucial

Offboarding is not only a necessary step when an employee separates from a company, but the process, when done properly, can benefit both the business and the employee.

Forbes says offboarding is critical to your business for these reasons:

  • Improving the security of sensitive information and data by ensuring proper handoff and cancellation and revoking of employee access.
  • The proper collection of company-owned equipment will also ensure data is not wrongly or accidentally shared or distributed.
  • Mitigating legal threats such as wrongful termination lawsuits by ensuring employee contracts are properly closed and, in the case of termination, former employees don’t feel there were any implied promises or breaches of good faith.
  • Successful offboarding will help educate your managers, your HR department, and you on what your company is doing well, or is not doing well, and will give you necessary information when you begin recruiting or posting jobs to fill the vacant position.
  • Former employees can still be customers and brand ambassadors. Leaving things on a good note with a former employee will help ensure they serve as an ambassador for your brand and maybe even a resource for future recruiting.

“There is not one right way to design an offboarding program,” Alison Dachner, associate professor of management at John Carroll University in Cleveland, told SHRM. “The offboarding program needs to fit with the company’s strategy and culture. It should be carefully designed to align with the other HR practices.”

Keep These Key Offboarding Elements in Mind

Parisi in the HR Brew article highlighted two key elements of offboarding to keep in mind: the need to consider security risks and the fact that the leaving employee could be an asset to your company in the future.

We have all heard about a “bad breakup” it happens when employees leave a company and “The 2022 State of Offboarding Process Automation” by Oomnitza said that “given increased U.S. turnover rates and its inherent data privacy, security, and financial risks, automating offboarding processes has become a strategic business imperative for modern enterprises.”

This latest survey found that:

  • 49 percent of companies lost at least 5 percent of corporate-issued assets during offboarding.
  • 42 percent of organizations reported at least 5 percent instances of unauthorized access to SaaS and cloud resources after employee departure.
  • 48 percent expressed doubt about their process automation workflows to streamline onboarding and offboarding.

Some HR experts think that it may not always be prudent to have employees finish a final two weeks or a length of time after they have decided to leave the company on their own.

“If an employee doesn’t really need two weeks to wrap up projects and train colleagues, be flexible,” HR pro Juliette Boyce tells SHRM.

This is also the time, says HR Brew, to consider whether the employee is a potential security risk.

“Will they damage client relationships or take company materials and templates,” asked Boyce.

The key element to keep in mind is that a former employee could factor into your business in the future.

“The employee of today is potentially a competitor, a client, a supplier, or maybe even a regulator tomorrow,” Sarah Wittman, assistant professor of management at George Mason University, told HR Brew, adding that the offboarding process is the final reflection of corporate culture and should be treated as “a graduation rather than a funeral.”

Some HR experts say that businesses invest a lot in their employees and it should not stop the moment they leave.

“There is real value in maintaining a connection to former employees, whether for recruiting, referrals, sales, business development or as brand advocates,” James Sinclair, CEO of EnterpriseAlumni told SHRM.

Needs will vary from organization to organization, writes Drew Robb for SHRM: “Former employees fall into different groups, and each has a different expectation of value. Interns and new hires may be looking for a mentor, retirees for board or consulting work, and others want learning opportunities, community involvement, networking, social support, partnerships, or referrals.”

Contact Employer Flexible today for HR help including helping your company implement a streamlined and consistent offboarding process.


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