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When an employee leaves your company, it’s important to have a strong plan in place to ensure the business runs without interruption, or an offboarding plan. This article shares best practices and actionable steps to make sure your employees feel supported and you protect your business.

What is offboarding?

Offboarding is the process of transitioning an employee, voluntarily or involuntarily, out of your company.1

What’s the difference between onboarding vs. offboarding?

While onboarding is the process of bringing an employee into your company and teaching them your processes and expectations, offboarding is the process of ensuring a team member leaves gracefully and helping your company transition—and be successful—in their absence. Overall, the goal of this process is to maintain a good relationship with the former employee and your remaining employees and benefit your company with as little transitional downtime as possible.

Offboarding best practices

It’s never easy when a team member leaves your company—especially an employee with a wealth of important knowledge of your business. However, considering these steps can help you and your company move forward successfully, safely and with minimal interruptions to normal business operations.

1. Continue support throughout the offboarding process

Perhaps the most important step in the offboarding process is maintaining a good relationship with the departing employee. Be sure to provide the appropriate resources during the offboarding process, including a point person for their offboarding journey. And if the employee is leaving under amicable circumstances and in good standing, make sure to exchange contact information so you can both share good news and career developments.2 Offboarding is a chance to show that culture matters to your business—remember to be supportive, show gratitude for their contributions and let them know you’d be happy to have them back if the opportunity presents itself.2

2. Make an offboarding checklist or guide

It’s important that everyone in your company knows what happens when an employee offboards—this not only includes the departing employee and their team, but also your IT department, HR department and any other administrators.3 Take time with each department and build out offboarding checklists to make sure no steps are missed when an employee offboards in the future.

3. Treat the employee with kindness

It might go without saying, but treat the departing employee fairly and with kindness. On top of maintaining a good impression and relationship with them, this can also help mitigate security risks. Plus, even if they are not an employee in the future, they are a potential customer or spokesperson for your business—so help them leave with a positive impression and good things to say about you and their experience working for you.1

4. Document and transfer knowledge

This is especially important for employees with institutional knowledge and long-tenured employees. Walk through all documents, projects and processes the employee is responsible for, and keep track of where to delegate these when they leave.4 Be sure to ask if there are tips and tricks they have that are undocumented so they can be documented for their successor.4

5. Make a staff announcement

If appropriate, collaborate on a statement with the employee to share the news of their departure with the company at large. If the employee expresses interest in providing more detail, allow them to share why they’re leaving and how to contact them in the future.4

6. Conduct an exit interview

An exit interview is not only your chance to end the professional relationship on good terms, but it is also a built-in opportunity to learn more about your company: what did the employee like about their role and your company? What did they wish was different? If the employee is reputable, ask them if they have leads for a qualified, quality replacement.3

7. Revoke access

Meet with your IT leader and make sure you take the appropriate steps to block the departing employee's access to company files or information. Some steps could include changing logins, discontinuing cloud access and collecting employer-provided technology or devices.5

8. Make a temporary plan for remaining employees

Until the employee’s role is filled, help support your remaining team by crafting a temporary plan. Before the employee departs, have them document any tasks or projects they were working on so you can re-assign them accordingly across the rest of your employees.4

Why is offboarding important?

On top of the reasons listed above, offboarding is also an important step for the security of your company. Developing an offboarding process and taking the proper steps can help mitigate legal action by making sure contractual obligations are met.1 Additionally, the proper cybersecurity precautions can save your company from online threats.

Cybersecurity concerns during employee offboarding

The major cybersecurity threats during offboarding are security/data breaches and compliance violations. Whether an employee is leaving amicably or not, revoke all access to company data and files, and perform an audit of any material the employee might have access to outside of work. This coincides with compliance violations, as former employees could breach agreements by sharing information after their departure they are legally not allowed to share.6

Tips for cybersecurity risk mitigation in the workplace

  • Perform an audit of files the employee might have downloaded to their devices—both personal and employer-provided—before deactivating.
  • Sign the employee out of all applications and delete their accounts.
  • Change any account passwords to which they may have had access.
  • Collect all employer-provided technology, including USBs and access badges.7

Losing an employee can be an awkward or unfortunate situation, but the event can also be leveraged to learn more about your company culture and how to set your team up for greater success in the future. Always remember to treat the departing employee with respect, but watch out for legal and cyber threats during the offboarding process, no matter how amicable the split is. 

To further protect your business, visit nationwide.com/business/ and learn how Nationwide can provide the support needed to run your business smoothly.

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[1] “Offboarding: Definition & Best Practices (2023 Guide)” Rob Watts,  https://www.forbes.com/advisor/business/offboarding/ (Accessed November 2023)
[2] “Top 5 Essential Best Essential Practices for Employee Offboarding,” Johnny Duncan, https://bonusly.com/post/five-best-practices-for-employee-offboarding (Accessed November 2023)
[3] “Offboarding,” https://www.valamis.com/hub/offboarding (Accessed November 2023)
[4] “What is Employee Offboarding? 6 best practices to get started,” Alicia Raeburn, https://asana.com/resources/employee-offboarding (Accessed November 2023)
[5] “Offboarding Process,” https://www.adp.com/resources/articles-and-insights/articles/o/offboarding.aspx (Accessed November 2023)
[6] “ The Cybersecurity Risk of Ineffective Employee Offboarding,” https://www.securus360.com/blog/the-cybersecurity-risk-of-ineffective-employee-offboarding (Accessed November 2023)
[7] “ Incorporating data security into your employee offboarding process,” https://www.crashplan.com/resources/guide/employee-offboarding-and-data-security-how-to-mitigate-risk/ (Accessed November 2023)