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There are many reasons employees leave a company — they retire, find a new job, or leave involuntarily due to layoffs or terminations. Regardless of these reasons, companies must prepare to make the exit an easy transition.
An employee’s exit is part of the remote employee experience journey and companies must prepare in advance for the process of offboarding. This includes investing resources in making the process seamless, because overlooking the offboarding process can damage the employer brand long after the employee’s departure. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Fractl, one-third of American employees wait a full month before leaving a review of their company.
Offboarding is as important as onboarding and is a key element of the employee cycle. Muryel Dias, Manager, HR Operations South & Central America at Globalization Partners says “Offboarding starts the minute you onboard an employee, and without a proper offboarding process, companies can destroy the overall employee experience.” Preparing employees’ departures can be challenging when you work in an office, but in a remote work environment, offboarding requires even more time and attention.
4 reasons effective offboarding is critical for your company
It has been proven that a detailed and effective offboarding process leads to better talent retention. A structured, well thought-out offboarding also ensures HR teams can facilitate the process for employers and employees.
Creating an offboarding process is crucial to:
#1: Avoid legal and financial issues
Gathering and signing all the necessary documents as part of the offboarding process will reduce employer’s risk of complaints or lawsuits. This is particularly true during involuntary departures, such as terminations, when there are country-specific laws employers must follow to ensure their actions are legal.
#2: Prevent data breaches
HR teams must ensure there is ample time to log employees off of the system, deactivate their accounts, and cut access to any platforms and information they no longer need. If employees have access to company data following their departure, this could lead to dissemination of confidential information that puts the company in jeopardy.
#3: Improve the company’s reputation
Ending the employee-employer relationship in the best possible way ensures employees leave feeling respected and valued for the time they spent at the company. Employees’ opinions have an impact on the company’s reputation. In fact, reviews are important to 95 percent of job seekers, which means negative company reviews can affect potential candidates’ decisions regarding whether or not to apply for a role.
#4: Get valuable feedback
Employees who leave the company voluntarily are an incredible source of feedback. Hearing the reasons for their departure or just their honest opinion will help the company improve in the future.
According to Snapsurveys, “Top performing companies are not only good at accepting feedback, but they also deliberately ask for feedback. And they know that feedback is helpful only when it highlights weaknesses as well as strengths.”
Offboarding in a remote work environment
Remote work has many advantages, but there can still be some drawbacks. Without the possibility to have face-to-face interactions, barriers to connection and communication can become a huge challenge when it comes to remote offboarding.
“Lack of physical proximity makes it especially important to implement a thoughtful offboarding process in which clear communication is key to building trust and avoiding misunderstandings at the time of the employees’ departure,” says Camila Torres, HR Specialist at Globalization Partners.
The purpose of defining the offboarding process is creating a smooth transition for the employee and protecting the company from data breaches and security risks.
Factors that define the offboarding process
There are two factors that determine which steps to take in the offboarding process: the reason for the departure and the employee’s position.
Reason for departure
Depending on the reason for departure, some stages of the process may become more important than others. That is why the offboarding process needs to be tailored to the conditions of each case. There are four main reasons for departure:
It is important for HR teams to define a process that helps prevent unexpected departures and provides enough time to fill the open position. Employees should receive guidelines that establish the requirements to ensure an easy exit. These guidelines could make a minimum notice period, hand-over notes, reports, and data access necessary.
HR teams must plan employees’ retirement in advance. They should ensure compliance with pension schemes and determine the final payment to the employees. One best practice to ensure a pleasant departure is to give retiring employees a proper farewell party and recognition in the form of an award, or a gift, especially if they have worked for the company for a long time.
Laying off employees is difficult, but sometimes unavoidable. In these cases, it’s best to treat the employee with respect and empathy and make it very clear as to why he or she is being laid off.
Terminations are one of HR’s most difficult tasks, and in these cases, the offboarding process must be meticulously planned. The employee should receive a written notice stating the facts that motivate the dismissal and the legal articles that the company relies on to make this decision to avoid any issues.
Keep in mind that crucial compliance components like the required documents and probationary period vary by country. Allowing employees to say goodbye to their colleagues, attending to their last requests, and showing an image of corporate unity throughout the process are some of the keys to ensuring a seamless dismissal.
According to Dias and Torres, regardless of the reason for departure, it is crucial that employees feel comfortable. HR should never forget that they are dealing with human beings, so empathy, communication, and solidarity are fundamental, especially when you are dealing with a remote offboarding process.
It is also crucial to ensure employees receive all the payments and severance packages they are entitled to. Employers must be aware that the local laws and regulations regarding severance packages and payments during layoffs vary by country or region.
Type of position
The steps involved in the offboarding process also vary depending on the position the employee holds. For example, laying off accounting employees may require a financial record check before their departure, while security checks may be necessary for IT members to prevent them from taking sensitive data with them.
How to create an effective remote offboarding process
HR teams must create a customized offboarding process based on their company’s specific needs. The process will depend heavily on the type of departure, particularly whether the employee is leaving voluntarily or involuntarily, as well as basics like the size of the company.
In a remote work environment, the offboarding process requires companies to conduct basic communications in a virtual setting, which will likely require new steps and careful considerations. Here are some tips to ensure that the remote offboarding process is carried out legally and successfully.
1. Draft a communication plan
The offboarding process begins the moment the HR team learns about a departure, regardless of whether it involves a layoff or a resignation. It is especially important to draft a remote communication plan that outlines how the rest of the team will be informed. Establish a common channel for communication and schedule meetings and videocalls in advance. According to Edwina Tan, Director of Global Operations APAC at Globalization Partners, it is essential to pay attention to the tone used in emails and conversations with employees.
The plan should also consider the employee’s clients and how to properly notify them. This communication plan must contain clear information about the departure to avoid misunderstandings.
2. Prepare the paperwork
The paperwork for the offboarding of a remote employee is no different than the process for face-to-face departures, except it must be done digitally. HR teams should gather all the documentation needed to make sure everything is in order and conducted legally. It is necessary to review contracts and nondisclosure agreements to clarify the departure terms and answer any questions. HR must also prepare paperwork regarding compensation packages, benefits, reimbursements, and taxes. All these documents can be shared through document management and digital signature systems to ensure the process is smooth and secure.
3. Plan the transition process
The most important step at this point in the process is to create a plan to make the transition of work and responsibilities following the remote employee’s departure seamless. This plan should involve regular online check-ins to review the status of the projects, reassigning tasks that have already been started by the employee, and putting the groundwork in place so that the new employee can resume the necessary duties. HR must be clear with affected teams on what this transition will look like and where the employee’s work will end up.
4. Schedule online knowledge transfer sessions
This is one of the most essential parts of effective remote offboarding for voluntary departures. During the online knowledge transfer sessions, departing employees share information with their coworkers or direct reports, and with the new hire, if possible. This information should include a record of responsibilities and tasks, status of projects, and access to information, software, and documents.
5. Recover company assets
If the company provided equipment and assets to employees during their tenure, it is important that these are mailed back to the employer before departure. HR teams must make a digital checklist and arrangements to collect these assets in the last days before the employee leaves. This checklist may include items such as computers, mobile phones, keys, ID badges, and corporate credit cards and it should be sent to the departing employee along with a digital return of company property letter.
6. Delete user accounts
Remote work demands sharing information online. Therefore, employees have access to internal tools such as email accounts, drives, databases, and sources of sensitive information. Deprovisioning remote employees’ access to this information and recovering any digital assets, including passwords and key codes, helps prevent security breaches. No matter how good the employer-employee relationship is, departing employees should not have access to any information once they are no longer part of the team.
7. Conduct a virtual exit interview
While only applicable for voluntary departures, virtual exit interviews are key to ensuring an impactful offboarding. The objective of these interviews is to obtain valuable feedback on the employee experience within the company. This will be the last opportunity to leave employees with a positive impression before their departure. It is also a great means for gathering information that will help the HR department make better decisions in the future. Take the opportunity to gain insight into the role, their take on remote work, and their overall experience.
Creating an effective remote offboarding process is as beneficial for companies as it is for employees. However, it can be difficult to navigate the complexities involved in an employee’s departure, particularly when in-person communications aren’t an option.
Globalization Partners’ AI-driven global employment platform will help you ensure compliance during the offboarding of your international employees.
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