As professional career transition coaches, we come alongside individuals that have been impacted by a reduction in their employment. They often come to us struggling to see hope for their next career. After they go through our program, they begin to thrive and become grateful to their former employers. They realize the value they have received from the unexpected change and have a new outlook on their career. This past week a participant sent me a note saying, “I’m forever thankful for your team’s support – they truly did help prepare me for my next role.” The company she worked for, now has another loyal alumnus in the workplace because of their care for her on the way out.
Businesses spend a great deal of time and resources bringing new hires aboard and retaining employees, but little effort and few resources toward offboarding. Employees who leave may receive a cursory exit interview, instructions for handing off assignments, and a sheet of postemployment benefits and resources—but that may be, about it.
The lack of attention to the exit process can damaging to a company’s brand.
Management advisors as well as law firms lead the way in protecting their clients by encouraging them to treat exiting employees in much the same way that a university handles its graduating students—assisting in the transition, setting up graduates for future success. That may be one of the reasons you see buildings that are named after their alumni on college campuses.
The best offboarding plans incorporate the company’s mission, vision, core values and culture. The way that organizations treat exiting employees sends a clear message about whether the company lives up to its championed commitments and values. “Companies strive to create an outstanding experience when someone enters the organization,” says Mike Quinn, senior vice president for integration at the chemicals company Synthomer. “Similarly, when somebody is exiting the organization, even under trying circumstances, you want to be sure that the process and experience reflect the overall culture of the organization.”
Employees may pay more attention to how companies manage exits than to how they welcome new hires—and goodwill between a departing employee and an employer can instantly be undone by a poorly handled offboarding. “When people leave, they are going to talk about the company and the way they were treated on the way out,” Quinn says. “You want them and your current employees to realize that people are treated well even when they leave.” This company has great reviews from exited employees on Glassdoor. A Compassionate Way to Let Someone Go shares a well thought out plan.
McKinsey & Company employees are enrolled in the alumni network as soon as they join the firm, rather than when they leave.
Companies cannot retain every single employee but need to treat people with respect and dignity, by doing what is best for them, and in the process, keep morale and productivity high to create a culture of caring.
Harmonious separations depend on offboarding practices that acknowledge departing employees for their contributions to the firm, support them by providing training and other resources to assist in their transition, and help the employer capture and integrate feedback from the existing employees.
Most companies see the value of offering career transition assistance services to terminated employees: These can include job-search techniques, career assessment, assistance with individual brand development (such as help with LinkedIn profiles and résumés), and financial planning. The most progressive offboarding programs offer counseling and other types of psychological support to help manage the emotions associated with being displaced. Tom Rath the creator of “Strength Finders” and author of Well Being finds that losing a job is one of, if not the most difficult time in an person’s life.
When employees leave, some employers ask them to sign nondisclosure agreements as a condition for accessing severance pay and other benefits. Best practices are increasingly recommending against using such contracts for anything other than protecting intellectual capital and proprietary information, to avoid signaling a lack of trust. However, consultation with your legal counsel should be the final word.
A strong alumni program does the most to exhibit an ongoing commitment to employees’ careers and well-being. Employees who are involved in alumni programs are more likely to act as referral sources and references of good will to their former employer.
Offboarding must not be a cookie cutter solution. All departing employees will not have the same needs, nor the same appetite for engaging in their professional development. Ask your outplacement provider about the levels of programs and services available for different levels of employee’s responsibilities. Outplacement professionals are trained career coaches and provide customized programs for impacted employees. Everyone needs a coach for better success. Successful People Have Coaches.
Departures are often emotional events, but a holistic, well-designed offboarding program can ensure that heightened emotions do not prevent an orderly transition. Putting such a program in place will minimize the cost of turnover and create long-term value for both the company and those leaving. One of our legal firms sees it this way – “The relationship with an employee is complex; it does not end just because the employment relationship is coming to an end.” Employee offboarding should therefore not be an addendum; it should be a well thought out element of the strategic plan, using data and information from employees to drive decisions. In today’s work environment—where people frequently move from one company to the next—thoughtful offboarding has become a strategic necessity.
Do you need help with this strategic offboarding plan? Give me a call and let’s talk. If you would like a copy of A Compassionate Way to Let Someone Go just email firstname.lastname@example.org
Travis has been an entrepreneur and business owner in Tulsa for over 30 years. He is a certified Life Options Retirement Coach and is certified to facilitate and deliver the Manager As Coach Learning Series (MACLS) through CPI. He is also a certified Career Coach and DiSC Certified . He previously served on the board of Career Partners International (CPI) an equity partner in CPI, offering a global reach with over 350 offices.