Creating a Positive Offboarding Experience for Employees

Employee separation from organization or group

Building Engagement at Every Stage of the Employee Lifecycle – Part 4 – Separation

There comes a point in the employee lifecycle where an employee leaves the organization. Whether the employee’s separation is voluntary, due to restructure or downsizing, or the employee is retiring, having a well-planned offboarding process that provides positive engagement during the employee’s transition out of the organization is critical.

The way a departing employee leaves an organization can have a huge impact on the retention and engagement of existing employees as well as the company’s reputation and employer brand. While most organizations recognize the importance of a well-structured onboarding process as part of their engagement strategy, many overlook the importance of offboarding. In fact, Aberdeen research found that only 29% of organizations have a formal offboarding process to transition employees out of the organization.

As you work to improve the employee experience and engagement levels in your organization, your company’s offboarding process must be given the same attention and investment as other areas of your engagement strategy. Consider the following:

  • Former employees, particularly those who left voluntarily or retired, have the power to share your company’s story, improve your employer reputation and refer future employees.
  • You may want certain former employees to return at some point, which a good offboarding experience would facilitate. (Research and studies have revealed that rehiring former employees and nurturing company alumni networks can save the average Fortune 500 company around $12 million per year.)
  • Negative reviews by exiting employees on popular employer review sites such as Glassdoor could deter future employees from wanting to join your organization. (A study by Glassdoor found that 69% of job seekers would not take a job with a company that has a bad reputation – even if unemployed.)


Whether an employee’s departure is voluntary or involuntary, it is important to have an offboarding process that takes into consideration the perspective of the exiting employee and that is designed to provide the most positive, respectful, and professional experience possible for both sides.

While some terminations can be abrupt, stressful, and messy, the vast majority shouldn’t be. Below are some best practices you can implement to establish a positive offboarding process that supports the exiting employee, your employer brand, and maintains morale among the remaining workforce.

Have a Conversation – Employees can feel blindsided and underappreciated by a termination if no communication or previous conversations took place regarding their performance or the company’s direction in the case of a restructure. Likewise, hearing that a star employee wants to leave is the last thing a manager wants to hear.  All separations need to be thought about a head of time, even those coming from the employee.

Having open and honest conversations with employees can help you get a pulse on their motivation and engagement, ensure you’re giving them the tools and space to grow in their career and possibly prevent their resignation. Similarly, if an employee is not meeting performance goals or the company is moving in a different direction, there should be conversations prior to termination to prepare the employee.

When the departure is the employee’s choice, ask for honest feedback about it’s like working in your organization and their reason for leaving to see if there is anything your organization can improve upon to prevent future departures.

Celebrate the Departing Employee’s Contributions – Whether an employee is leaving on their own terms, retiring, or due to an involuntary termination, it’s important to give them a farewell that acknowledges their contributions to the organization and shows appreciation for their work.

If you’re a small business, you could invite your whole team to toast them. If you’re running a larger organization, have your employee’s team members gather to celebrate. No matter how big or intimate the celebration, make sure your employee feels the love. Departing employees are likely to tell their friends and family about their experience with your organization. A good last impression will make them more likely to recommend others to your company and increases the chances that they’ll boomerang back to you if the situation is right.

Provide Outplacement Support for Involuntary Separations – Losing one’s job can be devastating. For most individuals, they’re not just losing an income, they’re losing part of their identity and community of colleagues.  One of the best things an organization can do for a departing employee is offer them outplacement support. Outplacement services provide existing employees with advice and guidance as they initiate their job search and eventually land their next career opportunity. With this support, individuals are more likely to land faster and at an equal or higher-level role than if they were to go through the job search process alone.

The benefits of outplacement support also extend to the organization, as it shows not only the departing employee but also the employees who remain with the organization that the company cares about its people. This can help maintain morale in the workplace during the transition and make the organization more attractive to job candidates as well as customers because they see that your company cares about its employees and treats them with respect.

Find Ways to Stay Connected – Former employees can be a rich resource of referrals for new hires and customers. Additionally, some employees may even decide to return to your organization, which can significantly reduce onboarding time.  From creating an alumni network to hosting alumni reunions and happy hours for past and present employees to establishing a boomerang program where job opportunities are initially offered to former employees, there are many ways to stay connected with former employees.

An employee’s final days with your organization are just as critical as their first days and can greatly impact the health and performance of your organization, employer brand and reputation. While not all employee departures will be the same, having a framework in place that fosters engagement and respect as an employee exits the organization and keeps the door open for future employment will provide both short and long-term benefits to your company.

Kimberlee Beck
Director of Marketing
CCI Consulting


This post is part of a series on building engagement throughout the employee lifecycle.

Read part 1: The Power of Pre-Employment Engagement

Read part 2: How to Drive Employee Engagement During Onboarding

Read part 3: 5 Successful Strategies for Developing & Retaining Employees that Amplify Engagement