5 tips for sustainable off-boarding

In light of recent economic forecasts and daily news on layoffs, it is timely to talk about employee off-boarding, namely, how to create a well thought out, structured and dignified process of parting with an employee, resulting in sustainable off-boarding practice.

At the end of last year, Tesla and Space-X giant Elon Musk shook the business world with a scandalous wave of layoffs following his purchase of Twitter. Locking down the company’s offices on a Friday and restricting employees of any access to their work, the company left its 7500-strong work force waiting for an e-mail. The said e-email would pop into employees’ private mailboxes, letting them know if they still had a job. With that said, nearly half (!) of Twitter employees lost their jobs cold turkey. This kind of contract termination is at odds with law, good practice, humane values as well as with sustainable human resource management practices. Elon Musk has shown us how not to end employment relationships. Below are five tips on how to do better. Much better!

1. Be legally precise.

When a contract termination is initiated by the employer, there are two primary reasons for it: dismissal or redundancy. While the outcome is the same – a contract will be terminated, the legal procedures differ. Make sure that both the notification process and the actions following are done in accordance with the appropriate clause in the law! Be equally on top of the correct legal practice when an employee leaves on their own initiative. Correct paperwork helps avoid disputes, to smoothly reacquire company belongings and to assign on work tasks to successors. Moreover, there will be more room and clean air for a pleasant dialogue, from which the employer can learn, in order to keep their remaining talents.

2. Map departure processes.

A thought out and descriptive list of actions to be taken ensures that the departure process is clear for both the employer and the employees, securing a clear and smooth roadmap for both counterparts. In addition, an easily understandable and transparent process ensures fair treatment to all, and a healthy internal communication. An employee’s departure often affects a team or even the company’s clients. Creating a solid off-boarding process will facilitate early evaluation of the wider effect of employee’s departure, supporting positive communication between all parties and minimizing any potential business risks.

3. Find time for exit interviews.

In addition to the various legal and practical nuances, bring yourself up to speed with the departing employee’s background and what they have accomplished at the organisation. An employee leaving on their own and one leaving at the company’s initiative both wish to hear positive words of recognition and feel that their efforts have been noticed. If a person leaves an organisation unhappy, they will never come back. A positively charged person may continue to be company’s brand ambassador, but they may also be a future client, business partner or even a returning employee. In an exit interview, people feel like they can express themselves openly. Use this opportunity and listen just as openly.

4. If possible, offer supportive services.

Departures initiated by the company usually come unexpectedly to employees. An experienced loyal specialist or manager may lack a CV as well as an overview of the job market and their future prospects. If the organisation does not have an in-house resource for supporting departing employees, outplacement agencies are a great option. An external consultant can help write and improve an employee’s CV and LinkedIn profile, analyse the employee’s skills and ambitions and offeri career counselling, in order to help the employee see their future in a positive light and take efficient action towards it.

5. Be authentic in communication.

Respectful, transparent and supportive dialogue with the departing employee is only half the victory. The organisation’s public messages, internal communication and actual practices must all be in line. If the image that is cultivated is at odds with reality, the legal precision or above-mentioned efforts alone will not be enough. A sustainable off-boarding begins with sustainable management practices as a whole.

Karin Press Johansson, United Talents OÜ partner and outplacement consultant