Employer Branding

The Importance of an Exit Strategy in the Offboarding Process

I recently read an interesting article about an employee who took a job at a company with less-than-favorable working conditions. Once he tired of the toxic work culture and decided to move on, he put in his two weeks’ notice, only to have his manager reject it. Instead, she took his resignation as a personal insult, telling him to pack his belongings and leave immediately. Unfortunately, hindsight is always 20/20, and had the employee known of management’s treatment of departing employees, he surely would have thought twice before accepting the job offer.

I have worked for employers in the past that made a practice of not accepting employees’ two weeks’ notice, opting instead to show them the door the day they resigned. Fortunately, in my case, there was no animosity or toxic work culture. However, it did cause unnecessary confusion and a few challenges that could have been avoided had there been at least a few days to transition out of the company. There are a number of reasons why it’s beneficial to formulate an exit strategy for departing employees. Let’s look at a few ways it can benefit both employers and employees.

1. An investment in the future

In today’s modern workplace, a company’s offboarding process is crucial to its future success. Gone are the days when employers can pick and choose new talent by offering high salaries, while letting their current workforce fall by the wayside. Skilled employees now have their pick of employers, and culture is king. Sometimes these top performers need room to grow, and this often involves outgrowing one role and moving on to another with a different employer. By supporting this growth, employers position themselves for success in two ways.

First, they leave the door open for boomerang rehires, which account for 15 percent of departing employees who end up returning. Second, by supporting an employee’s decision to move on, there’s a good chance he or she will remain a valuable brand ambassador of the company who is willing to speak positively of their time working there and recommend it to other prospective employees looking for work, or possible clients looking to do business. This speaks to the two top indicators of on-the-job performance and ROI, with employee referrals ranking first and boomerang rehires ranking second. By eliminating the offboarding process and taking offense to employee departure, an employer has burned two valuable bridges.

2. Sending a message

After receiving an employee’s resignation, management’s insistence upon his or her immediate dismissal raises questions as to what they’re afraid of that would cause them to mistrust anyone choosing to leave the company. It’s hard to imagine an employer maintaining good relations with company alumni after insisting upon their immediate departure as if they had committed a crime. All employees want to feel appreciated for a job well done. Those who leave the company would like to know their hard work made a positive impact during their time there. Employers that recognize this and act on it are destined for future success. Apple’s “clap out” is a great example of how a show of appreciation and support for departing employees as they enter the next stage of their careers can have a positive impact on employee satisfaction and company culture.

3. Room for improvement

Nobody’s perfect. Even the best of us can improve at something, and those who are the greatest usually strive the hardest. This applies to employers as well as employees. Companies with an outstanding work culture who rank high in employee satisfaction don’t achieve this by accident, but by staying closely in tune with what attracts top talent, and being willing to change with the times. When an employee leaves, management is given an excellent opportunity to improve by conducting an exit interview. This allows a departing employee to provide constructive feedback that the company may not otherwise receive from current employees, and provides management the opportunity to better the company for current and future employees. In addition, it sends the message that a departing employee’s feedback is still valued, even though he or she will no longer be part of the team.

4. Unburdening the workload

One of the strongest arguments for maintaining a smooth employee exit strategy is the unnecessary burden that failing to do so places on remaining employees. After a resigning employee is unceremoniously escorted out, their coworkers are left to sort out their assignments, contracts or client lists with no instruction or transition period. This shows disrespect to the employees assigned to pick up the pieces, as the transition of work could have been made smoothly were it not for management’s impetuous reaction to the resignation.

In many cases, those who inherit the work are forced to contact the former employee for instruction on how best to proceed from where they left off. However, what incentive does the newly departed worker have to assist their former employer who showed them so little respect during their last interaction? Hopefully, they would take the high road in assisting their former coworkers who never asked for the added work. But the incentive to help would be far greater had they been shown the respect they deserved by management during their departure.

Changing jobs is never easy. While it’s a necessary step in ascending the corporate ladder, it’s equally difficult dealing with the emotion of leaving a job you love, or the frustration of leaving a job you hate. Regardless of the reason, the responsibility falls on both employees and employers to make an employee’s departure a smooth process. In the end, employers that burn bridges with departing employees by taking offense to their resignation may be destroying valuable connections, as well as leads to future employees and clients. In contrast, employers that show workers respect and appreciation upon their departure will see reward in the form of team morale, talent attraction and retention, and a positive company culture.

By John Feldmann

John Feldmann is a Senior Communications Specialist for Insperity in Houston, TX. With over a decade of marketing and employment branding experience in the recruiting and human resources industries, John specializes in employment- and HR-related content development for a variety of media types in order to communicate Insperity's brand to both business professionals and job seekers. Follow John on X @John_Feldmann.