When one of your employee’s hands you a Resignation Letter, your first instinct might be to feel defensive. After all, this will likely cause you to have more work to do in delegating their tasks, backfilling their position, and going through any relevant paperwork. However, negative offboarding can actually do much more harm than good, and you (and your company) can glean more benefits from creating a positive offboarding experience, instead.

In this post, we’ll review why you and your company should strive to make employees who are leaving feel valued and appreciated and how to do it in order to benefit the business you work for now, and in the future.  

What is Offboarding?

Just as onboarding is the process you go through with a new employee to welcome them to the team and introduce them to their new role when they are hired, offboarding is the process of navigating the end of someone’s employment with your company.

It can include things like delegating work, preparing handoff material, exit interviews, and more.

Positive offboarding involves doing your best to make the experience of leaving your company positive for the person who has resigned, but also for their reports and coworkers.

While it may seem like this is more for the benefit of the employee than for the company, positive offboarding actually provides a number of subtle yet impactful ways for you to increase retention, boost morale, and improve your reputation as an employer.

How Does Positive Offboarding Help Employers?

Every time an employee leaves, it is an opportunity for you, as an employer, to show that person and the rest of your staff what kind of a manager you are.

If you take their departure personally and behave coldly or negatively towards the employee, it demonstrates to other workers that they are only valued as long as they are working for your company, and that your appreciation for the time and effort they have put in over the years ends as soon as they choose to pursue another path. This can be detrimental to morale and will only increase unhappiness and dissatisfaction over time. Instead, employers should take the time to show a departing employee how their work positively impacted the company.

Different people have different goals in their lives and employers should have a realistic view of both turnover and retention. It’s very rare that an employee will spend their entire career at a given company, so if you focus on being a part of someone’s professional journey and help them to get where they want to be, your employees will appreciate you more and be less affected when someone leaves to pursue another opportunity.

Aside from aiding to boost morale, positive offboarding can also provide other benefits such as:

  • Glowing reviews on websites like Glassdoor
  • Employees who return to work for you again in the future
  • Referrals for high-quality new hires from past employees
  • Help with training and onboarding a backfill position
  • Feedback for how to improve overall (for example, if an employee leaves due to lack of growth, look into how you could expand the responsibilities of that role in the future)
  • A positive employer brand (if other people hear how about how well you treat past and present employees, they are more likely to want to work for you)

How Can Employers Make Offboarding Positive?

Now that you understand some of the benefits of positive offboarding, you may be wondering how to make quitting a positive experience for your employees.

It doesn’t need to be complicated; you can make your staff feel valued and appreciated without having to go over the top. Some common and simple ways to help include:

Offering to be a reference. Whether your former employee has a new job lined up or not, it’s likely that they will need a reference from a manager at some point down the road. Offer to be one for them and make sure to show them you mean it by providing your contact information.

Guiding them through handoffs. Your employee knows how to do their job, but they don’t necessarily know how to give it to someone else. Help them to plan out who will take over which tasks, who needs to be trained in a new skill, and what their last couple of weeks will look like. This will show them that you still support them and are there to provide assistance. It’s also part of your job as a manager and shows other staff members that you can handle bumps in the road.

Plan a farewell event. Small gestures like cakes, lunches, or gifts go a long way. You can even delegate gestures like these to someone who knows the employee best, like one of their close work friends or reports. This offers other employees an opportunity to say goodbye as well.

Offer career support. If the employee did good work and you feel comfortable with it, consider offering career support to them by reaching out to any relevant contacts you may have. Just because they don’t work for you anymore doesn’t mean that they can’t offer value to anyone else.

Let them know they were appreciated. Tell them that you valued all the work they did while employed with you and that you wish them the best in the future. Remember that you shouldn’t have hard feelings towards someone just because they have chosen a different career path.

Don’t take it personally. One of the biggest mistakes employers make is to take it personally when an employee quits. Try to understand their motivation behind leaving and do your best to support it, even if it is related to the company. For example, if they leave because they got a new job with more responsibilities, congratulate them on moving up instead of holding it against them.

Offer contracting opportunities. If it makes sense for both you and the work that needs to be done, offer the employee an opportunity to do some contract work for the company. This can help you to have a little breathing room while you backfill the position, and shows your remaining employees that you want to fill the role with a quality hire.

By putting your personal feelings aside and understanding that an employee leaving isn’t necessarily a personal insult to you, you can help to create a happy work environment for short- and long-term employees alike.

Burning Bridges

While employees can burn bridges with employers, so too can employers burn bridges with former workers. Treating a departing employee poorly can do a lot of damage to the morale of the rest of the company and can harm your brand through referrals and negative company reviews.

By taking the high-ground and handling a resigning employee with respect, support, and understanding, you can show the rest of your staff that their contributions are valued long-term. Plus, you can reap the benefits of that through boosted morale, better retention, and a reputation for being a great manager.

Posted by Brittany Foster

Brittany is a writer, editor, and content manager interested in law, marketing, and technology. She's been writing for LawDepot since 2014.