Offboarding for Small Businesses: What It Is and Why It Matters

Pete Jansons

It’s never easy to see an employee leave your small business, no matter the circumstances. Aside from the emotional toll of seeing “one of your own” depart, there’s the headache of everything that comes with it – from paperwork to transferring data to tying up loose ends. Smart companies prepare for such incidents in advance by creating an offboarding process.

Offboarding refers to the process you use to handle employees leaving your company – whether they’ve taken another job, retiring, have been laid off, etc. A formal offboarding plan not only helps ensure all the necessary documents are filed and procedures followed (mitigating legal and security threats), it opens up opportunities for improvement.

If you haven’t given much thought to offboarding before, here are some steps to help create an efficient and effective offboarding plan:


  • Communicate quickly. Make sure the appropriate parties are informed right away (department heads, HR, anyone in charge payroll, IT, etc.) in order to ensure the necessary paperwork gets filed quickly, and you can start looking for the employee’s replacement. Discuss how you would like to inform other members of the team - the employee may want to deliver the news to his or her colleagues personally.

  • Collect employer assets. Protect your company’s electronic data by collecting any company-owned computer equipment or mobile devices before the employee leaves. Cancel any access the employee might have to any company computer files and buildings, and don’t forget to close out any company credit cards or expense accounts.

  • Transfer knowledge. Meet with the employee to discuss any open-ended projects that need to be relegated. Have the employee write down any information the next employee will need, from essential job duties to login and password information. If possible, have another employee shadow them for their last few days to ensure a smoother transition.

Conduct an exit interview. If the employee is leaving of his or her own volition, ask if he or she is willing to do an exit interview. Employees who are leaving likely feel more comfortable offering criticism that current employees won’t, so exit interviews present a unique opportunity for companies to learn more about internal weaknesses and opportunities to improve your organization.

Prepare the necessary paperwork. This includes a letter of resignation or termination, any nondisclosure or non-compete agreements, tax documents and benefits information. Make sure you clearly discuss how final pay and benefits will be handled. (In some states, an employee must be paid their final wages on their last day, especially for involuntary terminations.)

Depart on good terms. The manner in which you treat an employee who’s leaving not only leaves an impression on that person, it also makes an impression on existing employees. Treat the employee with anything but respect and dignity, and it could take a serious toll on morale. If appropriate, consider sending the employee off with a farewell lunch or happy hour, or pass around a card wishing him or her well in her next endeavor. It will create as positive experience as possible on all sides.

Want to know more? Consider CareerBuilder Human Capital Management solution, which makes the process of both onboarding and offboarding employees hassle-free.

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