A Practical Guide to Employee Offboarding

Employee offboarding is a vital moment for any organization—but we don’t always get it right. In fact, often the process for offboarding an employee is ad hoc or neglected altogether. Ever left a job and still had access to your company email months later? Each time an employee exits a business, there’s the potential for something to be left unfinished, presenting dangerous security breaches and potential data leaks.

In this guide, we will explain why the offboarding process matters so much, how to streamline and improve it by taking a holistic employee lifecycle view, and the positive effects this can have for your organization, especially when it comes to compliance and security

What is Employee Offboarding?

Offboarding is a process any organization takes to formally separate an employee from the company after resignation, termination, or retirement. It consists of all steps and choices that happen when an employee leaves, including:

  • Knowledge Transfer
  • Removal of software and account access
  • Hardware reclamation
  • Exit Interviews

Good offboarding ensures there are no loose ends or open access when an employee exits, ensuring there is nothing lost and no opportunities for any data or security breach.

Many businesses are much more invested in onboarding than offboarding, and understandably: the start of a relationship feels like a more fruitful place to invest than the end of one. But a strong offboarding plan is just as, if not more important than onboarding for a number of reasons.

Offboarding is a discrete, important process. But it is also part of a larger picture—the employee lifecycle. This spans from long before an employee’s first day until long after the employee departs.

The benefits in terms of employee productivity, organizational efficiency, and reduced risk are well worth the effort that goes into building a streamlined employee lifecycle. Understanding and planning for the entire lifecycle is an excellent way to improve retention, morale, and ROI on new hires. It also reduces the likelihood that you’ll find yourself at the center of a breach or PR scandal.

Having a broader picture of how offboarding fits into the employee lifecycle can help you define processes, plan ahead, and make strategic changes that benefit your entire organization over the long run.

For more on the first part of the complete employee lifecycle, see our guide to Employee Onboarding

Now, let’s take a deeper look at a framework for streamlining and optimizing your offboarding process.

Benefits of Doing Employee Offboarding Right

Effectively offboarding employees is critical for any organization. It helps build a culture of security and compliance, and it protects you from liability.

More Employee Confidence

People are the lifeblood of your company. In fact, they are your company. Employees who stay on board will notice how the offboarding process is handled, and word-of-mouth travels. It can color views of your organization.

Some of your employees will inevitably be in charge of helping to offboard employees, and developing clear processes will make their jobs easier while emphasizing that you take security and compliance seriously,

Research shows that 70% of job candidates look to company reviews before they make career decisions. More employee confidence ensures that your reviews are presenting your best face to the world.

All of this means it’s important to have an offboarding process that is people-centric and empathetic.

Greater Producitivity

Taking a people-first approach has the added benefit of improving your organization’s productivity. A good offboarding process will simplify life for your HR, IT, and leadership teams, and will also protect the company from security breaches that can hurt your organization’s reputation and damage productivity.

Good processes fundamentally improve productivity.

Increased Security

You can’t risk company or customer data leaks or security breaches, and one of the best ways to avoid this is to develop tightly controlled offboarding processes. A whopping one-third of all companies have already experienced an insider threat incident, according to a recent SANS report.

A proper offboarding process dramatically decreases the odds that your company will be vulnerable to this type of attack.

Easier Compliance

You may also need to meet relevant guidelines and regulations for your industry and organization type. For many SaaS-based organizations, SOC 2 must be adhered to at all times. This and many other compliance frameworks require tight controls around access, and specifically around offboarding.

Strong compliance attestations are an important way to show customers that your business takes their security seriously. Good offboarding is integral to that.

Employee Offboarding Best Practices

Make The Experience Positive

Whatever the reasons for the termination of employment, offboarding should be a positive experience. You should put in the same amount of effort as you would during onboarding. Acknowledge their contributions, and talk positively about their time in the company.

Get Insight and Data

An exit interview is an indispensable part of the employee offboarding process. Many employees may be hesitant to express their unguarded opinion while they’re still with the company in an effort to avoid conflict. An exit interview is a moment to get honest feedback.

Make Knowledge Transfer a Part of The Everyday

Don’t wait until team members depart to start the knowledge transfer process. Instead, make it part of their ongoing work responsibilities.

Stay in Touch

The single best way to show your existing employees your appreciation is to stay in touch and support them.

How to Do Employee Offboarding The Right Way [Checklist]

As soon as a departure is finalized, the process should begin in earnest. We’ve created this checklist as a starting point for your own processes:

First Steps

  • Communicate to employees: Gossip travels. By communicating to employees quickly, you can ensure that people receive correct information and head off any chatter. If the employee is resigning, ask for and receive a letter of resignation. In any case you’ll want to inform HR and current employees.
  • Prepare Final Documentation: As part of a smooth offboarding process, you should begin to gather any documentation needed for an exit, this may include non-disclosure agreements, benefits and tax documents, final payroll, and any feedback requested.
  • Notify Network Administrator: Part of offboarding will be the deprovisioning of email accounts, software tools, shared drives, and more. Inform your IT department so they can prepare.

Permissions/Knowledge

  • Knowledge Transfer: Minimize disruption by creating a list of key tasks and knowledge that must be transferred, and prepare existing employees or any replacements. Will the exiting employee do any replacement training? Do backups of email accounts/documents need to be performed?
  • Close/Delete User Accounts: Be sure to deprovision access to email accounts, company databases, shared drives, and software/SaaS tools. Each of these touchpoints are a potential security breach. Being rigorous about this step will minimize your exposure.
  • Recover Company Hardware: Such as credit cards, keys, phones, laptops, tools, badges, etc. Be sure to document these items and their return.

Final Documentation

  • Close-out Employee Benefits: Check with your insurance provider that you are complying with COBRA requirements. Request and receive a benefits status letter from the HR department.
  • Issue Final Paycheck: Includes: Outstanding wages, unpaid commission, unpaid business expenses, severance pay, unused vacation pay, and health spending account balances.
  • Review All Signed Agreements: Have team leads and legal review documentation.
  • Clean and prepare workstation for any new arrival: It’s important to give a sense of progress and closure to the business, employee, and any coworkers.
  • Update the company directory: To ensure accuracy.

Exit Communications

  • Conduct Exit Interview: Use this interview to gather information regarding the working environment in your organization. When notified that an employee is terminating employment, your HR office will schedule an exit interview; record the date of this interview using the form field below.
  • Maintain An Employee File: Everything above and all documents including receipts for returned items and termination letters, need to go into the employee’s file.
  • Reach Out For Further Communication: If the separation was on friendly terms, then encourage your outgoing employee to stay in touch.
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Using Blissfully for Comprehensive Employee Offboarding

Blissfully is unique in how it connects all aspects of the offboarding process. Many tools cover one or some aspects of the process but Blissfully is built to manage the entire offboarding across all teams and tasks. Blissfully helps you:

Define a Clear Offboarding Plan per Team

Our workflow engine gives businesses a ready-made offboarding checklist, plus a platform to customize and formalize the particular process for the organization, able to be repeated again and again.
offboarding plan screenshot

When you begin an offboarding process, whether it starts in your HR tool, or email client, Blissfully generates a list of steps to ensure a complete offboarding, as well as assigning the task to who is responsible.

Each team can easily define their own steps, tools, and processes.

Blissfully’s workflows are also automatically recorded and can be easily audited. This means easy documentation for compliance audits, as well as an easy way to investigate any issues by going back and seeing if all steps were successfully completed.

Blissfully’s system-of-record provides a holistic view of what tools are being used by which department, at what level and through which license. This central source helps teams select and provision those tools to make sure your new hires have everything they need to be productive on day 1.

Automatically lockout key accounts

Blissfully automatically freezes any accounts associated with the offboarded employee, preventing unauthorized data transfer. This can be done through your email or SSO provider, such as Okta.

Leverage IT Automation

Blissfully integrates with your email or SSO provider to allow an offboarding to be initiated in any tool, manages deprovisioning of tools through those platforms, and maintains consistency across all tools at use in an organization. When using other tools, Blissfully will still track third party completion)

Backup Emails and Files

Blissfully stores a backup of the offboarded account, along with any associated emails and shared files. This ensures there’s no data loss in the handover, and enables you to delete the account to stop paying for the license and keep data for long term archive.

Transfer SaaS Billing Ownership

Blissfully automatically transfers ownership of SaaS tools and billing, making vendor management more consistent, and ensuring that someone is monitoring spending on tools.

Below is a matrix comparing Blissfully to the most popular options for offboarding solutions, whether it’s a Single-Sign On/Identity And Access Manager such as Okta, SaaS Ops such as BetterCloud, other SaaS management providers and more.

offboarding matrix

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Conclusion

To sum it all up, the employee offboarding approach outlined in this guide, when executed with a central platform in place like Blissfully, will help make your organization a better place to work, while protecting your valuable assets and enabling your long-term success.

Blissfully provides a central platform to manage offboarding, ensuring that each exit is accurate, complete, secure, and auditable.

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