How to offboard remote employees

TL;DR: The offboarding journey starts when you know someone is leaving the company. Offboarding comprises several processes and is a crucial part of the employee lifecycle. Providing a well-planned offboarding experience — especially for a remote workforce — is key to improving the organization, increasing future retention, and turning former employees into advocates.

What is offboarding? And how can offboarding be done remotely?

Employee offboarding starts when someone tells (or is told by) their employer that they will leave their job and ends on this person’s last day of work. As with employee onboarding, offboarding involves many steps; some of the most important ones are employee exit surveys and interviews, but that’s not all. Offboarding should allow for a smooth transition and also cover admin topics like equipment collection and data security.

Your company should be as dedicated to providing a good offboarding experience as it does with onboarding. Offboarding is a natural part of running a business, and a well-designed offboarding plan has the potential to:

  • Reveal why people may seek different paths;
  • Uncover friction points;
  • Reduce data security risks;
  • Mitigate legal risks and sustain compliance;
  • Pinpoint opportunities for improvement as an organization and employer.

And by leveraging this information, you can upgrade the employee experience, reduce staff turnover, and turn former employees into company advocates — all of which is great for your business. According to a 2019 Cornell University, 15% of new hires come from referrals by previous employees and from rehiring alumni. And you can’t make the most of that unless you wrap the entire employee lifecycle with care right through to their last day (and beyond).

As many companies are adapting to the shift to remote or hybrid, the chances are, you’ll probably have to adapt to running all (or at least part of) your offboarding processes remotely. The good news is that this is absolutely possible. Keep reading this playbook to find out how.

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Wann Sie dieses Playbook verwenden sollten

When to use
this playbook

We recommend this playbook to any People Ops leader looking to implement and optimize remote offboarding processes in their organizations.

CEOs and managers can also benefit from the information shared in this playbook. Although we mostly think of offboarding as an HR/People Ops function, a successful experience highly depends on management’s involvement and commitment.

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Was Sie für dieses Playbook benötigen

What you’ll need for
this playbook

A system for running surveys

Exit surveys should be a fundamental part of your offboarding process (learn how to run them here). 

A system for conducting structured interviews

Employee exit interviews are an offboarding practice leveraged by few companies (learn how to conduct them here). Consider setting up a system to run your company’s interviews and conducting well-structured exit interviews.

Hinweise & Tipps
  • Celebrate your staff’s contributions to the company by sending out public praise via a platform like Leapsome (which integrates with Slack) on their last day at the company. It feels nice to be seen and recognized!
  • There’s no need to vanish from your former employee’s life just because they left the company. Check in with them now and then. Better yet, create an alumni group and/or sharing company updates with your alumni.
  • Running regular pulse surveys and engagement surveys to gather employee feedback throughout the employment lifecycle can prevent turnover in the first place.
  • Your offboarding process might uncover uncomfortable truths. Be open to all the information collected in exit surveys and interviews.

    Don’t forget that the goal is to better your company and provide current and future employees with a better experience — which will likely increase retention.
  • It’s a good idea to compare aggregate data from exit surveys and exit interviews with employee engagement survey results.

    Discrepancies may hint that your people don’t feel comfortable enough to give sincere answers while still employed by the company.
  • If the task handover process shows you that your company isn’t doing so well at ongoing knowledge transfer, you need to work on more profound changes in this organization.

    Create more processes for documentation and encourage your staff to share learnings with one another.
  • Don’t cancel 1:1s between manager and departing employee during the offboarding process.

    Make sure these meetings are happening on a weekly basis. They should be informal check-ins in which managers can gather insights into how to make the offboarding process smoother.

How to run this People Ops Playbook:

Wie Sie dieses People Ops Playbook durchführen:

1. Discuss the initiative with leadership, the rest of the People Ops team, and other departments’ leads

Explain why the remote offboarding process should be changed (or created, if you still don’t have anything in place) and what could be gained from this initiative.

Listen to the feedback, needs, and concerns of leadership, peers, and department leads, and take that  into account as you move through the next steps of designing the process.

2. Create and run over an admin checklist

Prepare a checklist to guide you through all your future offboarding processes. Each time someone leaves, go through the list to ensure nothing is being forgotten. Your list should cover topics like:

  • Legal compliance and paperwork to be completed and submitted to the relevant authorities;
  • Benefits like pending vacation days (to be dealt with according to your company’s policies and local regulations), 401k, and company stocks;
  • Notice periods per individual contract and local regulations;
  • Hardware and other physical assets currently in use by the departing employee (e.g., company laptop, car, USB sticks);
  • Software credentials used by the exiting employee and data security best practices (more on that below);
  • Software subscriptions managed by the employee. If they’re listed as the manager of a software account, ownership will need to be changed;
  • Payroll and tax compliance.

3. Prepare a standard employee exit survey to be sent to all leaving employees

Employee exit surveys have the potential to provide valuable data on your company culture, management, communications, structures, and processes. And if your company has a psychological safety issue, you may not be getting the full picture with engagement surveys alone. 

Exit surveys can also help you to:

  • Uncover systemic issues and negative trends;
  • Think of new solutions and initiatives to improve the organization and employee satisfaction, including training opportunities for managers and individual contributors;
  • Proactively show your staff that you care about their opinion and that the company wants to evolve;
  • Close the relationship with employees who are leaving in a constructive way.

Read our playbook on how to run an employee exit survey and download our free template with best-practice exit survey questions.

4. Create an interview template to be used for all exit interviews

Interviews should be scheduled after exit surveys have been completed. Exit interviews allow you to dive deeper into answers and survey trends by asking for more clarity on any topics and adding a couple of follow-up questions if you need more input.

Exit interviews are also important to end the employee-employer relationship on a humane note.

We also wrote a detailed playbook on how to conduct an employee exit interview.

5. Inform your people about the new processes

A people-first company culture (see FAQ) should value transparency. And exiting employees shouldn’t be caught by surprise. They must know what to expect when they’re leaving.

After all, moving on from a job can be an emotional process and involve a lot of work, even when it happens for an exciting reason (like a lifestyle change or a dream opportunity). Especially if everything is done remotely, without the subtleties of face-to-face interaction.

Communicating your new onboarding process to your people is also a way to prove that the organization is open to reflecting upon its practices and invested in becoming a better workplace.

Announce your new or revamped offboarding process in your company’s all-hands meeting or team standup. Then, send out an email or Slack message with more details on the purpose of your offboarding program and the processes involved. It would be even better to include this in your employee handbook or other documentation accessible to all.

Make sure that new joiners are also aware of your offboarding processes. If your organization values transparency, all offboarding steps should be part of your onboarding documentation. Don’t forget: How you offboard an employee is the only shot you have to turn your former team member into an advocate.

6. Once someone quits or is let go, discuss next steps, risks, and needs with the person’s manager

Schedule a meeting with the departing person’s manager to: 

  • Ensure the manager understands that they need to develop a task handover and knowledge transfer plan. Ideally, this should be done alongside the soon-to-be former employee. It’s even better if knowledge transfer is baked into your everyday operations and processes are consistently documented.
  • Understand if you should look for a replacement or if this would be a good opportunity to promote someone from the team to take over this role. Here, you may still need to cover the position of the promoted employee. Align the next steps for recruitment with the manager — i.e., will they send you an updated job description? What would be expected of a new hire?
  • Evaluate the situation and mitigate security risks. Depending on the situation, no changes to the employee’s access to data and passwords will be required before their last week or day. But it can also be that access to certain databases, platforms, and processes should be immediately revoked. If there are any safety concerns, these should be discussed, and you should change passwords for shared accounts and services. 

Follow your company’s security protocols and include this information in your offboarding documentation. Otherwise, your employee may feel personally targeted.

7. Share an offboarding plan with the departing employee

If you’ve followed step one, this won’t be the first time someone hears about the company’s offboarding method. But you shouldn’t expect your people to know all the steps by heart.

Share the documentation with the person who’s leaving via email, encouraging them to read through the guidelines once again and let you know if they have questions.

You could make your offboarding — especially remote — much easier by creating an offboarding learning path with a platform for personalized learning (which all departing employees can use).

8. Decide how to inform the team that someone is leaving

There’s no “one-size-fits-all” way to go about this. How you’re going to tell your people that someone is leaving depends on your organization’s size, structures, and culture. And you may need to consider the best approach on a case-by-case basis, especially if you had to let someone go and/or circumstances are challenging.

If your company is a small startup with a culture of transparency and closeness between departments, give the soon-to-be former employee the option to announce their departure at the end of a company-wide standup. Or, depending on circumstances, the person may not feel comfortable sharing this openly.

At the very least, their reports and colleagues from the same department should be informed as soon as possible. If the situation is sensitive, the department’s head may share this individually during 1:1s with their reports. If not, the departure can be shared during team meetings.

Whatever the chosen path is, and regardless of what led to someone leaving the company: 

  • Treat them with respect;
  • Don’t feed into gossip;
  • Don’t disclose personal information;
  • Don’t treat people like traitors; and
  • Protect their dignity.

Take some time to reflect upon your culture and outline best practices to be followed and guidelines to assist case-by-case decision-making.

Here, too, the purpose is to foster transparency and don’t let anyone in the dark. Especially as someone leaving can impact the work of others, who may have to temporarily take on more work and support with recruiting and handover tasks.

10. Conduct exit surveys and interviews

According to the work you’ve already done in steps 3 and 4.

11. Collect equipment and send a goodbye package

Make arrangements to collect any company equipment the remote worker might have at home. You could send them a box for the equipment and a return label with sufficient insurance coverage, shall any issues happen during transportation.

And why not take this chance to send a goodbye package to your former employee? This would be another step to turn them into an advocate and close the relationship positively.

Personalize it: Include a thank-you card and other things you’ve learned that they enjoy during your time working together — like flowers, board games, sports supplies, whatever they like! Company swag may not be the best choice (not to mention they may already have those items).

12. Schedule a goodbye video call and offer to send out reference letters and recommendations

Be proactive about turning your alumni into brand ambassadors. Schedule a friendly video call to thank them for their work and remind them that the doors are open for them (if, of course, that is the case).

Offer to write LinkedIn recommendations (and ask their former manager to do the same) and send out reference letters they can share with future employers if they want to.

Follow-up best practices for conducting an employee exit interview

(Continuously) dig into the data collected during offboarding

As you conduct exit surveys and interviews with more people, you’ll have more consolidated data that might help you spot trends that weren’t so clear before. Working with data to improve the employee experience and increase employee retention is not a one-time thing.

Develop an action plan

Running exit surveys and interviews without committing to change is just lip service and not a good employer branding idea. Consider scheduling recurring meetings with other stakeholders — these can be C-level executives, founders, people ops colleagues, or other people interested in supporting these initiatives.

Have a clear agenda, share positives and negatives from exit interview data, and brainstorm solutions and changes. 

And don’t try to focus on multiple topics at once. Work on a few areas for improvement at a time, starting with the most critical. Usually, those will be issues pertaining to the lowest scores or most negative sentiment analysis.

As an example, you might find out that many people left because of a lack of career opportunities and progression. Here, focus on creating development frameworks for your company’s various departments, with transparent information and average timelines to achieve the next level.

Keep your people in the loop

Transparent communication drives engagement, and that includes sharing the good and the bad. Sharing the results of every exit survey and interview analysis would be tiring for all, so share a roundup with trends and, most importantly, initiatives and results of these actions.

You can do this in an all-hands meeting, or send a simple presentation with simple graphs and key points with your team, making it clear that you’re happy to answer questions that may arise.

⭐️ Besides investing in better offboarding, don’t miss out on creating a memorable onboarding experience for all employees (including remote ones) and maximizing your employee lifecycle!

Check out our step-by-step playbook on how to onboard remote employees and don’t forget to give your people recognition and appreciation while they’re still with you. 😉

Easily automate your offboarding process with Leapsome

Leapsome is the only platform that closes the loop between performance management, employee engagement, and learning. 

Watch this video to learn how to automate your employee surveys with Leapsome for a smoother offboarding experience in your organization.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is company culture?

Company culture is about the way things are done in your organization, but many people don’t take the time to reflect on it. Diving into your company’s story and vision is a great exercise to understand, develop, and align culture and processes, externally communicating a more cohesive idea of your brand.

Your culture is a holistic concept and includes how you motivate employees, compensation, career development, office model (e.g., remote-only? remote-first? hybrid?), team structure, decision-making processes, and more. And it should guide your remote onboarding journey. 

For example, are you a “people-first” company? Way to go! But how will you communicate this throughout your processes?

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