Harvard Business Review: Turn Departing Employees into Loyal Alumni

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A holistic approach to offboarding by 

Summary.   

Despite the high rate of churn in the labor market today, many companies pay scant attention to offboarding employees. That’s a mistake, say the authors, who argue that offboarding is an increasingly vital part of talent management—and an opportunity to create long-term value.

Drawing on their scholarly research and interviews with HR professionals, the authors recommend a number of best practices. One is to plan well in advance for employees’ departures: Because few people stay at one company for their whole career, it’s important to have frank conversations throughout their tenure about their goals and prospects for advancement. When employees do choose to leave or get laid off, managers should acknowledge their contributions, provide resources to support them through the transition, and use exit interviews as an opportunity for mutual learning. Companies should also create formal alumni programs to keep former workers connected to the organization. Together, these offboarding practices can create a cadre of ex-employees who become valuable customers, suppliers, boomerang employees, mentors to current workers, and ambassadors for the firm.

Departures are often emotional events, but a holistic, well-designed offboarding program can ensure that heightened emotions don’t prevent an orderly transition. Putting such a program in place will minimize the cost of turnover and create long-term value for both the company and those leaving. As a partner at a major corporate law firm told us: “The relationship with an employee is complex; it does not end just because the employment relationship is coming to an end.” Employee offboarding should therefore not be an afterthought; it should be a well-integrated component of the talent-management plan, using data and information from employees to drive decisions. In today’s work environment—where people frequently move from one company to the next—thoughtful offboarding has become a strategic necessity.