The Art of Employee Offboarding - The process & checklist

Andy Agouridis Better practices

People are undoubtedly any business's lifeblood, so companies must cherish and value their employees. However, the unfortunate reality is that layoffs can be inevitable in the face of uncertain economic conditions, corporate restructuring, technological advancements, mergers and acquisitions, company relations, or shifts in consumer demands. In fact, more than 70,000 employees were just laid off last year due to economic downturns alone. In response to this challenging reality, companies need to remain adaptable and agile to keep up with the rapidly changing and highly competitive marketplace.
Blog image 46
But when the going gets tough, business leaders may find themselves facing tough decisions that are necessary for their company's long-term survival and success. And sometimes, the only option left for them is to let their valuable employees go, whether it’s just a temporary setback or a more permanent goodbye. This can be an incredibly difficult process for everyone involved. However, giving a good offboarding experience can make a world of difference in easing the pain and minimizing the impact on your company’s reputation.

Definition of offboarding

Offboarding is the process of transitioning an employee out of their current position. And when it comes to layoffs, it is important to approach the process with compassion and empathy. Doing so will allow you to demonstrate that your company cares about its employees during difficult times and that you are committed to your values. This, in turn, can help you leave a positive final impression on employees being laid off while reducing the negative feelings and impacts on those remaining at your company. So whether you are an HR professional, a manager, or a business owner, read on to learn how you can approach employee offboarding with a more human touch with our checklist.

The offboarding process & checklist

1. Be honest and upfront with everyone involved

Whether you are the one delivering the news or the one receiving it, layoffs are never a fun topic to talk about. It is a situation that can be overwhelming, emotional, and scary for all parties involved, and it is something that no one ever wants to deal with. Despite the challenging nature of the process, it is always important to stay as open and honest as possible. Failing to do so can make the process more painful and time-consuming, leading to further negative feelings and potentially damaging rumors or speculations. No one wants that!

Instead of just dishing out the news without an explanation, take some time to sit down with your people to explain honestly why the layoff is happening and what it means for the future of the business. Provide them with as much context as you can to help them understand the situation better and avoid misunderstanding down the line. As the saying goes, “Honesty is the best policy". So, don’t sugarcoat the situation to make it sound better than it is, but also be careful not to be unnecessarily harsh too. Simply share the facts as they are and let the employees make their own conclusions.

It is also important to be explicit about the available resources and support employees can expect during the transition. Will there be severance pay? Will you provide outplacement assistance to help them find a new job? Explain what options are available and communicate the details with kindness and empathy. Also, make sure to remain available to answer any questions that employees may have and keep lines of communication open to provide as much clarity and support as possible. While you can’t change the fact that they were let go, doing this can help make the layoff process a little less painful.

2. Provide support during the transition

Many employees may be left out feeling lost and confused after a layoff. As a result, it can be difficult for them to transition into the job search process. Who wouldn’t feel this way after being handed a pink slip out of the blue? One of their worries might be about their next paycheck and whether or not they will be able to make ends meet. During this vulnerable time, providing the necessary support and guidance to help affected individuals to transition or even find a new job smoothly can make all the difference. 

Support can come in many forms apart from offering severance pay. Your offboarding process can include career counseling, mental health support, resources for job search, referrals to headhunters and potential employers, and outplacement assistance. Think of this as a helping hand – kind of like an arm around their shoulders and a pat on their backs while saying, “you’ve got this” as they go through this challenging time. This will help them boost their confidence and make the shift to the next chapter of their lives and careers a little easier.

Remember, the goal of offboarding is not to sever ties with departing employees but rather to give them the support they need to start anew and find their footing again. So, don’t cut and run. Be as supportive as possible to reassure them that you are there every step of the way – before, during, and after the transition process. This way, you can show them that you care about them and are willing to go the extra mile to see them succeed, even if it’s not with your company.

3. Treat employees with respect during the layoff process

We know some of us have heard horror stories of layoffs. There are employees being terminated via email or just a phone call or dismissed without any explanation of their situation at all until the very last minute. It’s a big NO-NO for every offboarding process. Every employee deserves to be treated respectfully during difficult times like this. And respect should start from the moment the layoff is announced and extend through the transition process and final goodbye. 

Instead of treating them like they should know better, treat them like the valuable human being they are, especially after years of their service to your company. For example, as part of your offboarding checklist you can opt for a one-on-one meeting to discuss every detail with them privately. After all, no one wants to be caught off guard by a layoff in front of their coworkers or customers. Hear their concerns and sentiments and give them time to adjust and process the situation at their own pace instead of rushing them out the door.

During a layoff, emotions can run high for both the affected employees and managers involved. This can lead to heated discussions and potential conflict, which can be difficult to manage. When this happens, it is important to keep your cool and remain professional at all times and not allow emotions to get the better of you. Avoid getting into an argument or saying anything that can be interpreted as hurtful or offensive. Remember, layoffs are a business reality that is difficult not only for your company but for employees as well. So, it is important to communicate with them in a supportive, sensitive, and respectful manner throughout the entire offboarding process.

4. Be grateful and send them off with a smile

A layoff is indeed like a bitter pill to swallow, especially when we talk about the years of hard work, dedication, and sacrifices made by your people. So, from the perspectives of those affected, there is nothing to be thankful for in this situation. But regardless of how upset and disappointed they may be about the decision, it is still important for you to remain positive and show gratitude toward them.

Expressing appreciation by simply saying thank you shows you value everything your people have done for the company. Even if you can’t guarantee that there won’t be any lingering feelings after they leave, this humble gesture can leave a positive imprint on them, which can go a long way to reducing the emotional toll of losing their jobs and helping end things on a happier note. Give them a proper sendoff, which can include a lunch treat, thoughtful gifts, or just a simple parting message of hope and encouragement for their future endeavors. It is like you’re sending your kids off to college. You are proud of their accomplishments and excited to see what they’ll do next.

5. Keep in touch

Keeping in touch after a layoff may not be desirable for either the employee or the company at all times. But if the employee is departing on good terms, remaining in contact is one great way to express your appreciation for their contributions and how you value them even if they will no longer be part of your team. Imagine some of your friends moving away, you don’t want to lose touch with them just because they’re no longer around, right? 

So, how can you make sure you stay connected? Well, integrate in your offboarding checklist a process to send occasional emails to share some industry news or insights. You can even invite them to a company event where you can also have the chance to catch up. This is also a good opportunity to maintain positive relationships, which can lead to exciting possibilities down the road. Who knows, they might be the perfect fit for your new project or a job vacancy when things pick up again and staying connected will help create a space for them to feel comfortable returning to your company in the future.

If you are interested in learning more about employee offboarding, valuable HR checklists or other related resources, subscribe to our newsletter or follow us on our LinkedIn channel.

Last updated:

Andy Agouridis

Andy helps candidates and employers connect faster and better. Apart from being a Jobylon contributing writer and a Careers content creator. He has a background in HR with Fortune 100 businesses, holds an MSc in HRM, and is a Chartered member of the CIPD.

Get the latest updates

Subscribe to the blog to stay updated with the latest content on HR, recruiting, and the future of work


Want to see Jobylon in action?

Get a product tour of our talent acquisition platform and discover why we are loved by recruiters, hiring managers, and HR leaders across the world's largest employers!

Book a demo