Most companies realise the value of onboarding new employees. They focus on getting individuals more settled in their roles and productive earlier. They know the costs of employee attrition and of having underperforming teams should positions remain open for too long or are filled with a bad hire. And they are only too aware of the importance of a positive external reputation - showing them as a great place to work - so make sure that everyone joining has a positive experience. But what about when an employee wants to leave? The offboarding stage..
Do we show them the exit quickly, giving them a negative impression of the type of business we are? Are we too concerned that their dissatisfaction may influence otherwise settled employees and try to move them on too fast? And what about the important recommendations and referrals we rely on to find the talent for those hard-to-fill jobs? Leaving ex-employees with a bad memory can cost us in the long run.
More businesses now realise the value in keeping a strong relationship with ex-employees, which is why the process known as off-boarding – literally the reverse of on-boarding, where we give people leaving a positive experience and smooth transition out of the business – has been gaining importance on the corporate agenda. Maybe slowly at first, with 2015 research from Aberdeen Consulting showing only 29% of organisations having an offboarding programme, but more recently the need for a smooth exit has gained traction.
And there are strong business reasons why we need effective offboarding…
1. Ex-employees are ambassadors and advocates
Their experience of working for us will appear in online review sites and be shared amongst their networks. They are our ambassadors for employer branding. A positive review from someone who has left can be a powerful tool when attracting new people to join. Ex-employees can recommend people to work for us – or dissuade them if we give them a poor experience. When we are struggling to fill key positions their networks are important and can give us exposure to a wider talent pool.
2. Ex-employees are customers too
We don’t only want to retain their loyalty as an employer – we need their custom also! If our products and/or services are customer facing we want ex-employees to remain as customers, and to keep recommending us to other potential customers.
3. Power of an alumni network
People who have worked for us are part of a wider community of those with connections to the business. We need to think of their potential as conduits of business messaging and make sure they still receive company and product information, positive trading updates and employer brand content. We need to keep them informed and encourage them to be part of our sharing network.
4. They are part of our knowledge network
It’s easy to forget that those leaving the business have knowledge of our market and industry that we want to keep in touch with. New employees may not have the necessary experience to step fully into the roles that have been vacated, so alumni who do not move straight to another role can play an important part as mentors, trainers and coaches.
5. They can work for us again
In a business climate where we find ourselves constantly hiring for new roles that have no precedent, and require skills we haven’t recruited before, our alumni network can help connect us with people we might not otherwise be able to reach, and can come back and work for us again if they have moved on and developed new skills. The concept of ‘boomerang hires’ – where we re-hire people who have worked for us before – is buoyant in the US but less popular in Europe. That is set to change and maintaining good alumni relations will be crucial.
6. The growing gig economy
Not everyone who leaves us will go on to another permanent job. Some will become freelancers, consultants and gig-workers. As the need for a contingent workforce grows, with people able to work on a contract or project basis providing much needed skill enhancement, it will be the alumni network that can provide access to talent who can join and seamlessly integrate.
The Employee Journey is the common denominator. Do you want to know more about the other 3 stages within the employee journey as well? You can read this in the blog: a good employee journey contributes to employer branding.
Open lines of communication
With so many business positives arising from maintaining strong relationships with ex-employees, it is vital that offboarding is done well. This means creating a positive experience – focusing on what has gone well rather than what hasn’t – making sure the exit paperwork and contractual formalities are all dealt with efficiently, and having open lines of communication to be able to share information and receive recommendations.
The people who truly understand a company – particularly its values, culture and the way it goes about its business – are the people who have already worked there. When this understanding is shared positively and readily, it can only enhance business success.