Employee Offboarding Process: HR Best Practices [2023]

Shreelekha Singh
May 9, 2022
min read
September 19, 2023
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Offboarding can make or break your employee experience, affect team morale and have a massive impact on your organization's productivity. Here's how to do it right.
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No matter what industry or niche you operate in, your brand reputation is a huge selling point. Even the slightest dents to your reputation can set you back in the market and hurt your competitive edge. 

Your employee offboarding processes are one of the many factors that critically impact your company’s image. 

If you’re parting ways with employees on a sour note or leaving them to figure things out on their own, you’re bruising your employer brand

Though it might seem the opposite of onboarding, offboarding employees serves the same purpose. It can:

  • Make or break your employee experience.
  • Spoil the work environment.
  • Have a massive impact on your team’s productivity.

More than that, a poor offboarding experience can create a corporate catastrophe and put company data at risk. 

Don’t put so much at stake. Create a detailed offboarding program for outgoing employees with accurate guidelines and systems to part ways professionally. 

With this detailed guide, we’ll help you set up your offboarding process—covering everything from exit interviews to the knowledge transfer process.

Offboarding definition for HR teams

Employee offboarding is discontinuing an employee’s relationship with an organization—when employees resign and are laid off. A good employee offboarding program creates systems and workflows to methodically handle change management and offboard an employee without any loose ends. 

When done right, your offboarding process can minimize interruptions to business processes.... and let's be clear, it’s not enough to collect company equipment, among other belongings, and host a goodbye party (offline or virtual) before an employee leaves. 

Offboarding often requires action from multiple people across different departments. If you work in the HR department, you’ll need to coordinate with the supervisors, immediate co-workers, the IT department and accountants to offboard every employee successfully. 

7 Benefits of a good employee offboarding process

A good offboarding process has two ultimate goals: 

  1. Preventing disruption in work 
  2. Providing a positive experience for the entire team

But a good offboarding strategy can make all the difference to achieve these two goals and go beyond.

The seven benefits below prove that a solid offboarding program is worth every effort.

Ensures seamless project takeover

A proper offboarding process involves identifying the company data existing employees will need after the handover. You have to create a knowledge transfer checklist for an exiting employee and ensure a seamless handoff for every project.

This also helps prevent a situation where a specialist fails to communicate critical information on routine tasks, considering it obvious or redundant.

Clear instructions on what kind of knowledge their successor will need help a departing employee create comprehensive handover documentation.

Eliminates the chance of a data breach

Failing to disconnect former employees from internal applications causes data breaches in 20 percent of organizations. Improper offboarding can result in customer data leaks and cyber-attacks, followed by reputational and financial losses. 

You’ll likely face a number of challenges, like negative reviews and security breaches. By implementing a formal offboarding process for everyone, you’ll keep the data safe – and get better sleep at night. 

Expands your network

Twenty-five out of 31 specialists said they kept in touch with their former employers, which would hardly be possible after a poor offboarding experience. 

Maintaining relationships with ex-employees has its own importance. You can build advocates for your company who continue to use your product/services or come to you with partnership opportunities long after they’ve left their position. 

By keeping a loyal rank of ex-employees, you’ll build a wide network of brand ambassadors across various industries and niches.

Improves employee morale

Like it or not, all existing employees closely watch the offboarding process. Many of them will be looking for signs of negativity. A structured offboarding plan keeps the process unbiased and transparent. Seeing you create a positive experience for a former colleague will build a more loyal team with confidence in your company’s leadership. 

Prevents turnover contagion

As mentioned above, turnover contagion can lead to mass departure, often of critical employees. Create a solid offboarding plan to avoid unexpected, unmanaged turnover. 

For instance, publicly announce an employee’s departure to prevent others from thinking you’re trying to hide unpleasant truths. If you give employees a chance to invent that narrative, they might start questioning their own futures at your company. 

Simplifies recruitment

All your employees have a network, whether in person or on social media. In one way or another, they'll announce their departure.

Depending on their offboarding experience, this (very public) feedback could make or break brand perceptions. Your ex-employees could, and should, serve as a rich referral source to find new talent.

Keeps the door open

Rehiring employees makes onboarding easier, reduces hiring costs and requires less training. But how do you achieve that?

When offboarding an employee, don’t burn bridges. A careful offboarding process lets you leave things on good terms and attract some boomerangs. Up to 29 percent of employees have returned to their previous employer at some point – that’s only possible when you keep the door open.

8 Steps for a successful offboarding process

Employee offboarding can be a lengthy process. It includes at least eight steps:

  1. Resignation letter/termination notice
  2. Employee departure announcement
  3. Paperwork
  4. Project takeover
  5. Cutting off access
  6. Exit survey
  7. Farewell event
  8. Keeping employee records

Step 1: Resignation letter/termination notice

The employee leaving the company should write a letter confirming their departure. Often, an employer acknowledges this resignation with an acceptance letter. Such a formality allows you to outline critical details of the contract termination and prevent any possible misunderstandings.

In their letter, an employee provides a statement that communicates resignation and the date of their last day of work. Layoff or termination letters also include the reasons for dismissal and information on compensation, if any.

Step 2: Employee departure announcement

Even if you haven’t heard of the term “turnover contagion” yet, you likely already know how one employee’s resignation can lead to mass departures. And the bad news is – this phenomenon can increase employee turnover dramatically.

💡 Turnover Contagion: When one employee’s departure causes a domino effect, in which several employees independently submit their resignation soon after. 

Publicly announcing an employee’s departure can control turnover contagion and prevent rumors about your company.

Don’t wait for the news to make its way around the organization. Stay transparent by presenting factual, logical information on what your relationship with a departing employee will look like during the notice period and how you’ll be moving forward.

Step 3: Paperwork

And so begins the official part of the process. 

Before an employee leaves, you have a limited time to complete documentation, discuss the final payment process with the finance department and make sure there’s no disagreement on the terms and paychecks for termination or resignation.

At this stage, HR managers typically complete the following tasks:

  • Obtain a signed resignation letter to make the process legally binding.
  • Handle the employee benefits and a series of other documentation.
  • Manage the necessary agreements for compliance, e.g., a non-disclosure agreement or severance agreement in the event of termination.
  • Reimburse outstanding payments. 
  • Prepare the final paycheck.

Step 4: Project takeover

While you’re busy with paperwork, a departing employee starts their project handoff. 

If possible, assign a co-worker to shadow the employee, transferring project details, timelines, etc. Ideally, outgoing employees spend their last days training a new hire. However, this is hardly ever the case. 

Most often, a company assigns an interim manager to take over the key responsibilities of their ex-colleague before a new hire joins the team. This person should have access to instructions they can carry forward to a new hire. 

🆓 Related Resource: Free Project Handover Template!

Knowledge transfer is one more important part of the process. Apart from delivering tangible results for a company, employees collect invaluable knowledge on how to perform tasks more effectively. If you manage to preserve this knowledge when employees leave, you reach a critical goal of the entire offboarding process.

To transmit knowledge effectively, assign a task to a departing employee to create step-by-step guides on their routine work processes. 

💡Scribe Tip: Automated documentation tools like Scribe allow teams to generate and maintain quality reference guides, employee checklists and process documentation without drafting each step. Scribe auto-generates step-by-step instructions with words and screenshots as a user executes any process.

Step 5: Cutting off access

After a thorough handover, it’s time to protect your sensitive data and revoke all digital access rights to company platforms, laptops and other devices.

Collaborate with the IT department on this task. In most cases, your action plan won’t be limited to disabling access to your company email.

To prevent a data breach, you’ll need a lengthy security risks checklist:

  • Reset entry codes to the office, if any.
  • Deactivate all accounts associated with the employee.
  • Delete authorized logins.
  • Remove personal social accounts from any admin privileges.
  • Update credentials for shared accounts on any platform and emails. 
  • Inform the employee of what data they aren’t permitted to take and share with third parties.
  • Specify the information that the company must retain.  
  • Recover company computers in the employee’s possession after archiving their files. 

While doing the paperwork and planning a farewell party, don’t neglect the safety of your customers and company data. Make an effort to go through the data security checklist to ensure you’re protected. 

Step 6: Exit survey

It’s time to collect feedback. Block time on your employee’s calendar for an exit survey. An exit survey is a set of questions a departing employee answers before leaving. It should give you an idea of how you could improve. 

When an employee is about to leave, they’re more comfortable sharing an honest opinion on their experiences with your company. 

Here’s a handy list of exit interview questions to ask leaving employees:

  • How did your role and responsibilities match your expectations?
  • What has influenced your decision to leave?
  • Were you actively looking for a new job?
  • Did you feel comfortable sharing your concerns with supervisors or coworkers?
  • Did you see growth opportunities at our company?
  • Were you equipped with enough support to do the job?
  • In your opinion, what could we do to improve employee retention?
  • How would you rate your workplace environment?
  • In your opinion, were you treated fairly by management?
  • Would you recommend your friend to work for our company? Why/Why not?
  • Would you ever consider coming back to our company?

It’s not only the survey itself but also your reaction that matters. Deb Mukherjee, Ecommerce Tech Writer, shared how an employer’s response to constructive feedback can cause a terrible offboarding experience.

 “When I left, they asked me for feedback. I thought they wanted an honest one, but when I gave my feedback, the co-founder started bashing me, calling me names and saying he has worked so hard, and I can’t say all that. I gave them unbiased, objective feedback. And they couldn’t take it.”

You’ll most likely receive some criticism from every exiting employee – if they liked everything, they wouldn’t leave. With that in mind, try to turn your exit survey into a constructive conversation where you acknowledge your weaknesses and express the will to improve. 

Step 7: Farewell event 

Giving a farewell party or a lunch in honor of an exiting employee is a great chance to end your formal relationship on a good note. This event will give a positive impression both to a former employee and the existing employees.

In a remote setting, there’s still an opportunity to say a proper “goodbye.” You can throw a virtual farewell event on Friday evening.  Everyone will get a chance to hear about their former coworker’s future plans and express gratitude for their time together.

Step 8: Keeping employee records

For an HR rep, offboarding doesn’t necessarily end when a former employee is removed from a Slack group. 

At this point, you’ll need to compile all documents, including CV, receipts and termination letters, into the employee’s file. In the US, the company should keep the documentation for at least six years. 

Suppose you terminated the relationship due to performance issues. In that case, you might also want to review the projects they’ve been running, monitor communications and follow up with immediate colleagues. This allows you to adjust your recruitment criteria and develop a performance improvement plan for future hires.

Before you back up any files, familiarize yourself with the laws of your state or country – the regulations for managing employee records may vary depending on the location.

Documentation requirements for offboarding Employees

Documentation can be a headache when offboarding employees, mainly because these documentation requirements differ for different circumstances. Instead of getting lost in the chaos, use this handy list of business documents you need as soon as you receive a resignation or termination letter:

  • Exit interview form.
  • Non-disclosure agreement.
  • All of the employee's files (employment contract, disciplinary records, performance reviews, etc.).
  • Benefits document and final paycheck.
  • Acknowledgment letter for the return of company property.
  • Certificate of employment.

While this isn’t a conclusive checklist, it covers a majority of documents you’d need at the end of an employee lifecycle. 

Employee termination checklist

Employee offboarding takes time. It’s easy to overlook certain aspects when the process is chaotic. And it’s sure to be chaotic if you don’t have a plan.

Create a standard offboarding checklist mapping the process step-by-step. Follow it every time you deal with employment separation, with no exceptions.

Typically, your offboarding checklist should include:

  • Confirmation of an employee's departure.
  • Employee departure announcement.
  • Paperwork.
  • Project takeover.
  • Data security.
  • Exit survey.
  • Farewell.
  • Maintaining employee files.

It’s also good to customize the checklist with details unique to every specific case, such as critical project takeover steps or close-out benefits. 

Severance package considerations

If you’re terminating an employee, research the market to create a severance package that fits your company’s budget and meets employees’ expectations. Consider the legal requirements for severance pay and factor in the employee’s tenure at your company to determine this package. 

You can also consider other factors, such as:

  • Position
  • Salary
  • Tax implications
  • Necessary negotiations 
  • Circumstances of termination

HR teams should consult with legal counsel before finalizing the severance package for laid-off employees. 

Conducting exit interviews for outgoing employees

Exit interviews are essential for collecting feedback about your company culture, individual development, and the overall value they found at your company. Plan a date and time for this interview beforehand and create a comfortable environment for employees to share their honest feedback.

Take an open-ended approach to this interview and encourage them to talk transparently while you listen intently. Your role is to understand their viewpoint in a non-defensive manner and communicate this feedback to the rest of your team. 

Ask for specific details and instances for anything they mention. For example, if they experienced burnout at any point in their time here, enquire about potential reasons and solutions they found.  

Offer help through outplacement services

In addition to giving a severance package, companies can also offer outplacement services to help employees find their next employment quickly. You can deliver various outplacement solutions, including:

  • Career counseling and assessment
  • Job search tactics and avenues
  • Interview coaching and resume prep
  • Networking assistance 
  • Career workshops 


1. What are the organization's goals for employee offboarding?

There are two main goals of any offboarding process: one, to maintain business continuity in processes and two, to offer a seamless experience to the outgoing employee and the rest of the team.

2. What are the specific steps in the offboarding process?

The typical offboarding process covers these eight steps:

  1. Resignation letter/termination notice
  2. Employee departure announcement
  3. Paperwork
  4. Project takeover
  5. Cutting off access
  6. Exit survey
  7. Farewell 
  8. Keeping employee records

3. How is employee feedback collected and used during offboarding?

Companies can collect employee feedback through surveys, exit interviews, questionnaires, or forms. This feedback is used to evaluate the company culture and work environment based on specific criteria.

4. What kind of support do employees need during offboarding?

Exiting employees appreciate any support with their job search. You can offer support in the form of:

  • Career counseling and assessment.
  • Job search tactics and avenues.
  • Interview coaching and resume prep.
  • Networking assistance.
  • Career workshops.

Conclusion: Offboarding the right way

A well-designed offboarding process is not only about bidding farewell; it's a strategic initiative to protect your brand, maintain data security and cultivate positive relationships.

By investing in a comprehensive offboarding program, you demonstrate your commitment to both departing employees and your organization's long-term success.

Get started with Scribe's offboarding template today!

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