Offboarding: Knowing how to say goodbye – or how to leave your company without getting angry

Knowing how to say goodbye – or how to leave your company without getting angry: We rarely stay faithful to the same employer all our lives. But how can we leave a company without souring the relationship? Dorothée Decrop, Growth Manager at the HR consultancy Thank you & Welcome, explains the virtues of off-boarding, a procedure that any company would benefit from to ease handovers and accompany departures.

We rarely stay faithful to the same employer all our lives. But how can we leave a company without souring the relationship? Dorothée Decrop, Growth Manager at the HR consultancy Thank You & Welcome, explains the virtues of off-boarding, a procedure that any company would benefit from to ease handovers and accompany departures.

With kind acknowledgements to Dorothée Decrop and Anne Clotteau of Thank You & Welcome; François de Guillebon and Louis Armengaud Wurmser of Reflets magazine.

In many companies the employee relationship stops the moment the departure of a co-worker is announced.  Only to give rise to a halfway house atmosphere that swings between separation, fear of disorganising the teams and the satisfaction of accompanying a co-worker towards new challenges.  In practice, if these fears are indeed legitimate, it is especially the lack of an off-boarding process or its demeaning nature that can leave deep scars in the organisation.

What is off-boarding?

The other side of the coin to the onboarding process, off-boarding designates the process that consists in organising and arranging the tasks of accompanying the departure of a co-worker.

In the same way as we only have one shot at making a good impression, the last impression we give in terms of working relationship should not be underestimated – it counts! Indeed, knowing how to say thank you and goodbye is just as important in your personal as well as professional life.

Why are these rituals so essential to the smooth running of a company?

As in a family, rituals are important in companies. They rally us and help in building collective memory. Knowing how to say goodbye to a co-worker means:

  • Helping those who leave to turn the page, without a feeling of unfinished business, by enabling them to share their experience and knowledge, and with the feeling of a job well done,
  • Reassuring those who remain by enabling them to both benefit from the experience of those who leave and be convinced that they, in turn, will leave their mark,
  • Strengthening company culture by ensuring that rituals will last in time,
  • Developing the co-worker experience right up until the last day of the relationship,
  • Ensuring a sense of the collective that is effective and efficient that will contribute to the overall value of the company.

Knowing how to say goodbye and thank you thus strengthens the commitment and sense of belonging of those who remain – and makes those who do leave ambassadors for company legacy and image.

Taking care of departures prepares the future

Knowing how to say goodbye – or how to leave your company without getting angry: We rarely stay faithful to the same employer all our lives. But how can we leave a company without souring the relationship? Dorothée Decrop, Growth Manager at the HR consultancy Thank you & Welcome, explains the virtues of off-boarding, a procedure that any company would benefit from to ease handovers and accompany departures.

Organising off-boarding upon every departure of an employee from the company is a sign of good planning and an employer-employee relationship that is well thought out until the very last day of the contractual relationship.

The energy and costs involved in the various stages that are recruitment, onboarding and off-boarding are de facto unbalanced to such a point that some HR professionals acknowledge an allocation time and energy in the area of 70/30/0, and others 90/9/1.

It is clear that the last moments of the employer-employee relationship are still too overlooked. In the same way as onboarding has become key, proposing a structured and gratifying departure in effect enables both the employer brand to be strengthened and co-workers to gain in team spirit.

Working on one’s off-boarding is therefore a sign of a company’s maturity in its HR processes which may pay off as much for the co-worker who leaves the organisation as for those who remain. In effect, anyone who leaves their company can continue to provide contribution – either through recommending the brand or the company, or via the transitional context of a boomerang hire while managing risk and social charges.

Often experienced as a moment of high stress, off-boarding comes as a challenge to routines already under strain and, as such, is the HR process that highlights badly structured internal systems.  

If the steps of returning equipment belonging to the company, closing IT access and handing over admin and legal documents are mostly well-identified and carried out, the steps of internal knowledge sharing, planning and the transfer of tasks to ensure the successful continuation of the assignment are more difficult to implement. 

Team spirit – the big loser!

The solitude of departure collides with a world of work that has gone into “co” mode – cooperation, coopetition, co-development, collaboration. According to the Hay Group, only 8 % of co-workers state that their companies plan to set up a dedicated exit scheme to accompany leavers.

The development of new technologies has led to mistaking communication for transmission, and leaves us with the illusion that we have unlimited access to information required to carry out our objectives. However, how many times have you realised that Michael, Clara or Steven had left without you knowing or being able to carry out the handing down of their professional knowledge and good practices?  

Work can never totally be summarised in a job description. Who better than the person who had formerly carried out the job to inform, guide and help in the planning of new assignments and objectives? To that is added the company’s legacy, its culture, employee relations, tacit knowledge and skills, to name but a few. All this fount of professional science, in the event of letting employees express themselves, is also a source of innovation.

Welcome to off-boarding 2.0

Knowing how to say goodbye – or how to leave your company without getting angry: We rarely stay faithful to the same employer all our lives. But how can we leave a company without souring the relationship? Dorothée Decrop, Growth Manager at the HR consultancy Thank you & Welcome, explains the virtues of off-boarding, a procedure that any company would benefit from to ease handovers and accompany departures.

The crisis that France has experienced following the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020 has led to the digitalisation of many HR processes. If, initially, the continuation of activity remained a primary motivation, today consensus seems to outline a new organisation based on a sustainable hybrid model.

Under pressure from the current environment, HRDs must adapt processes to maintain and lastingly renew corporate competitiveness. Digitizing the off-boarding process is already an option to avoid time and geographical constraints – to save time and energy for teams searching for information and propose a circular approach to internal skills and knowledge to benefit the greatest number. Let’s take care of our way of saying goodbye – the future will thank us for it!  

Dorothée Decrop

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The Council on Business & Society (The CoBS), visionary in its conception and purpose, was created in 2011, and is dedicated to promoting responsible leadership and tackling issues at the crossroads of business and society including sustainability, diversity, ethical leadership and the place responsible business has to play in contributing to the common good.  

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