• Employee Management

Employee offboarding: a guide to smooth exits

Frank Mittag

What is employee offboarding?

When an employee exits the company, the offboarding process begins. Offboarding refers to the process of disengaging an employee from their position in a company. The formal separation between organisation and employee can happen through termination, resignation or retirement.

Some challenges and tasks arise when it comes to the point to offboard an employee. However, it is particularly important to remain professional at all times and approach the situation in a structured manner.

With the offboading checklist for successful offboarding, you’ll ensure an employee’s smooth exit from the company. At the same time, get started with the successor’s recruiting process.

All of the offboarding checklists assume a legally binding contract termination is required and stays out of the question.

Furthermore, there are three different types of business exit that need to be considered and handled differently.

  • Termination of the employee: The employee leaves the company at his own request.
  • Termination of company side: The employer dissolves the employment relationship due to differences / missteps or gross misconduct.
  • Retirement: The employee ends his active business career in the company due to age and retires.

What is the difference between onboarding and offboarding?

Both terms refer to the employee lifecycle in the company. Employee onboarding is the process when the worker starts in an organisation and offboarding when he or she leaves the company. They are equally important to guarantee motivation in the beginning or to leave on good terms in the end.

    The advantages of a structured offboarding

    • Proper farewell for employees
    • Save time on repetitive tasks and processes
    • Clearly assign employees’ responsibilities
    • Recover all relevant company tools
    • Outstanding employee appreciation
    • Timely replacement and handover
    • Positive employer branding

    The checklists that structure your offboarding

    • Exit interview for feedbacks
    • Prepare work certificate / references
    • Transitional solution and replacement
    • Deactivating access rights
    • Return of work equipment and deletion of personal data
    • Retrieve company property such as id badges and uniforms
    • Official farewell

    1. Employee offboarding: the exit interview

    Every employee’s decision to leave a company has a reason. Question this in a benevolent exit interview and if possible, make conclusions for a better future planning. Pay attention to stay objective at all times and avoid getting emotional.

    Knowing the exact reason behind an employees’ decision to quit is essential. An honest conversation with constructive feedback can be helpful to handle conflicts differently in the future, and avoid high employee turnover levels for the same reason.

    1.1 Arrange an appointment with relevant contacts

    Try to find a meeting with, for example, the team leader and the person in charge of the leaving employee. If a single meeting it’s not enough, several appointments can be planned, if necessary, in order to clarify all open topics.

    1.2 Question / clarify the reasons for the exit

    If the employee resigns, it should be clarified whether this is due to personal life circumstances, such as moving. Other reasons can set the ground for constructive criticism and address these issues effectively in the future. Honest words won’t come out from your current employees’ mouth unless you prepare and ask the right exit interview questions

    On the other hand, an employee’s termination also requires an explanation to the terminated employee and what led your company to make that decision.

    1.3 Smooth out the transition phase until the employee leaves the company

    Normally, the time span between the employment termination and company exit take from 2 weeks to a couple of months. Clarify whether the employee is available to train the successor to ensure a smooth transition. If not, if he or she has a handover prepared for the hire, in the absence of an immediate internal replacement. Make sure to have all the knowledge transferred.

    1.4 Discuss possible open claims

    An employment contract’s termination also means that overtime, outstanding bonus payments or accrued benefits such as leave must be paid.

    1.5 Clarify the communication of the business exit

    Some employees don’t mind communicating their exit openly to their colleagues. Others, would like to keep it private. Whichever the case is, it should be clarified who will communicate their exit and how it will be handled. Taking the wishes of the employee into consideration will keep them away from an uncomfortable situation.


    2. Employee offboarding: prepare references

    As an employer, you have the option to be listed as a reference in the CV of employees. This way, potential future employers can approach you and ask you some questions about your former employees. So if you want to thank an employee for doing a great job in your company, this is a great way to make up for it. This step is rather a suggestion and is purely optional and has only partially to do with off-boarding.

    2.1 Offer yourself as a work reference (optional)

    Creating a work reference is extremely important for successful offboarding and exiting employees today. References support the employee’s future job search and gives potential future employers information about their experience, knowledge, results and skills such as teamwork.


    3. Employee offboarding: temporary solution and replacement

    During the first step of the offboarding process, you already clarified whether the departing employee will personally train a successor, or if only a handover document will be delivered. At the beginning of the recruiting process, you should also not wait too long to fill the new vacancy and find a replacement as quickly as possible.

    3.1 Implementing a transitional solution.

    If you have defined a responsible for the departing employee’s tasks in the company, now it’s the time to start introducing them to their temporary role. The most important or daily tasks should continue to be done - even when no long-term successor has been found for the job.

    3.2 Recruiting and filling the vacant

    If nobody inside the company is able to take over the tasks of the departing employee in the long term, no time should be wasted. The vacant position must be immediately announced on job portals. Ideally, the departing employee should take part in drafting the job description, because no one knows the responsibilities and duties of the job better than them. This step of offboarding serves a bridge for the offboarding and onboarding process.

    4. Employee offboarding: recovery of assets and deletion of personal data

    Before employees leave the company, make sure that you get your company inventory back, so it can be passed on to the successor or other employee. Also logins, email addresses and access cards should be revoked, reassigned or passed on.

    4.1 Withdrawal of permissions and access rights to hardware, software and databases

    Ensure that departing employees no longer have access to personnel data, software or documents.

    4.2 Update access control system

    Collect any items that grant physical access to your facilities. Keys to the building or office space, as well as for underground garages or employee IDs must also be returned to the company.

    4.3 Collection of hardware

    Company assets such as calculator, laptop, keyboard, mouse, etc. are to be passed on to the successor, or returned upon employment termination. Be sure to check for damage or defects before it’s passed on to the new employee.

    4.4 Managing e-mail address

    The email address should ideally be changed, so that the person next in line or successor can receive important emails sent to the predecessor.

    4.5 Return company car / business cell phone

    If assigned at the beginning of employment, company cars and business cell phones must also be returned. Make sure have it done before the employee leaves the company and, if necessary, inspected for damage.

    4.6 Deletion of personal data

    According to GDPR, the company has to delete personal data that is no longer needed, while considering statutory requirements for retention of employee data.


    5. Employee offboarding: farewell party

    To leave a good lasting impression and improve your own employer branding, you should organise a farewell party in honor of the departing employee. This can also have a positive impact on rating portals, such as glassdoor or similar.

    5.1 Prepare some farewell speech

    The team leader, as well as management, should wish employees luck and success in the future on their last day. Even if the termination may not have been optimal.

    5.2 Thank them for their work

    Likewise, a recognition for their achievements in the company should be expressed and grateful for them.

    5.3 Farewell email from management

    Little gestures also make the difference. Management should find the time to send a farewell email, preferably a personal one.


    Following these offboarding steps, will ensure you don’t miss any important tasks during the process. A structured offboarding helps the employee and the entire company to handle the termination successfully and stress-free. Furthermore, employees who did not experience a proper offboarding experience are more likely to rate employers negatively on professional networks portals such as glassdoor.

    Use the ready-to-use kiwiHR's multiple checklists templates for 14 days for free. kiwiHR's HR software for small business is not only limited to onboarding/offboarding, it also simplifies other tasks in the human resources administration.

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