Exit Strategies

On the importance of offboarding and best practices for its implementation.
 
 
By Madeline Laurano
 
 
Offboarding, the process for transitioning employees out of an organization, is one of the most underdeveloped and underused
areas of talent management. In fact, according to Aberdeen’s 2013 onboarding and offboarding research, only 29 percent of organizations have a formal offboarding process in place today. Although it may seem counterproductive to focus on employees exiting a company, offboarding can have a dramatic impact on organizational growth and performance. Additionally, it can provide organizations with the insight they need to enhance other areas of talent management such as recruitment, performance, and learning.
 

Similar to onboarding, a successful offboarding strategy will include
a combination of tactical and strategic elements. Organizations must consider not only compliance issues that surface when employees leave but also a way to engage former employees beyond their last day of work. Below are several strategies that organizations might want to consider when saying goodbye to top talent, including establishing alumni groups, implementing an enterprise strategy, balancing standardization with customization, and investing in technology.
 

Develop alumni groups. Alumni programs are powerful tools to improve recruitment strategies, provide insight into employee engagement,
and even expand the business. In fact, Aberdeen recently conducted
a qualitative interview with a professional services organization that gained $1 million in new business through a member of the alumni
who became a customer. Although many former employees have been spearheading these groups, employers need to take a role in creating, managing, and cultivating these programs. Currently more than 50 percent of organizations are leveraging or planning to leverage alumni sites. Companies can participate in social media discussions, create portals for engaging alumni, and provide information on job opportunities, corporate social responsibility and additional incentives.
 

Employee referral programs. Since employee referral programs are 
often considered the most effective recruiting tool for sourcing talent, organizations should consider expanding these programs to include alumni. Organizations should include alumni in employee referral communication strategies and also provide former employees with the same incentives they would provide existing employees.
 

Boomerangs. So-called boomerangs are former employees who have been hired back into the organization. Leading organizations are actively expanding their talent pools and engaging with both active and passive candidates. They also need to be able to differentiate top talent from underperformers and make sure that those individuals are candidates for rehire.
 

Employer branding. Organizations need to treat their alumni with the same level of attention and support that they show their customers. With social media on the rise, a poor alumni strategy can negatively impact the employer brand and directly impact the bottom line.
 

Consider the full picture. Offboarding is most effective when it is implemented across the entire organization and includes retirees and both voluntary and involuntary separations. Without a consistent approach for exiting employees, organizations will have little insight into why employees are leaving and what needs to change in order to improve retention
and engagement. An enterprise-wide approach to offboarding requires organizations to step outside of their comfort zones and accept both positive and negative feedback. Currently, the majority of organizations are focusing solely on voluntary separations (70 percent), rather than involuntary separations (19 percent) or retirees (10 percent).
 

Balance standardization with customization. Organizations have a tendency to swing back and forth between standardization and customization
in the offboarding process. They either create one consistent process
for every individual in the organization or customize the offboarding process to meet the individual needs of various job roles, business units, and even generational groups. Overall, organizations need consistency in the development, implementation, and evaluation of offboarding but should also consider tailoring this approach to different groups in the organization, especially when considering a global organization. Currently, 66 percent of organizations with formal offboarding strategies have localization of their practices or plan, compared to 46 percent with no strategic offboarding in place.
 

Invest in technology. Development of technology can have a dramatic impact on an offboarding strategy, not only to ensure compliance, but also to provide a way to engage rehires. A few examples of how to automate the offboarding experience include exit interview surveys, workflow automation, and the establishment of alumni portals. Although several solution providers are now offering offboarding products, the majority of organizations still have a manual process in place (62 percent) compared
to 32 percent of organizations that have partially automated the process and 5 percent with a fully automated process. Fortunately, 40 percent of organizations plan to increase their investment over the next year.
 

Offboarding is one of the most critical yet neglected areas of talent management in place today. Although organizations are hesitant to formalize a process for employees that are exiting the organization, the benefits to the business are hard to deny. Organizations looking to execute a strategic approach to offboarding must balance both compliance and engagement.
 
 

Madeline Laurano is Aberdeen Group’s research director for talent acquisition solutions. She can be reached at madeline.laurano@aberdeen.com.

 

Posted June 12, 2013 in Talent Acquisition

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