Offboarding: The Forgotten Employer Branding Moment

Leaving a job is hard. There’s the emotional side – the part where you feel like you’re letting people down. Or you feel surprised and attacked. But you’re also angry. Frustrated with the company.

Then there’s the tangible side – the paycheck, the connections, the bonus, etc. All the things that make people us stay in jobs longer than we should have.

No matter how you’re feeling when you leave the job: offboarding is usually the most terrible experience in the employee lifecycle. I can’t imagine that has changed a lot as this moment multiplied in past weeks.

From the moment it’s official that you are leaving, you’re no longer “worth the time” and become part of a checklist that leaves most people with terrible tastes in their mouths. I mean, how could it not? People stop responding to your emails. They don’t offer instruction. Worse? They offer cold, scripted instructions with only a small percentage of the details you actually need to walk away from that job. 

I heard a horror story last week from a woman who moved across the country for a new job. Checking in 24 hours before her first day, her boss responded with a one sentence email: “Your position has been eliminated due to covid.” That was it. Sitting in her new apartment surrounded by boxes, she was fired before she even started.

Offboarding is an employer branding opportunity. 

The cold approach most companies take at this critical juncture leaves an enormous employer branding opportunity on the table. Not for the last guy, that’s unforgivable.

Think about it. What do people who just left their job do? Talk. 

Well, drink, then talk. 

But it’s loud, and believe me, the reach is more broad and impactful than any boosted Facebook post from the employer brand team.

What story do you want those tipsy ex-employees to tell? How they would come back. How they appreciated the way that you treated them now.

This is your moment to make an investment in the people who have invested so much in you, and it will multiply returns in so many ways. Because how you support people when things go wrong is your employer brand.

Here are a few simple ways to make offboarding into a more positive moment for people (and your employer brand.)

  1. Boomerang Hires. Make sure that if someone is willing to come back, they know that they’re welcome. I think most companies forget this conversation altogether.
  2. Ask Questions. People will be more honest when they have nothing to lose. This is where you can identify issues people might be hesitant to share due to perceived (or real) retaliation. 
  3. Offer Resources. Give former employees access to development opportunities that will help them find a new job. For example, one company hired me to do a recorded webinar to teach former employees about writing job postings.
  4. Be The Resource. The golden rule. Treat others as you wish to be treated. It’s as simple as that.

Most importantly, remember this. A person who is leaving your company is someone who is experiencing a significant change. Be kind to them. Show gratitude for their work. Encourage them to stay in touch. The end of an employee’s role with your company, whether chosen or an economic consequence, shouldn’t be the end of your relationship with someone.