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Employee Offboarding: Best Practices, Tips, and a Step-by-Step Guide

Your guide to understanding and conducting a meaningful offboarding process when an employee leaves

Danielle M. Jones, Esq.
HR consultant with 10 years' experience in people management, employee development, and business growth
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Employee offboarding is a significant yet often overlooked aspect of the human resources management process. It encompasses the systematic approach through which an employee exits an organization, either due to resignation, termination, or retirement.

In an era where employee experience is paramount, offboarding is not merely a final administrative task; it is a strategic procedure that has far-reaching implications. Done right, effective offboarding can protect the company's reputation, maintain alumni networks for future rehires, and ensure compliance with labor laws.

In This Article

Parting with Employees on Good Terms Matters

Often, when we think of employee transitions, our minds default to onboarding—the process of integrating a new employee into a company.

Offboarding is equally vital in the employee life cycle. While onboarding sets the tone for an employee’s journey in a company, offboarding marks the final touchpoint between the employee and the organization. It is the organization’s chance to leave a lasting positive impression, one that could translate into strong employer branding and a network of brand ambassadors in former employees. The harmonization of both onboarding and offboarding is essential for maintaining a consistent and positive employee experience from start to finish.

Employee offboarding is a structured protocol that typically involves various steps, such as exit interviews, knowledge transfer sessions, and the return of company property. It ensures that employees leave the company in a manner that is both respectful and organized.

Importantly, it provides an opportunity for the company to gain insightful feedback, which can be instrumental in improving future employee relations and refining organizational processes. A thoughtful offboarding process signifies a company’s commitment to its people, regardless of where they are in their career journey with the organization.

A departing employee greeting her co-workers in a friendly manner as she packs up her desk on her last day of employment

What is Employee Offboarding?

Offboarding is the structured process through which an employee exits an organization, marking the formal separation between the employee and the employer. The offboarding process, also known as exit management, refers to the formal procedures and tasks that guide an employee's exit from an organization.

A purposeful offboarding process is conducted systematically and professionally, allowing for the seamless transition of responsibilities and safeguarding company assets and information. Offboarding generally involves tasks such as the return of company property, exit interviews, and the completion of necessary documentation.

Offboarding applies in various scenarios, reflecting the different circumstances under which an employment relationship might end. These include:

  • Retirement: Where an employee ends their professional career
  • Resignation: Where an employee voluntarily leaves the organization
  • Termination: Where the employer ends the employment relationship; and
  • Other situations: Such as mutual agreements, layoffs, or contract expiration

Each scenario has its unique aspects, but a standard offboarding process helps to maintain clarity and fairness.

The Difference Between Employee Onboarding and Offboarding

In contrast to offboarding, onboarding is the process of integrating a new employee into a company, and it is equally critical. A good employee onboarding process is essential to creating positive first impressions which set the tone for the employee’s entire tenure at the company.

Effective onboarding fosters initial employee engagement, making the employee feel valued and a part of the team from day one. Furthermore, a robust onboarding process has a significant impact on retention rates. Employees are more likely to stay with a company where they had a smooth and welcoming start, reducing turnover costs for the business.

Lastly, the onboarding process plays a crucial role in setting performance and culture expectations. It provides new hires with a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities and familiarizes them with the company’s values, norms, and standards, ensuring that they align with and contribute positively to the company’s culture from the onset.

Benefits of a Good Employee Offboarding Process

When an employee departs, it’s essential that businesses handle the transition smoothly and professionally through a comprehensive offboarding process. The benefits of this include data protection, a preserved employer brand, and safeguarding the morale of remaining employees,

Below are key reasons why a good employee offboarding process is indispensable for any forward-thinking business:

Protecting Sensitive Information:

Employees, particularly those in critical positions, have access to a wealth of company data. A structured offboarding process ensures that access to this sensitive information is revoked in a timely and secure manner.

This involves deactivating accounts and ensuring the safe return of company equipment and company assets (computers, mobile phones, etc.), thereby safeguarding intellectual property and reducing the risk of data leaks or breaches.

Maintaining a Positive Brand Image:

How a company treats its departing employees speaks volumes about its culture and ethics. A respectful and thoughtful offboarding process can help preserve the company's reputation.

Legal Compliance:

A standardized offboarding procedure ensures that all legal requirements are met, reducing the risk of compliance issues or potential litigation. For instance, final paychecks, benefits, and employment termination documents must all be handled correctly and promptly to avoid legal complications.

Knowledge Transfer

When an employee leaves, they take with them a significant amount of institutional knowledge. A proper offboarding process includes a plan for transferring this knowledge to other team members, which is crucial for minimizing disruptions to business operations.

Feedback and Improvement:

Exit interviews, a key component of the offboarding process, provide invaluable insights into the work environment and can shed light on areas where the company can improve.

Structured time to sit down with an outgoing employee and ask meaningful exit interview questions provides clarity on why they are moving away from the company, where their employee experience was lacking, and what the company should focus on to better support existing employees. This feedback can be instrumental in refining company culture, improving processes, and reducing future turnover.

Alumni Network

Former employees can become valuable brand ambassadors, clients, or even boomerang employees who return to the company at a later stage. A good offboarding process can foster a positive relationship with these individuals, creating a potential pool of talent and networking opportunities.


The costs associated with employee turnover can be substantial. A streamlined offboarding process helps to reduce these costs by ensuring that the exit is managed in an organized and efficient manner, thereby saving time and resources.

In addition, the knowledge of employee experience derived from an exit interview helps to curb costly future turnover.

Emotional Well-being of Remaining Staff

Seeing a colleague leave can be unsettling for remaining employees. A transparent and respectful offboarding process can help to maintain morale and preserve a positive last impression among parting co-workers. Facilitating a respectful parting of ways shows that the company cares for its employees until the very end of their tenure.

In an age where talent is a key differentiator for businesses, the offboarding process is as critical as onboarding. Companies that understand this are more likely to thrive in today's competitive and ever-changing business landscape.

A human resources professional reviewing an employment contract to confirm the terms of resignation and the requirements of an employee offboarding process.

Your Employee Offboarding Checklist

Offboarding is a significant part of the employee lifecycle. An effective offboarding process not only protects the company’s interests but also fosters a lasting, positive relationship with former employees. It is essential for organizations to follow a structured and comprehensive offboarding process to ensure a smooth and respectful transition.

Performing Structured Exit Interviews and Handovers

Conducting exit interviews is a crucial step when an employee is leaving the organization. These interviews provide valuable insights into the employee’s experience, helping the company to identify its strengths and areas for improvement.

Exit interviews can also offer an opportunity to understand the reasons behind an employee's departure, which can inform future retention strategies.

Your to-do list:

  • Schedule an exit interview
  • Set a list of exit interview questions

Data Security Procedures

Ensuring security is a fundamental step in the exit process. Immediately revoking access to company data and systems helps to safeguard sensitive information. This involves deactivating email accounts, retrieving company-owned devices, and revoking access to databases and internal networks, thereby reducing the risk of unauthorized access or data breaches.

Your to-do list:

  • Set a date for the return of company property
  • Communicate with IT about revoking digital access by their last day
  • Knowledge transfer planning and timeline
  • Revoke access to any restricted areas

Prompt Settling of Any Pending Remuneration

Providing final compensation and benefits clearly and promptly is not only a matter of legal compliance but also a gesture of goodwill.

This includes paying over the employee’s final salary, unused vacation pay, severance packages, and the continuation of certain benefits. Clear communication regarding these payments, and prompt issuance, can greatly reduce potential conflicts and ease the transition for the departing employee.

Your to-do list:

  • Inform payroll and finance of the employee’s departure
  • Financial settlements (final paycheck, benefits, etc.)
  • Finalizing paperwork (tax forms, benefits documents)

Following Contractual and Legal Compliance

Compliance with legal and regulatory requirements during the exit process is non-negotiable.

This includes following rules related to notice periods, final pay, and benefits, and ensuring that the exit process does not violate anti-discrimination laws. Diligence in this area protects the company from potential legal disputes and maintains its reputation as a responsible employer.

Your to-do list:

  • Get formal notice of resignation or acceptance of termination documentation from the employee
  • Follow standard exit procedures regarding expense accounts or access to perks

Employee Offboarding Process: A Step-By-Step Guide

Done effectively, offboarding ensures a smooth transition for the employee and the organization alike. Here is a comprehensive step-by-step guide to an effective offboarding process:

Step 1: Initiate the Offboarding Process

Upon receiving a resignation letter or deciding to terminate an employee, immediately inform the relevant departments, including HR and the employee’s manager. 

Begin the process as per your company’s policy and within legal boundaries.

Step 2: Conduct an Exit Interview

Schedule and conduct an exit interview with the departing employee.

Aim to understand their reasons for leaving and solicit feedback on their experience with the company.

Step 3: Communicate the Departure

Inform the rest of the organization about the employee’s departure, including the effective date. Be sure this communication is respectful and professional.

Step 4: Re-assign Responsibilities

Collaborate with the departing employee and their manager to transition responsibilities to another staff member or team.

Document all necessary processes and handover information clearly.

Step 5: Secure Company Assets

Ensure the employee returns all company property, including ID badges, laptops, and mobile devices.

Reclaim access keys, company credit cards, and other physical assets.

Step 6: Revoke Access

Collaborate with the IT department to deactivate the departing employee’s access to company systems, emails, and internal networks.

Remove them from company databases, CRM systems, and project management tools.

Step 7: Administer Final Paycheck and Benefits

Calculate and provide the final paycheck, including any unused paid time off, bonuses, or commission payments.

Explain the status of benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, and stock options.

Step 8: Conduct Legal and Compliance Checks

Ensure that all legal and contractual obligations have been met, including the signing of Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) or Non-Compete Agreements if applicable.

Confirm that the employee has no pending obligations, like expense reports.

Step 9: Update Company Records

Officially terminate the employee’s status in HR records.

Update the organization chart and staff directories to reflect the departure.

Step 10: Conduct a Knowledge Transfer Session

Arrange for the departing employee to train or brief their successor on specific job responsibilities, ongoing projects, and best practices.

Step 11: Express Appreciation

Regardless of the circumstances of the departure, thank the employee for their contributions.

Consider conducting a farewell gathering or sending a parting gift as a gesture of goodwill.

Step 12: Stay In Touch

Invite the departing employee to stay connected through alumni networks or social media platforms.

This fosters a positive relationship, which could be beneficial for future networking or re-hiring.

A human resources professional uses software to generate an employee onboarding workflow and offboarding checklist.

Can Employee Onboarding Software Also Automate Offboarding Processes?

Onboarding software, initially designed to integrate new hires into a company, can be used as HR tech throughout the employee lifecycle.

  • First, these tools often include customizable checklists, which can be invaluable when it's time to manage the various tasks associated with an employee's departure.
  • Second, onboarding software typically incorporates workflow management capabilities. These can be adapted for offboarding, allowing for a structured, step-by-step process that ensures no key actions are missed.
  • Third, many onboarding tools are equipped with document management features, facilitating secure storage, and easy retrieval of key documents such as non-disclosure agreements or exit interview transcripts.

Automation, a core functionality of most onboarding software, plays a pivotal role in streamlining the offboarding process and reducing errors. Automated workflows ensure that tasks are delegated to the appropriate departments in a timely manner. This reduces the risk of delays and ensures compliance with company policies and legal requirements.

Moreover, automation significantly reduces the chance of human errors, which can be particularly costly during offboarding. For instance, automation can prevent security risks by ensuring that an employee’s access to company systems is revoked promptly upon departure.

Do’s and Don’ts of Employee Offboarding

The process of offboarding is as critical as onboarding, often marking a lasting impression on departing employees and setting the tone for their future relationships with the company. Here are some do’s and don’ts to consider:


  • Do treat the departing employee with respect. Regardless of the circumstances of their departure, every employee deserves to be treated with kindness and professionalism. This reinforces the company's values and may lead to positive future interactions.
  • Do communicate the departure to the rest of the team in a professional manner. Timely and tactful communication avoids the spread of rumors and sets the tone for how the transition is handled. Ensure this is done in accordance with the wishes of the departing employee, as far as possible.
  • Do use the offboarding process to gain insights (exit interview). Conducting a thoughtful exit interview allows the company to gather valuable feedback. This can shed light on areas that need improvement, as well as highlight strengths the company should continue to nurture.


  • Don't burn bridges with a departing employee. The professional world is smaller than we think. Departing employees can become clients, vendors, or even return as ‘boomerang’ employees. Maintaining a positive relationship is beneficial for both parties.
  • Don’t neglect the necessary paperwork and legal obligations. Offboarding isn’t just a matter of saying goodbye; it’s a process that involves legalities. Ensure all the necessary documents are completed and that both parties are clear on the terms of the departure.
  • Don’t leave the offboarding process to the last minute. A well-planned offboarding process shows that you value your employees until the very end. Start planning as soon as you know an employee is leaving to ensure a smooth and respectful transition.

An effective offboarding process is respectful, clear, and timely. Following these dos and don’ts can help ensure a positive and professional offboarding experience for all involved parties.


The way a company ends its relationship with an employee is just as significant as how it begins. A well-managed offboarding process provides a valuable opportunity for employers to glean insights from exiting employees, allowing for critical feedback that can be used to improve the organization. It also helps to ensure that the departure is conducted in a professional and respectful manner, reducing potential legal risks and allowing for a smooth transition of roles and responsibilities.

Moreover, businesses should view offboarding not as a mere formality, but as a strategic tool for ongoing improvement. A well-designed offboarding process can enable companies to maintain a strong employer brand. In an era where company reviews on platforms like Glassdoor are highly influential, the impressions that departing employees leave with can significantly impact a company's reputation. A positive offboarding experience can lead to alumni who are more likely to refer top talent, rejoin the company in the future, or at least speak well of their time there.

Danielle M. Jones, Esq.
HR consultant with 10 years' experience in people management, employee development, and business growth
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Danielle Jones is an attorney, author, people systems expert, and HR consultant based in Phoenix, Arizona.

Danielle is CEO of Pinnacle Consulting Services, which offers fractional Chief People Officer and Head of People services to small and growing businesses nationwide. She has been a people leader for over ten years and a business owner for over six years, with executive experience internationally.

Reach out to Danielle for support in developing your employees and growing your business here.

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