📫 Offboarding

Offboarding (or alighting) isn't hard, but I don't think we pay it enough attention.

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The idea of off-boarding (or, #alighting) isn't particularly new: negotiate an exit, communicate the exit, cancel user accounts, return hardware etc. I don't believe that there is as much focus on offboarding as there is around onboarding and this, frankly, is a serious problem.

There’s lots of talk about Onboarding. Wikipedia has this to say:

Onboarding, also known as organizational socialization, refers to the mechanism through which new employees acquire the necessary knowledge, skills, and behaviors to become effective organizational members and insiders.

I love this idea that carefully curating and designing a process for new starters to get up-to-speed and be better integrated into your company can bring nothing but sunshine and unicorns, create better bonds, lower attrition and more engaged staff.

But what about when someone leaves? It’s usually a short process: leave is negotiated in private (either a jump or a push), it’s communicated to the wider team, some handover, perhaps there’s an exit interview, “clean out your desk”, eat a bit of cake, say goodbye down the pub and Mondays aren’t the same every again.

For everyone else in the company.

The leaver will be enjoying the delights of the next company and their unicorn based onboarding process, but the people at the old company? Mourning the loss of an ally, a compatriot and a peer.

And this is where I wonder whether we shouldn’t be paying more attention to the people around the leaver as they work out their notice period. There are thought processes:

The leaver was happy, weren’t they? Why would they choose to leave? Maybe I should leave? Is it better elsewhere

Or maybe

Why were they sacked? Could I be sacked? Maybe I should look for another job?

Or even

Who is going to do their job? Am I doing it now? How will I know I like the new person? Will we get on? Will they be able to do everything the leaver can do?

These thoughts all lead to a risk that those around the leaver, the peers (and perhaps the reports) will be feeling adrift, unsure, unsteady, things have changed and it’s resulted in someone I like/respect/admire/fear not being a such a big part of my life anymore.

Communicating the change of status quo to the team members and wider is a step that is often missed usually for some silly or political reasons and, if someone is leaving and it isn't communicated why, how and that they're leaving with your best wishes, it will fester and people will fill in the blanks themselves.

Exit interviews, hardware return and cancelling user accounts are, for the most part, easy, reproducible and low-risk activities. What we do miss is the opportunity to help your employees grow and learn from the situation.

Explaining the process that you went through, the steps you took to try and retain the leaver and, ultimately, the decisions and actions that led to letting them go should be high on your agenda.

Offboarding an employee is an opportunity for you to engage more deeply with your remaining employees, grow trust through transparency and give them a window into how the often difficult and contentious process of someone leaving is managed with honesty, integrity and with compassion.

📪 End #post

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