How to automate employee offboarding and still keep it human

It’s never easy when the employee-employer relationship comes to an end. Managing the offboarding process in a way that protects the business and respects the employee is challenging. 

How can HR teams maintain that balance between compliance and personalization? Can employee offboarding automation help?




v3b_Applaud_Linkedin_Ad_Offboarding Guide (1)The Ultimate Guide to Offboarding (virtual AND hybrid)
Read our guide to creating a robust offboarding experience including designing exit roadmaps, conducting meaningful exit interviews and automating the offboarding process with workflows. Read Now.



Why do you need an employee offboarding process?  

Offboarding deserves the same attention as every other part of the employee journey,” says Leah Ward, People Strategy Consultant with HR advisors Seedling Stage

A well-considered employee offboarding process: 

  • Ensures compliance
  • Avoids legal risks
  • Helps businesses understand and limit further turnover.
  • Nurtures and maintains relations with remaining employees 

It’s also good for business, as offboarding is not the end of the employee journey. In fact, one in 5 Americans who left their job during the pandemic has returned to their old company. And those who move on are more likely to be good ambassadors for the company if they’ve had a positive experience.


Of course, not every employee leaves on good terms, so effective offboarding is vital to protect the company against legal risks. The last thing you want is a disgruntled former employee to have access to sensitive information they can use to compromise the company. 

Whatever the circumstances, advises Ryan Miller, Director of Client Success at Employment BOOST, the offboarding process should be approached with empathy and respect. 

“Have a clear and consistent process in place, provide support and resources, and avoid any actions that may be perceived as disrespectful or unprofessional.” 


An employee offboarding checklist

To ensure nothing is missed, it’s a good idea to have a checklist. Here are 4 key steps to complete during employee offboarding:


Step 1: Transfer responsibilities and knowledge

☑ Set out a time frame for the handover process and clarify who is responsible for managing it.

Identify all roles and tasks to be handed over, and who will take them on.

Have a knowledge management strategy for retaining key information, so that it doesn't walk out the door with the departing employee.


Step 2: Conduct an exit interview and collect feedback 

Run through the offboarding process with the employee. 
Give them the opportunity to reflect and offer feedback - this can provide great input for reviewing and improving the company’s employee experience
Make sure to keep the communication open and respectful—especially if the departure is involuntary.


Step 3: Revoke access and permissions 

Itemise all access and permissions, from software to mobile phones. 
Detail the process and timeframe for removing access to each one. 


Step 4: Reclaim any company property

Detail whatever hardware your employees have (for example laptops, mobile phones and other equipment), and the timeframe for it to be returned or reclaimed. 
If there is equipment that the employee will be permitted to keep, set out the process for transferring ownership.


How to automate employee offboarding—and what to avoid

"By using digital tools to handle the busywork, HR teams can free up time to focus on the personal side of offboarding."


Fewer than a third of organizations automate their offboarding. A mere 5% have a fully automated employee offboarding process.  This might reflect HR leaders’ concerns about seeming bureaucratic and impersonal. 


Offboarding is sensitive,” explains Mitch Chailland, president of payroll and compensation company Canal HR, “so automation should never replace personal communication or empathy.”  

That said, automated doesn’t have to mean impersonal. In fact, by using digital tools to handle the busywork, HR teams can free up time to focus on the personal side of offboarding. 

Indeed, automating administration can even serve to diffuse any tensions, if it is seen as part of a standardized process.

Here’s are 3 ways that you can use automation to facilitate the offboarding process: 


1. Transferring roles and responsibilities 

Automatically reassigning workflows and tasks across teams can make the handover process more efficient. Automation can also be used to track the completion of compliance and data protection procedures.


2. Exit interviews and feedback

Pre-exit surveys can be used to capture key information, and give leavers a less confrontational space to express any feelings or communicate grievances. They can also help HR teams have an informed baseline for a more constructive and personal exit interview.



3. Access controls

HR teams need to be able to ensure departing employees cannot use company devices, software or access data after they leave. This is especially important for remote offboarding. Applaud's centralized access control can be customized to automatically revoke permissions for roles within workflows.


How to communicate during employee offboarding

Communicating employee offboarding can be delicate, and so it's helpful to have a communication plan in place, so that HR professionals, managers and executives can coordinate departures effectively. 


Email templates can help you to standardize communications, while still allowing space for personalization. Depending on the nature of the departure, there are a number of offboarding emails you may need to send at different stages, including:

  • Resignation acknowledgement: recognising the employee’s contribution and setting out details for the offboarding process
  • Invitation to exit interview: including schedule, details of the format and guarantee of confidentiality
  • Requests for documents and equipment: detailing items and the procedure and timeframe for return


Remember that communications are not limited to departing employees. It’s important to inform colleagues of employees’ departure professionally and sensitively. Other templates to have to hand include:

  • Retirement/resignation email: thanking the employee for their contribution and inviting staff to any farewell event
  • Handover email: informing colleagues of the change of responsibilities


In remote workspaces, it can be especially awkward to have a colleague online one day and then suddenly unreachable the next. 

“Don't forget to give the departing employee a chance to say goodbye to their team and share contact information if they choose to,” Leah Ward advises.


Keeping employee offboarding human

While offboarding is a necessary administrative process to safeguard the company, it is also an essential, and often difficult, stage of the employee experience. Striking the right balance between the procedural and the personal, between automation and engagement is crucial. 

All the HR leaders we asked about offboarding best practice had the same bottom line: keep it human. Whether managing software access controls or offering outplacement services, it’s vital to focus on the leaving employee as an individual. 

“Regardless of voluntary or involuntary separation,” says Deanna Baumgardner, President at Employers Advantage, “there is still a human on the other end of the conversation and the process.”

To discover how Applaud can help your HR teams automate and streamline your offboarding process, request a demo.



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Published May 11, 2023 / by Applaud