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Saynoara: Why Offboarding is A Million Dollar Opportunity

Leaving a job is hard. I know, I just did it.

There’s the emotional side – the part where you feel like maybe you’re letting people down. You’re angry you stayed so long. Frustrated with the company. Bored. Whatever the reason, you’ve decided to quit your job and that takes a lot of thinking and anticipation before it ever comes up.

Then there’s the tangible side – the paycheck, the connections, the bonus etc. All the things that make people stay in jobs longer than they should have or that they use as a justification for staying one more year, one more month, or even just one more week.

One thing that’s constant no matter how you’re feeling when you leave a job: offboarding is usually the most terrible experience in the employee lifecycle.

From the moment you give notice, you’re no longer “worth the time” and become part of a checklist experience that leaves most people with a terrible taste in their mouth. I mean, how could it not? People stop responding to your emails. They don’t offer instruction. Or worse, they offer cold, scripted instructions that offer only a small percentage of the details you actually need to walk away from that job.

The accepted approach to offboarding leaves an enormous opportunity on the table.

Think about it – What do people who just quit their job do? Talk. Well, they drink then talk but it’s loud and believe me, their reach is more broad and impactful than any boosted Facebook post. People care more about reviews from people they know today than ever before. In fact, 69% would not take a job with a company that had a bad reputation, even if they were unemployed! (Corporate Responsibility Magazine / Allegis Group Services Study, August 2012) So what story do you want those tipsy ex-employees to tell?

Yet, a search for “offboarding best practices” or simple “offboarding” brings up no relevant results.  Instead, it pulls up technology and ideas from the typical first, worst experience with a company – onboarding. You know those days. The ones before you worked 7am to 7pm every day. When you had no laptop, no e-mail and no phone at your open office desk. I’ve been there and I can imagine it’s similar to the feeling a zoo animal has on their first day behind the railings.

Onboarding is typically the second circle of hell. That’s why companies stand out so much when they do something as simple as make a tech request before the day you arrive or leave some t-shirts on your desk. It’s really not *that* hard yet there’s an entire product suite dedicated to making it easy.

Offboarding hasn’t found that same connection with HR tech vendors. I’m still on the hunt for a technology that manages the offboarding experience well because I’m confident that it represents one of the biggest opportunities we can take advantage of, for a few reasons.

Missed Opportunities in Offboarding

  1. Opportunity For Referrals – If someone is leaving for a better opportunity, there’s no better time to ask if they know someone who’s equally as qualified and talented. Chances are likely they do – or they have a recommendation on the team for promotion.
  2. Identifying Boomerangs – If someone is willing to come back, now is the time to put the idea in their mind that they’re welcome.
  3. Reputation & Brand Management – That whole drinking and talking thing. Plus, there’s this little site called Glassdoor. Don’t give them more fodder for a bad review by creating a bad experience when they exit.
  4. Growth and Learning – People will be more honest when they have nothing to lose. When they’re on their way out, that’s exactly how they feel. Create ways for them to speak up. This is where you can identify issues people might be hesitant to share due to perceived (or real) retaliation. Bad shit happens in companies. (See the #MeToo movement.) Yet, it took a mass pop culture movement to get people to speak up. Why?

The one thing all the tech in the world can’t fix? People acting poorly. Regardless of a tech solution or an “initiative,” I hope we all can just take a moment to recognize that change is hard on people – no matter the motivation.

No matter what, be kind.

Katrina Kibben

Katrina Kibben is the Founder & Principal Consultant of Three Ears Media. For most of Katrina's career, she has been a marketer living in a recruiter's world - listening to both sides of the talent equation to understand the real issues and find solutions for engaging and hiring better people. Today, she uses her technical marketing know-how and way with words to help both established and emerging brands develop and deliver content that fuels smart recruitment marketing that makes the right people apply. Katrina has written for Monster.com, HR.com, RecruitingDaily and many other digital publications. She is a recognized leader in recruiting and employer branding who speaks regularly at conferences around the world.

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