Hi, Rally community! My name is Carrie Corcoran, and I’m a strategic talent attraction, Recruitment Marketing and employer branding leader experienced in driving organizational transformations and championing alignment between talent, leadership development and operations. Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about offboarding — an important stage of the employee lifecycle that’s often overlooked when it comes to employer branding.
Why is offboarding so important to your company’s employer brand? Because if done the right way, your former employees will remain advocates for your organization and your brand will flourish. Do it wrong and you risk major damage to your talent brand and reputation.
So today I want to share with you a few tips on how you can successfully infuse your employer brand into the offboarding stage so that you can ensure a smooth, seamless and positive experience for all your departing employees.
As employer branders, we have the power to impact change
As an employer branding professional, you have great power to positively affect every part of the employee lifecycle. While you may focus most of your time on attracting talent and the candidate experience, another area where you can make an impact is reviewing your offboarding practices. That’s because the offboarding process can sometimes feel cold and unempathetic and can leave a bad taste in the mouth of employees.
I’ve experienced a negative offboarding experience firsthand, more than once. The entire process gave me chills upon reflection and I strongly believe we can partner with HR to do better.
Why offboarding is key to maintaining a positive employer brand
We should all strive to provide an offboarding process that treats people with dignity and respect, whether an employee gives notice, is laid off or terminated. It’s not only the right thing to do, it also directly benefits your company’s brand, reputation and bottom line.
Keep in mind, if an employee enjoyed their tenure, including their exit experience, they could come back to you one day as a boomerang hire. These are great people to bring on board because they already know your company culture, get up to speed fast and have more experience to bring to the table the second time around.
Not only that, but your departed employees can be your best brand champions! Exiting on a positive note sends someone off with good vibes, which means they’ll be more likely to refer others for open roles, make referrals for you and post a positive review on a review site. They are your goodwill ambassadors long after they are gone.
Offboarding: What not to do
Even with the best intentions, offboarding can go wrong. Time and time again, I’ve seen employers fumble the ball here. As I mentioned previously, I’ve had my fair share of negative offboarding experiences, but I wanted to understand if this was the norm. That’s why I surveyed my LinkedIn network asking others to share their experience.
While my sample size was relatively small (364 votes), it provided good insight and showed this is definitely an area that needs more of our attention. Here are just a few of the negative experiences that my survey participants shared:
- Monica was laid off and asked to cut her own check. Ouch! Maybe that was part of her responsibility, but this could have been handled much differently.
- Scott’s salary was reduced by 25%, and his workload doubled to bully him and others into quitting so that the company was off the hook for unemployment insurance.
- Gertrude was on her honeymoon vacation when she received a phone call that she would not have a job to come back to.
*Note: Names have been changed to maintain the participants’ privacy.
There are several different reasons why an employer may behave this way — intentionally or unintentionally — when terminating an employee. Regardless, these are uncomfortable situations for all the parties involved and it’s important to remember that these are people, not transactions. And these are people who could potentially damage your brand reputation long after their employment with you ends. That’s where your skills and expertise come in!
Ways to influence the offboarding process using your employer branding powers of persuasion
While most of the offboarding process tends to fall on our HR friends, there’s a lot that we can do as employer brand practitioners to help make a positive change in this critical stage of the employee lifecycle. Here’s a few ideas:
Create a strategic communications plan and best practice guide for each type of separation, including layoffs, terminations and leaving voluntarily
- Tips in this guide should cover how to have a positive exit conversation (e.g. the manager should communicate directly — avoid small talk and be clear on stating the reason why the termination is occurring. Turn it over to HR at this point to let them talk about the specifics of the separation and allow the employee to ask questions).
- Tips on how to communicate the departure with the rest of the organization (e.g. email, Slack and include best practices and templates).
- When an employee gives notice, wish them well and thank them for their service. It’s customary for a lot of companies to end an employee’s employment on the same day. If that happens, make it as smooth as possible. Allow them to say their goodbyes and clean out their desk.
- When appropriate, do something special to celebrate the occasion, like a thank you card signed by the whole team or take it one step further by creating a thank you video.
- Provide them with a thoughtful departure gift or goodbye team lunch if it’s in your budget.
- Teach managers and team members how to write LinkedIn recommendations (as long as this is not against your social media policy).
Go beyond the legal paperwork by creating a helpful termination package that shows you care
Just as your onboarding package includes essential info for joining your company, your termination package should consist of critical information for when an employee leaves your company.
While it shouldn’t be too heavily branded or over the top “company culture rah-rah,” it should be consistent with your company values and demonstrate that you care as well as explain how you will provide support during their transition. For example, the package can include info on when they can expect their final pay, employment/career services through your EAP provider and cobra health insurance information.
Remember, don’t overlook offboarding as a critical component of your employer brand strategy and be sure to tie it back to your EVP. You will be a hero for bringing this to the forefront and making it part of your strategy. Lead by example, lead with your heart and influence managers to lead with theirs too.
And if you want to chat more about all things employer brand, employee experience and organizational change, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn!