Remote Offboarding: Key tips to terminate employees remotely

At a remote company, each step in an employee’s ‘lifecycle’ at the company holds equal importance. The lack of physical connection leads remote companies to care more for their employees. Especially at the time of departure, the lack of physical proximity requires remote companies to thoughtfully design the offboarding process.

Research by Aberdeen found that only 29 percent of organizations have a formal employee exit process. The 71 percent who don’t are missing out on important benefits. Companies with a smooth and humane offboarding process often cultivate brand ambassadors among their ex-employees. In the long run, this facilitates hiring new talent in the future and contributes to the firm’s overall competitiveness in the job market. 

While each team contributes to the offboarding experience of its team members, People Operations ensures the both onboarding and offboarding process is designed to cater to the interests of all stakeholders. You may wonder whether off-boarding an on-site employee is the same as offboarding a remote employee. Well, the answer is: Not really.The lack of “being present” makes it especially important to clearly communicate with all individuals and teams involved in an employee’s departure. Offboarding tasks can fall off the radar, based on the principle “out of sight, out of mind”. To avoid falling victim to this, following a streamlined process and off-boarding task list put together by the people operation team is a must.

In fact, offboarding remote employees should be consistent no matter the reason for their departure. It should always be managed well for employees who voluntarily depart but also for the ones you’ve decided to let go.

Here are 10 key tactics  to ensure a smooth offboarding in case of a voluntary exit

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1. Plan check-ins until their last day of work

Once you decide on a date of departure, it is important to check in with them on their transition projects and support the employee wherever possible. Regular check-ins create room to wrap things up both personal and work wise.

2. Schedule an exit interview

It’s time to gather some insight and use the learning opportunity for your business.Conduct the exit interviews with the intent to understand the employee’s journey with the company. Ideally, this lets you identify trends you can use to work on various teams and business strategies to reduce your turnover rate. In addition to a formal exit interview, make sure to provide informal feedback opportunities during their last days. Ask them for suggestions that the company can benefit from.

3. Make arrangements to recover company assets and revoke digital access

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Abide by the IT and security policies that have been set in your HR Handbook. If any assets, like laptops or phones are company property,make sure to make arrangements to recollect them. Starting the knowledge transfer well in advance lets you gradually revoke access on digital tools, so you don’t have to do it all on the last day. Maintain compliance by ensuring no data has been shared with any other accounts. On their final day, revoke the last remaining  accesses like company email and workplace communication platforms.

4. Celebrate the employee

No matter the tenure spent, no matter the reason of departure, every employee should be appreciated for their contribution and effort. Get on a video call to bid goodbye, share some good laughs with the employee.  Similarly to sending a welcome gift, it can be a nice touch to also send a personalised goodbye in form of  a gift bag and a note from the CEO. You can also display appreciation publicly by encouraging team members to write a LinkedIn recommendation for the employee that is parting.

5. Sign off with necessary documentation

Just like onboarding, offboarding also requires a checklist and completing all forms digitally. It’s time to re-emphasize all the legal causes to employees like non-compete, non-disclosure and confidentiality. Handle all insurance related benefits with care.

6. An ongoing relationship is a must

Keep in touch with your present and past employees that contributed to the growth of the company. Create alumni groups and share updates regularly.

Additional perspectives for offboarding sudden layoffs remotely

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Covid-19 continues to have an immense impact on workplaces, resulting in uncertain consequences like operational shutdowns or even large scale lay-offs done remotely. 

1. Put together an offboarding plan and create clear guidelines in preparation

In order to tackle difficult situations responsibly, a game plan must be ready to go, should the situation arise. In a remote setup, the goal is to humanize every step in the process. 

2. Treat the employee with dignity and respect

Transparency holds true even at the time of layoffs. Be gentle but honest, explain the thought process behind the layoffs – let that be cost cutting or redundancy of a specific job role or an entire department. Keep a script handy, but communicate the reasoning in a humane manner. Be ready to accept all the emotions that come with the decision. Don’t forget to thank them for their contributions. 

Additionally, have the People Operations team communicate any information about the transition process including final paychecks, severance, health insurance benefits, outplacement services or steps in filing for unemployment benefits. If need be, get on multiple zoom calls to make sure no process or questions have been left unclarified. 

3. Manage risks and uncertainties with care

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Safeguarding the company’s interests but also its (remaining) employees is management’s top responsibility during the crisis. Management, People Operations and Compliance teams should be open to re-considering existing practices. For example, how the company might look at handling existing non-compete and non-disclosure agreements along with how this information will be communicated to employees. When the time comes for employees to depart, have a process in place for collecting company technology and discontinuing employee data access like any other remote off-boarding process.

4. Comply with  mandatory notice periods according to local laws

Carlos Ruiz, CEO of Portas Global, a professional employer organisation, advises ”You must abide by the statutory notice period set by employment law in that specific country or as per the employee’s employment contract, whichever is greater. The employee’s final day of work will be at the end of the statutory notice period, but in some circumstances, you will be able to ask the employee to go on ‘Garden Leave’ until their final day”. 

Working with a transition plan can be less painful for an employee and also be beneficial to your business by allowing for a clean knowledge transfer, as well as providing customers a new point of contact. Your employees’ willingness to contribute to this process clearly depends on their past experience at the company, but also on how you deliver the layoff. 

A positive offboarding experience will give employees a proper thank you for their contributions, the information they need about pay and benefits and allow them to leave the organization with the respect they deserve. It could also lead them to rejoin the company when the business shapes better. 

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