How to manage onboarding is a popular theme (although it has to be said that most of the time, onboardings aren't actually managed all that well). However, very little is said about its alter-ego, offboarding. It is often “that great forgotten one” in the HR world. Probably because until one comes to the kitchen because one is hungry, you probably haven't made him anything to eat at that point. That's when you hastily grab a few pots and pans, thinking you can cook in a couple of days what you haven't done in months. Or years. And time doesn't play in your favour: the law in Spain gives you 15 days to get everything ready and signed off.
Following a tweet in which Manfred was mentioned some time ago, we decided to publish a post about good practices, feelings, and learnings when it comes to offboarding. We invited companies, professionals, and industry experts to talk to us about the offboarding process in order for us to put ourselves in the shoes of all parties involved.
Offboardings from the point of view of the person leaving
To analyze how the person who leaves a company experiences an offboarding process, we invited Juan Nieto García to come and talk to us. Juan has lived through several of them, for different reasons and in very different ways, so he has a very knowledgeable point of view on the subject.
In fact, he tells us that experiencing both voluntary and involuntary offboardings helped him a lot to improve when it was his turn to manage them as a manager. To empathize closely with the person who had to leave, either on their own accord or following a dismissal. “I was made redundant at the age of 45, and I was very afraid, because I was concerned about how quickly and easily I could find another job ”.
One of the things he found during his last few days in the company was that he was unaware of many of the processes he had to go through. For instance, registering for unemployment Afterwards, he felt his own personal experience could be of help to more people, so Juan started writing entretrabajos.com, a blog in which he opened up about and documented his own experience.
As an alternative to the negative feeling that may naturally come with an offboarding process depending on the circumstances, it should be kept in mind that the departure of a person is not always caused by a previous complicated situation. Or, that it should be interpreted as a betrayal by the party that has proactively made the decision to cease the professional relationship. Juan, for example, explains to us that one of the most strange departures to navigate in his previous jobs before joining Manfred was in one instance when he was not actively looking for a new job. However, a project came along that he had always wanted to work on. At the time, there was absolutely no problem with the job he was in. “They had treated me phenomenally until then, but I had a hard time communicating that. The good relationship we had formed over my time there made them very happy for me and the new professional challenge I was taking on. They knew I was doing it because it was a very good opportunity”.
As for what he thinks is important on the employee's side, Juan believes that it is the importance of leaving in a respectful cordial manner with the company and colleagues.
On the company's side, he says it is critical that they be aware of the risks involved in an employee leaving. The moment a person decides to leave, he or she is already posing a certain risk to the company. For this reason, access to tools should be limited as soon as the request to leave has been communicated, and completely shut down once the person is out of the company. In addition, in commercial roles or in roles who have contact with suppliers, customers or collaborators, it is important to agree on a message and communicate it in an appropriate manner, so that the thread is not lost or a wall of opacity is created.
And finally, if you know who is going to cover the responsibilities of the person who is leaving, make sure that they do a proper handover as far in advance as possible. This allows for an accurate transfer of knowledge. “And if you tend to carry out an exit interview, it is critical that it be with an impartial third party, someone with whom there is transparent and open communication, but in an absolutely confidential manner. Otherwise, the interview is pretty useless”.
Indeed always remember this: people may come back. “These things happen. If you've had a person on the team who was valuable, the best thing you can do is let them know that you will do your best to keep the doors (or a small window) open for them to come back should they decide to in the future”. Not only that, but they may even become a customer in the future. It's a small tech world out there! Therefore, it is best if the departure of a person is oriented positively on both sides, because the relationship may not end the day the person walks out the company door.
Offboardings from the point of view of the company
The Corunet by Sngular Case
We asked our Galician cousins from Corunet by Sngular, represented by Laura Argüelles and Elodie Garrido from the “People Team”, how they organize themselves in this regard. They started their current offboarding process about two years ago, although the process has evolved a lot since then thanks to experience gained and new ways to deal with any problems they have faced, or one that they have been able to detect and avoid.
The interesting thing is how they did it: they set up a project to review the life cycle of a person in Corunet. So, they reviewed how to improve the interaction with each team member at each point in the flow, from which came the carefully-thought out offboarding process they have today. Interesting fact: they have it all documented in Notion, public and accessible to everyone. What does their offboarding process currently consist of? It mostly consists of the following three to four key steps:
- When the person communicates their decision to leave the company, the manager is informed first. The People Team then reviews the corresponding administrative information (remaining days of annual leave, equipment in possession, liquidation, settlement…) and provides the employee with the documentation to sign off.
- On the last day that the person is due to work, they conduct an exit interview between 30–60 minutes. This interview has been very useful for them to extract concrete actions: What factors lead someone to make the decision to leave? What unhelpful patterns are repeated? What can be done about it? They let Manfred take a peak at some of the questions: they discuss the project the person was in, the company he/she was working with… Some examples of interesting questions that stood out for us are:
- What do you think could bring you back to Corunet in the next 3 years?
- What became more difficult for you overtime in your role?
- What do you want to make sure your job always has wherever you go?
- Talk to us about a colleague that you really enjoyed working with and why (many ask this, and it's a nice recognition).
On the day of the person's departure, David and Daniel, co-founders of Corunet, send a message to the whole team to inform them, so that colleagues can take part in saying goodbye and wish the person well.
Alea Soluciones' Farewell Retrospectives
As soon as we mentioned that we wanted to do this post, we were recommended to contact Alea Soluciones to ask them about “farewell retrospectives”. It is a tool to close a cycle with the person who is leaving, and with those who stay, in a positive way.
Alberto de la Cruz has been part of their Development-Systems team for over 10 years which is made up of approximately 13 people. He confirms that this offboarding process is always done without fail, as long as the person who is leaving wants to do it of course. They have had to adapt it a little from what it was when they documented it on Medium, as the team is currently working 100% remotely, though, due to their “one remote, all remote” philosophy.
What kind of things do they talk about and look at in retrospective? Among many others, they analyze the gap the person who is moving on leaves with the company and the team, not only on a professional level but also on a personal one. In addition, they have this little internal ritual where the person who leaves the company must leave three Easter eggs: three actions that he or she would like to see happen in Alea Soluciones. They also do more technical sessions of deeper analysis of what needs may arise.
When asked if these departure ceremonies are useful internally, i.e. if they are useful for making decisions,Alberto was crystal clear in his answer: “Yes, they are. It is a good time to reflect on the team: where we are and here we should push for improvement…. For example, at the time, we made the decision to prioritize the management of the technical debt we had. This is, of course, a somewhat partial analysis, which is complemented by the normal retrospectives, in which ideas for change are formally put forward. There is total freedom to do so".
We were intrigued to know if this process is for special cases only, or whether it is done for everyone who leaves the company, regardless of how long they have been there. “It is done in the same way for everyone” they confirmed. “We have had cases of people leaving after 6 months to 1 year, and it has been done for them too, because in Alea we always put the person first. As long as the person wants to do that retrospective that is. It's something that involves a lot of communication, and we always ask before putting the motors in motion”.
Offboardings from the point of view of the industry expert
As he himself points out, “an offboarding process is completely different from an onboarding one”. An onboarding can be done at scale. You can follow a one-size-fits-all method, even if everyone comes along with a different starting base: you can have videos, documentation… However, after interviewing many companies and people, he has seen that it tends to be reduced to an exit interview and little more than that, which he considers to be a positive step, but he believes that it should be analyzed individually, as different needs will arise throughout the process.
However, there are numerous points that can be applied in different cases. The first is to establish very well the expectations and deadlines: that it is clear what is going to happen from that moment on. “There is often a recurring bad habit in thinking that the person who is leaving will be working until the very last minute. No, the person who leaves, will be leaving imminently. So it's not practical to count on them for the duration of the offboarding, especially for the teammates who are staying on. If you leave and keep making decisions, you are not going to deal with the consequences on those decisions, their results, but your colleagues will. In fact, the company must understand that from the moment a person knows they are leaving, it is impossible to expect the same level of productivity from them”.
On the other hand, it is necessary to review the person's role and responsibilities, as it is likely that it has nothing to do with what he or she was doing when he or she joined. Here are some examples of questions: What are you currently working on? What does your day-to-day life consist of? From there, an assessment can be made of what is to be delegated and to whom, what projects should be slowed down or delayed, what kind of profile should be looked for (either internally or externally)… In case that person manages teams, or coordinates areas of work with others teammates, it should be evaluated what happens with those links,and manage those people also too. This is the main reason why the offboarding of executive roles tends to last much longer: they tend to have many implications.
You have to keep in mind that an exit is going to affect the rest of the team and the dynamics of the company. It tends to increase the workload, unless there is an immediate replacement, which is very rare. It is very important to make sure that the departure will not negatively impact either the professional progress of affected teammates or their motivation and well-being. Finally and of course, it is indispensable to involve the Support team, TI. They are key in making sure that the offboarding is closed within the legal window, not later.
Roberto closes the call with a piece of advice that will remain engraved in our minds: “It's all very well-and-good to do a good offboarding for the company, but what is more relevant is the people with whom you have shared that time, that work. And beyond that: it's relevant to yourself. You owe it to yourself, to yourself, to have a way out”. To close that chapter of your life, and to do it quietly, calmly, with the knowledget that you have done the best you could with what was in your hands at the time.