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Better employee offboarding is your secret weapon for engagement

Linn Cedergårdh
Date Published:
February 2023
minute read
Better employee offboarding is your secret weapon for engagement

Jack loves your organisation. He’s a vibrant contributor to your culture, a helpful, friendly colleague, and an important part of your success story. But after several years, he’s ready for a change.

What now?

For many businesses, the unfortunate answer is that Jack suddenly becomes a persona non grata. His accesses and equipment are unceremoniously revoked; he’s transitioned away from critical projects and clients; perhaps he’s not even thanked for his contributions.    

So instead of leaving feeling grateful and positive about your organisation, Jack feels disappointed; let down. Like he meant nothing to you all along.

That’s a shoddy last impression for departing employees. And given that more UK employees are leaving their jobs than ever, it’s a problem worth getting a handle on.

Here’s why better employee offboarding matters and how to fix it. One simple change can make a huge difference.

What is employee offboarding?

Employee offboarding is the process of supporting an employee to leave their role or company, aiming to make the transition as smooth as possible for all sides.

Offboarding happens whenever any employee moves on, regardless of their exit reason. Offboarding can involve various facets, like:

• Recovering company equipment

• Closing log-ins and revoking digital access

• Finalising HR and employment paperwork

• Removing employee info from company materials

• Handing over projects and transferring knowledge

• Conducting exit interviews

• Issuing offboarding surveys

• Thanking employees for their service

• Leaving drinks 🍻

When most organisations think about offboarding, it’s the admin and compliance elements that typically get the most attention. Understandably, given the high costs of getting this stuff wrong.

In the UK, for example, recent research shows a direct correlation between increased turnover during the Great Resignation and data exposure through theft and leaks. In the first half of 2021, there was a 61% increase in data exposure events.

But offboarding shouldn’t be purely an exercise in risk management, and that’s how many organisations still treat it.

Employee engagement and wellbeing doesn’t stop mattering at this final stage of the employee lifecycle. These latter elements—exit interviews, offboarding surveys, leaving drinks, and so on—are just as important as protecting the business from data breach risks and taking back equipment. Let’s talk about why.

Why does employee engagement matter during offboarding?

You never forget a first impression, as the adage goes. But you don’t forget a final impression either.

No matter how great an employee’s experience has been throughout their tenure, a negative offboarding experience can sour the relationship—and sends a strong message to your remaining employees. If you genuinely care about building a culture that values and empowers your people, offboarding must be a positive experience. Not a punitive one.

That matters for a heap of reasons.

Protect your employer brand. Former employees can be a major contributor to your reputation, both through reviews and word-of-mouth. Great offboarding turns your former employees into ambassadors, not detractors.  

Get referrals. Happy former employees can become a great source for referrals – and a great referrals channel can protect the business from recruitment turbulence, becoming a robust and reliable source of hire. Plus research shows 45% of people hired through referrals stay with the company for more than four years, so it’s a two-pronged attack against turnover.

Safeguard team morale. Exiting employees still have a big impact on the people around them. Ensuring offboarding delivers a positive experience helps mitigate turnover’s potential impact on morale.

Smooth project handovers. One of the biggest costs of turnover is the disruption to projects and lost intellectual capital. A positive offboarding experience can help both go smoothly.  

Maintain productivity. When departing employees work notice on good terms, they’re more invested in completing projects successfully. And there’s less disruption for everyone around them too. Turnover is a fact of life: ensuring the exit process goes smoothly makes good business sense.

Protect client loyalty. In many businesses, client loyalty hinges more on a relationship with an individual employee than the business as a whole. When employees leave on good terms, they’re less likely to incite clients to follow them out the door.

Rehire great people. Most organisations today recognise the importance of culture fit for successful recruitment. Who’s a better fit than someone who was once a part of that culture? ‘Boomerang’ hiring has become increasingly common, seeing organisations rehiring former employees who’ve left on good terms, built their experience elsewhere, then returned to add more value.

Illuminate engagement blind spots. When an employee chooses to leave, they bring insights you can’t get from employees who are choosing to stay. Why are they leaving? What push and pull factors contributed? Gathering these insights can help you understand what your organisation can do to strengthen your employee value proposition and guard against future turnover.

Strengthen your people-first culture. Your people are watching how you treat their departing peers. How you treat employees when they’re not ‘useful’ to you anymore sends a clear message about the organisation’s ethos and priorities. One that can strengthen or undermine the culture you want to build.

Handling offboarding effectively might have been less important, back in a world where loyalty was a tacit condition of employment. But in today’s world, almost every organisation has a steady stream of outgoing employees.

We were talking to CEO of Elliott Scott HR, Stuart Elliot, recently at our Digital Lunch & Learn session on ‘The power of effective onboarding and offboarding’. According to Stuart, the talent market is uniquely hot right now, with EMEA showing an 100% increase in open job vacancies compared to last year.

This extreme buoyancy naturally correlates to higher turnover, as employees evaluate their options on the market. And that’s especially true given the cost-of-living crisis. Recent research found almost half of workers who switch jobs enjoy a 10% pay increase, versus an inflation-adjusted loss of 2% for workers who stayed put.

The upshot is, turnover is an inevitability. That’s not to say you can’t bring turnover down with the right tools, of course. Our clients report an average 30% reduction in turnover after one year – but even Winningtemp can’t give you zero churn.

But turnover doesn’t need to be inevitably bad. Taking an intentional and positive approach to employee offboarding can turn your exits into opportunities.

What makes a great offboarding survey?

A great offboarding survey is a critical piece of the offboarding puzzle. It sets the tone of an employee’s final weeks with you, helping your departing people feel heard while collecting valuable insights you can’t get anywhere else. Even better, it does all this automatically (or it should do, if you’re using the right platform 👀).

Done right, a good offboarding survey can even replace an exit interview. Exit interviews do add value and ideally should work hand-in-hand with offboarding surveys, to gather deeper qualitative insights. But exit interviews often fall by the wayside because the HR team are spread too thin. In that case, a good offboarding survey can be a worthy replacement – provided it asks the right questions.

A good offboarding survey should get a deeper perspective on your culture, leadership, and engagement trends. It should also be anonymous, to encourage complete honesty from leaving employees (much more than you’ll likely get during exit interviews). And the survey itself must be intuitive and engaging, to encourage employees to participate.

Those boxes ticked, a great offboarding survey should also roll insights up into reports effortlessly, so the valuable data you get translates into meaningful, actionable insight for the business. Put straight into the hands of the people who matter.

Employee listening matters across the employee lifecycle

To build a culture that authentically values people, employee listening should happen across the end-to-end employee lifecycle—not stopping as soon as an employee is leaving.

Easy automated offboarding surveys are a simple change that can make massive strides in improving your offboarding process. So exiting employees have a positive, engaging experience, and you get critical insights that help the organisation grow.

Learn what other functionality matters when choosing an employee experience platform.  Or discover how Winningtemp’s employee experience platform boosts engagement across the whole employee lifecycle, with this two minute demo.‍‍

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Linn Cedergårdh
About the Author
About the Author
About the Author
Om författaren
Linn Cedergårdh
With a degree in Behavioural Science and over 10 years of experience in HR and recruitment, Linn joined Winningtemp in 2021 as a Talent Acquisition Manager and is responsible for sourcing candidates, the onboarding process and employer branding. This ties in with her passion for recruitment and talent acquisition, as Linn’s aim is to elevate the candidate experience and ultimately make employees feel proud about working at Winningtemp. She also enjoys networking within recruitment, and she’s a self-proclaimed nerd when it comes to recruitment trends and being up to date with the latest research within employer branding and talent acquisition.

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