Exit Formalities for Offboarding: The Employee Exit Process

Feb 26, 2020

Adios. Farewell. Sayonara.

There are lots of different ways for friends and loved ones to say goodbye, but what about employers and employees? When someone is leaving your organization, do you know the right things to say and do to give them a good sendoff that protects both your firm’s interests and theirs? We’ll explain how to follow a sound employee exit process and make sure none of the exit formalities are overlooked.

What Is an Employee Exit Process?

Simply put, an employee exit process consists of the policies and procedures (exit formalities) that are followed when an organization is offboarding an employee. The steps are essentially the same whether the employee leaves voluntarily or involuntarily.

What Is the Purpose of Exit Formalities?

Exit formalities serve worthwhile purposes for employers and employees alike. Yet 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. The same study found that following exit policies was associated with greater growth, performance, retention, and employee engagement.

But that’s not all. Following exit formalities also helps your organization to:

  • Prevent legal and security problems

  • Transfer exiting employees’ essential knowledge

  • Make improvements based on feedback from employee exit interviews

  • Maintain continuing relationships with departing employees that may encourage them to return in the future (“boomerang” employees)

Keeping the door open for boomerang employees is a trend that both employers and workers increasingly welcome. The Corporate Culture and Boomerang Employee Study found that 40 percent of employees would consider returning to a company where they previously worked, and another 15 percent have already done so. It’s a win-win for employers and employees alike.

A thorough and thoughtful exit policy also benefits the departing worker in other ways. For example, it helps smooth their transition by providing info about such things as their final paycheck, company retirement savings account, and COBRA health insurance coverage options.

Exit Formalities to Include in Your Employee Exit Process

Let’s organize the points we’ve made (and add some others) to give you a handy step-by-step list of exit formalities you can follow. (Some steps may be less relevant to your organization’s needs, so adjust accordingly.)

  1. Let everyone know who is leaving and who will take over their responsibilities.

  2. Document the departure with a letter of resignation or termination.

  3. Have the departing employee provide a list of their projects and deadlines.

  4. Have them train their replacement or other employees who will assume their duties (do it in writing if it can’t be done in person).

  5. Collect all of their company equipment such as a laptop, phone, and security badge.

  6. Change passwords and/or revoke access to systems and accounts they use.

  7. Discuss any binding agreements such as non-competes and non-disclosures.

  8. Arrange their final paycheck and any severance pay, then remove them from the payroll.

  9. Provide information about their 401(k), COBRA health insurance coverage, and other benefits.

  10. Conduct an exit interview (more on this below).

Good offboarding software can streamline your employee exit process, saving time and effort, ensuring compliance, and helping you make sure nothing falls through the cracks.

The more time and care you take with exit formalities, the better the offboarding experience will be for your employees and the better their final impression of your organization may be. That’s important since they will likely share their feelings about your firm in online reviews and by word of mouth.

Exit Interview Questions and Tips

The exit interview is one of the most important parts of the offboarding process. But why talk to employees who already have one foot out the door? What is the point of an exit interview? There are two main purposes: to help your firm benefit from the exiting employee’s experience and to help that individual be prepared to move on.

Think of the exit interview as a chance to learn things about your organization that you might never hear otherwise. A departing employee is free to say what they have seen and experienced on the job without fear of reprisal. So, they are often willing to offer frank, constructive, and insightful feedback that you can act on to improve your organization.

An exit interview is also an ideal opportunity to thank the employee for their contributions to the organization’s progress and express interest in maintaining a relationship, perhaps by inviting them to join your employee alumni network. You can also explain details about benefits, references, and other matters that will ease the employee’s transition.

Here are a few good exit interview questions to ask to help get the conversation started:

  1. Why did you begin looking for another job?

  2. What did you like the most and least about working here?

  3. What did you think of the way you were managed?

  4. What would make this organization a better place to work?

  5. Would you recommend working here to a friend? Why or why not?

Keep in mind, an exit interview may not go smoothly if an employee is leaving on negative terms. Still, listen carefully and thank them for their input.

Implementing Exit Formalities

Great offboarding doesn’t just happen because somebody made a list. Every HR professional and manager who touches any part of the employee exit process needs to be trained on what to do and how and when to do it. That includes keeping them up to date with refresher training as the organization and its exit formalities evolve over time. Develop a written plan for this, and stick to it.

Friends and Colleagues

The Greek word for goodbye is “yasou.” Indonesians say “sampai jumpa.” However you say it, bidding farewell to a colleague is never easy. Often, departing employees are more than our coworkers, they have become our friends. It’s only natural to miss them, but we still wish them well in the next steps of their journey. As you do so, a well-executed employee exit process can leave both your firm and your friends poised for a brighter future.


Kent Peterson is a writer at BambooHR. He has also created award-winning work for television and radio.

Written by: Kent Peterson

Subscribe to HR Connection

HR Connection Subscribe