How to Create the Offboarding Plan You Needed Yesterday

Last verified Aug 18, 2022

When an employee leaves a company, it’s more than just losing a project lead or a coffee break buddy. There’s institutional knowledge, expertise, and closely built relationships walking out the door. If companies aren’t prepared for departures, they can easily find themselves in a tough spot. 

We know that HR, management, and other departments are already busy enough with current employees. Do you really need to sink any more time or planning into someone that’s on the way out?

Watson from Sherlock holding a cat and saying "Absolutely"
We're 100% with Watson here

Every employee matters, and that includes the ones that are already prepping for life after your company. Here’s what you’re missing out on by neglecting to have an offboarding plan. 

Add structure to a famously structureless time

The last few weeks of employment tend to be an awkward, limbo-esq time where people don’t want to get involved in anything big, but they also still need to find a way to occupy their time. Instead of spending their last days sharing valuable knowledge, their hours are spent online window shopping and posting on Reddit. 

Offboarding experiences that center around knowledge sharing allow exiting employees to be productive and also help set remaining employees up for success. Nobody will have to spend that time twiddling their thumbs or dreading the first day without their co-worker. This gives everyone the time they need to prepare for what’s next. 

Get notes for improvement

Knowledge sharing should go both ways during offboarding. Exiting employees won’t just get a chance to share their knowledge with existing employees. It also allows you to learn more about the employee experience.

If you’ve been looking for honest feedback, look no further than the person that’s on their way out. Some employees don’t want their feedback to reflect badly on them, so they choose to stay quiet instead of speaking up. Use this rare opportunity to learn how you can improve things for the rest of your employees. 

Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch, and Paula Pell sitting at a table while "Ready for some feedback" flashes onscreen
Get ready

An individual contributor that’s leaving for that “once in a lifetime” opportunity can shine some light on what made that job so irresistible to them. The manager that’s leaving for a bigger pay raise or better benefits can tell you a lot about how your company can have more competitive offering packages.

Stay secure

Think about how much access the average employee has to sensitive information. Someone on their way out the door could have login information for your most important programs and backends. Managers, HR personnel, and people in finance can even have access to secure information bank routing info or even social security numbers.

There’s a reason why up to 20% of employers say they’ve experienced data breaches from former employees. A forgotten about password or un-deactivated account can be enough to cause a lot of trouble for companies. Luckily, a stellar offboarding plan help stop these problems before they start. 

How to create your own offboarding plan

We know you’re busy with all of the org shuffles, promotions, job changes, and staff reductions going on. But now that you know how important offboarding is for companies, you can totally get HR, department leads, IT, and any other important people to focus their time on creating a complete and comprehensive onboarding plan! 

Woman from Schitt's Creek saying "That was a joke in case it didn't land"
We hope it did though

We do think that everyone needs a comprehensive and secure plan (side note: we know of a really great tool and helpful templates that can help you organize all of these important documents and processes regardless of where you’re at in the planning process), but we also know that time is of the essence here. If you need to create an offboarding plan ASAP, Guru has your back. Here’s what you need to know to get started. 

Focus on the basics

The people you involve and processes you focus on will change depending on what job and department you’re focused on. Despite this, there are certain elements that every offboarding plan needs.

Focus your energy on finding out how you’ll transfer knowledge, who the transferred knowledge will go to, and the timeframe you expect all of this to happen. Think about how much of the exiting employee’s existing knowledge is already documented and what still needs to be laid out.

Guru Collage Image-Library-36

Timing can matter a lot in these situations. If you find yourself down to the wire, think about what’s the most important things to capture (project plans, client names, wireframes, etc.) then go from there. 

Go beyond regular “notes”

Whatever you decide for your knowledge transfer, we’re begging you not to go down the “infodump” route. Opening a blank document and telling an employee to write down “whatever they think is important” is a guaranteed way to waste their time and ensure that your current employees don’t get what they need. 

There are so many different ways to communicate knowledge! A nice combination of video and audio recordings, visuals, and written direction can all come together to effectively capture knowledge. 

Understand what’s important

An exiting employee is full of valuable information, but there are also some things that may not matter much in the long run. Companies run into trouble when they try to preserve every single bit of information they find. Instead of trying to sift through every grain of knowledge, focus on collecting those “big rocks” of information before anything else. 

Indiana Jones in the rain saying "That belongs in a museum"
...You sure about that?

How do you know what’s important and what isn’t? Ask employees about what they’re working on now, what their daily task list is like, and what they need to do their jobs effectively. Once you do that, compare notes with people they work closely with as well as managers and other DRIs on projects.

Secure cooperation

Ideally, every exiting employee will be more than willing to take the time to share their knowledge before they leave. Unfortunately, we know that isn’t always the case.

Employees who are in a rush to leave may not be the most willing to share knowledge. If your employee is reluctant to talk, do your best to find out why. If it’s a matter of them not knowing where to start or being worried about the efficiency of the process, that’s something a conversation or two could fix. 

If an employee is worried about doing their own work and transferring knowledge, consider letting them only focus on that during their final days. Work may be slightly delayed, but you’ll have the important knowledge you’ll need to go forward.

Are you trying to capture knowledge from an employee you know is leaving on a less than stellar note? In cases like this, it may be better to work with those closest to them as opposed to them themselves. 

Focus on working with managers to get an idea of what they’re working on and IT to get access to their files. Ask teammates they work closely with what they’d need from the exiting employee to continue working. 

Knowledge share now for better offboarding in the future

Guru Collage Image-Library-54

Situations like these are a perfect example of why we’ll always be strong advocates of knowledge-driven cultures. For most workplaces that value capturing and sharing knowledge, an exiting employee isn’t a cause for panic. Since they’ve been documenting and sharing their knowledge from the start, offboarding can look a lot less chaotic. 

We don’t know about you, but we’d rather spend those final weeks planning a farewell sendoff and reminiscing about everything we accomplished together. Once you embrace offboarding as just another part of the employee experience, you can make things much easier for everyone involved.