Building An Empathetic Offboarding Experience

Building An Empathetic Offboarding Experience

Making Employee Exits Count 

Restructures, redundancies, offboarding and outplacement often have difficult circumstances surrounding them and employees can feel frustrated, devastated and confused in equal measure.

For HR managers, it’s also difficult as they try to balance their feelings of frustration with what they can practically do to support employees.

What is in your control as a HR manager?

Have you ever ducked out to grab your morning coffee when you’ve suddenly spotted someone you know walking towards you? At that moment, you have a choice: stay on the same side of the road as them, be friendly and say hello, or put on your sunglasses and cross the road, pretending you haven’t seen them, just to avoid an awkward conversation.

A 2018 study found that over 60% of employees who were laid off had negative attitudes towards their former employers after being let go (Lassus & Pichault, 2018).

I speak with many HR managers who have these kinds of encounters all the time with former employees they’ve let go and, too often, they choose to avoid them out of discomfort. They don’t feel comfortable encountering these people out in public, because they know that they could have done more to support them as they left the organisation, whatever the circumstances.

The reality is that HR leaders cannot control how individuals react to unfortunate situations like redundancies or restructuring, but they can control what support systems are in place to ensure everyone is treated well.

For example, after a major restructuring, a manufacturing company provided robust outplacement support including resume assistance, interview coaching, and job search resources. Over 80% of impacted employees reported feeling respected and supported through the transition (Society for Human Resource Management, 2021).

Encounters on the street will happen, and HR leaders need to know that they can walk with their head held high and greet old employees without that gut feeling of guilt and shame, knowing they did everything they could to do right by them.

What does doing right by employees look like?

Robust support will manifest differently for every organisation, but there are some key pillars to make sure you’re giving employees the best support possible:

Offboarding – provide a clear and intentional offboarding process where handovers are thorough and farewells are appropriate to ensure information is retained, employees are shown they are valued and time is taken to ease the transition out.

A tech startup implemented a standardised offboarding process that included knowledge transfer sessions and an “ambassador day” for departing employees to give a final presentation to the company. This helped maintain crucial information and gave employees a sense of closure (Zhang et al., 2020).

Exit interviews – including exit interviews in the offboarding process allows organisations to receive valuable feedback as to sources of dissatisfaction, how processes can be improved within the organisation and what can be done to retain staff.

Acting on feedback – exit interviews will give an organisation a wealth of information to work with, and feedback can also be provided informally. What matters next is how you act on the feedback. You can show employees their value long after they’ve left the organisation just by putting new processes or systems into place based on their feedback.

A global retailer analysed exit interview data and found a pattern of resignations due to a lack of career development opportunities. They implemented job rotation programs and saw a 25% decrease in regretted losses the next year (Allen, 2008).

Outplacement – restructures and redundancies can come as a huge shock to employees. Providing outplacement gives them support in a time where they may feel a bit lost and cast aside. Instead of leaving them to find their way on their own, outplacement gives them the tools and opportunities they need to move forward to their next role as quickly as possible.

Research shows that organisations that provide outplacement support see a 60% increase in productivity and engagement from remaining employees, as it reinforces their commitment to employee care (Insync Surveys, 2019).

Remain proud of the work you do to support employees

If you’re not sure where to start with your support, it can be a good idea to use the street encounter as a guide. When you run into an old employee, there are natural questions that – in a perfect world – you should feel comfortable asking and speaking about.

  • Ask: How are you going?
  • Ask: What have you achieved since I last saw you?
  • Show: The changes that have happened at the organisation since they have left, especially if any directly acted on their feedback.
  • Create: Space to share any opportunities – remember, boomerang employees can be one of your biggest assets.

Any support you’re providing employees should help you to feel at ease when you run into employees you’ve needed to farewell.

If you feel uncomfortable about any of these elements of conversation, it might be a sign you need to step up the support and advocate for better programs for leaving employees.



Allen, D. G. (2008). Retaining talent. SHRM Foundation’s Effective Practice Guidelines Series.

Insync Surveys (2019). Outplacement services: A benchmark for the future workplace.

Lassus, D., & Pichault, F. (2018). The layoff process and employees’ attitudes toward their former employer. Personnel Review, 47(3), 701-719.

Society for Human Resource Management (2021). Preparing for workforce change.

Zhang, J., Ahammad, M. F., Tarba, S., Cooper, C. L., Glaister, K. W., & Wang, J. (2015). The effect of leadership style on talent retention during merger and acquisition integration: evidence from China. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 26(7), 1021-1050.

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Do you need help with supporting your employees?

Want to support your employees through restructures and redundancy with effective onboarding, stay interviews, offboarding, and outplacement programs? Get in touch with me today to organise a 1-1 call to see how Career365 can support you and your team. Click here for more information.


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Greg Weiss

Greg Weiss is the founder and director of Career365 and Australia’s leading career coach. Greg has coached well over a thousand people from recent graduates to CEOs as they pivot, re-launch and accelerate their careers. He is the author of three practical books and the creator of three online courses: “Career Clarity. How to find career fulfillment”; “Career Networking. How to unlock the hidden job market”; and “Career Success. How to succeed in your new job”.

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