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The Aggressive Benefit of an Offboarding Program

CURT NICKISCH: Welcome to the HBR IdeaCast from Harvard Enterprise Assessment. I’m Curt Nickisch.

I’m a giant fan of farewell emails, these missives that exit when somebody’s leaving a job. I addressed my final one to associates, colleagues, and voices of readability in a sophisticated world. It’s one of many few instances in life if you get to be grandiose. Typically you’ll be able to inform when these farewells are rushed, somebody’s busy ending their work, or they’re clearly spending extra time occupied with their new job than the one they’re ending. However at its finest, a farewell e mail celebrates frequent accomplishments, takes perspective and leaves the door open for an additional starting. It’s nonetheless principally as much as people to remain in contact and preserve their networks, however these days you by no means know, your subsequent massive alternative might be at someplace you left behind.

Our friends at present, say it’s time for organizations to cease leaving it to people to maintain these connections alive. Primarily based on their analysis, they suggest that firms develop stronger offboarding packages in order that workers exit with a greater style of their mouth and organizations have a stronger alumni community to attract upon sooner or later.

Right here to inform us extra about offboarding in a strategic approach, are the co-authors of the brand new HBR article, “Flip Departing Workers into Loyal Alumni”. Alison Dachner is a professor at Boler School of Enterprise at John Carroll College. Allie, thanks for approaching the present.

ALISON DACHNER: Thanks for having me.

CURT NICKISCH: And Erin Makarius is a administration professor on the College of Akron. Erin, thanks for being right here.

ERIN MAKARIUS: Thanks for having me.

CURT NICKISCH: Let’s simply begin in by speaking about offboarding, what that historically is. What’s it? What’s taught at what you are promoting colleges about what the perfect observe of offboarding at the moment is or has been?

ALISON DACHNER: That’s an awesome query. Sometimes, each in our courses and within the analysis, offboarding isn’t actually referred to underneath that title. There’s numerous dialog about turnover and there’s some analysis and dialog about outplacement providers within the case of a layoff, there’s some dialog about finest practices for exit interviews, however there’s not an entire lot of dialogue about offboarding and the entire course of that we’re keen on, in managing expertise as they go away the group.

CURT NICKISCH: It looks like the massive buzzword is retention, and if you happen to can’t retain folks, then firms virtually hand over.

ALISON DACHNER: Completely. You already know, retention is nice and we’re not saying don’t attempt to retain folks, however retention isn’t life like for lots of people. Lots of people are available considering they’ll go away, lots of people go away for higher alternatives. There are such a lot of causes. Individuals are going to go away it doesn’t matter what, and particularly now, we see this altering panorama of employment the place folks don’t keep their entire profession on the identical place they usually’re not loyal to the identical firm. And so our thought was actually, what can organizations do about this, figuring out folks aren’t going to remain?

CURT NICKISCH: Erin, Ali simply talked about the truth that folks’s tenures at firms is shortening, the common size of employment is all the way down to what, 4.1 years, I feel I learn in your article. And so is that the actual catalyst for this rising realization that earlier than, when someone left, they have been onto one thing else and they might unlikely be again, however that is only a completely different actuality now?

ERIN MAKARIUS: Yeah, I do assume there’s a shift from the corporate worker that’s staying with the identical group for his or her lifetime, to extra transitions between jobs and employers, however it’s additionally simply the altering panorama of labor, that we have now extra contract workers and part-time workers and several types of workers. The gig economic system has modified numerous this as properly. So it’s not simply the truth that individuals are altering employers, however it’s additionally simply the altering panorama of labor, that’s actually created extra of a necessity for some of these packages.

CURT NICKISCH: So I understand we’re lumping all of company America and the company world into one timeline right here. However what sometimes occurs when someone leaves an organization, what’s your common course of?

ALISON DACHNER: I imply, it varies from firm to firm and trade to trade, however actually, you usually have your sit down with HR and a supervisor, the place they talk about why you’re leaving, relying on that purpose, if there’s advantages or severance or something obtainable, you’ve that dialogue. Possibly you’ve an in-person exit interview, possibly you’re despatched a survey. We all know from numerous analysis, that exit interviews aren’t usually executed properly or in a approach that it gives numerous helpful data to the corporate. After which the folks go on their approach and the group goes on their approach, it’s like a breakup the place you narrow ties and also you separate and also you don’t engage once more.

CURT NICKISCH: Yeah. So what stops managers and organizations from doing this? Is it that they only don’t take the time and it’s a useful resource, or the truth that it’s uncomfortable to speak a few future the place that individual isn’t there, it’s only a tougher dialog to have?

ERIN MAKARIUS: There are numerous causes and I feel the issue of the dialog is a part of it. Part of it’s a concern of dropping that useful resource, if it’s somebody that’s useful to you, you need to maintain them in your group and your crew and your group. And in order that’s the place it comes into having this local weather for mobility and actually supporting the truth that folks might not be with you eternally. And one of many managers that we interviewed mentioned, “I knew somebody needed to come back into my function, however I wasn’t leaving the function for 5 years. And so I helped them get a job elsewhere. Why wouldn’t I present them the assets and assist to be the easiest and know that they’ll serve one other group in the identical function I’m in and have that useful connection.”

ALISON DACHNER: Yeah, I feel to their assets query too, we frequently hear HR will get reduce first, the strategic function is questioned, issues like that. And it’s arduous sufficient to get the assets to spend money on present or incoming workers typically and packages that assist them. So how and why would we probably use our assets on folks leaving? So even when we’re not the kind of firm that has the, you’re a traitor, you left us, mindset, we nonetheless might not need to make investments or assume it’s value investing the assets in folks leaving-

ERIN MAKARIUS: Or have the assets.

ALISON DACHNER: Or have the assets to do it. And so one of many issues I feel is a false impression is that this must be financially pricey as a result of it doesn’t. If it’s aligned with the opposite expertise administration methods, if you happen to’re utilizing an HR system and also you’re utilizing knowledge you have already got, it’s simply an extension of what already exists. And so it requires some effort and time, however it doesn’t essentially need to be this massive monetary funding to do that properly. A number of it surrounds reward and recognizing that folks have been there, sending emails and newsletters, fostering relationships. It doesn’t need to be this big monetary funding that takes away assets from some other place.

CURT NICKISCH: Yeah. Some firms that do that, like administration consulting corporations, they’ve sturdy offboarding packages apparently, as a result of they keep in contact with their alumni, they generally even host dinners for courses of alumni. However a part of that’s that the individuals who go away might find yourself working for a shopper or different firms and find yourself bringing enterprise again in, sooner or later, or they assist with networking and referring new workers at that group. Are you able to discuss a little bit bit about firms that do appear to do that extra strategically and what they get out of it?

ERIN MAKARIUS: I feel firms which might be extra strategic about it, have extra formal packages. One of many issues that we acknowledged in our analysis is that many firms miss the chance to attach with alumni. And so these alumni teams are fashioned by former workers themselves and managed and the occasions are literally placed on by the previous workers.

CURT NICKISCH: In order that they create a Fb group.


CURT NICKISCH: Yeah. LinkedIn group. Certain, positive.

ERIN MAKARIUS: Proper. And they also’re creating these connections and the group isn’t seeing the profit from these connections. And so firms that strategically make this a part of their expertise administration course of, are capable of see the advantages similar to referrals, but additionally the reputational benefits, they’ll entry data from these workers nonetheless, they’ve that social connection and people social capital. So there are numerous advantages to a agency in making this a proper a part of their expertise administration course of.

CURT NICKISCH: Did your analysis present whether or not extra of these workers come again and have a second tour of responsibility at that agency?

ERIN MAKARIUS: Once more, it relies upon. There may be some analysis on the market that acknowledges that boomerang workers are starting to be rising, that we see workers which have left organizations are coming again to these corporations and it’s really useful to the corporate as a result of now you’ve obtained expertise from one other perspective, from one other group that you could deliver again to the agency.

CURT NICKISCH: Proper. They’ve had all this skilled growth on someone else’s dime.


CURT NICKISCH: So what sorts of issues can organizations do?

ALISON DACHNER: Yeah. I imply, I feel the very first thing that firms need to do in the event that they’re occupied with this, is absolutely take into consideration what’s their present technique, what’s their present tradition like and what are their objectives? I imply, all HR choices, all administration choices we make, have to come back again to, how does this align with all the pieces else we’re doing? We will’t simply blindly say, “I need an alumni membership.”

CURT NICKISCH: That just about appears like, “I need an alumni membership, in order that there’s one thing for once I go away.”

ALISON DACHNER: Yeah, precisely. However in case you have a tradition the place folks don’t really feel like they’re supported or handled properly, it’d be very odd to attempt to now arrange a system the place it’s like, “We’re going to deal with folks properly after they go away.” Or, “we’re going to have this new notion.”

So the place to begin actually is simply establishing what are our objectives from this and the way does that align? What can we try this aligns with what we’re already doing? And from there, you’ll be able to develop the suitable packages and initiatives. However there’s nobody proper approach or one proper method, it’s going to fluctuate from firm to firm, it’s going to fluctuate from trade to trade. And actually, even when a company presents numerous completely different packages or choices, completely different departing workers wants or desires or motivations for being concerned will differ. And so, it’s consistently transferring items, which is a neat problem.

CURT NICKISCH: Erin, have you ever seen one thing an organization did and simply thought to your self, “Wow, that’s so good.”

ERIN MAKARIUS: I feel one the packages that we thought was useful, is the NFL was providing their workers entry to healthcare and train packages and their health advantages, even after workers parted. LinkedIn supplied premium subscriptions to their providers to workers after they’d left.

CURT NICKISCH: Fairly low value, however why not, proper?

ERIN MAKARIUS: Precisely. But it surely opens up the door and exhibits, we nonetheless worth you and we nonetheless need to have that connection for providing these packages to you. And even throughout COVID, many organizations supplied psychological well being or work-life stability assets and programming, to assist workers and alumni handle these new challenges within the work surroundings.

CURT NICKISCH: For lots of people, if you go away an organization, you allow a enterprise, you’ve spent numerous time there, you’ve numerous sturdy relationships with folks that’s now incumbent upon you to keep up. And typically we’re simply not nearly as good about it, or as deliberate about it as we needs to be. And if firms ease that path for us, it makes it quite a bit simpler to do.

ERIN MAKARIUS: I feel so. It gives a approach for firms to handle the method and a service to construct these connections over time. And so it’s useful not just for organizations, but additionally for these workers themselves, that it gives potential job alternatives and assets and knowledge trade. One of many advantages we noticed some firms have been doing is providing consulting work to former workers. So may not deliver you again as a full-time worker, however we have now a undertaking that we expect you’ve experience and expertise that you might add worth to. And so providing these alternatives in a extra structured approach, I feel is effective.

CURT NICKISCH: Yeah. And that’s a really pure factor to do in enterprise when someone leaves, they usually work on retainer or have some form of ongoing contracts with their former organizations. However quite than having that be a one-off factor, you’ll be able to arrange a framework for this so it’s simpler to arrange for anyone, is what you’re saying?

ERIN MAKARIUS: Precisely. And even serving to one another. So Airbnb had a program the place they created a job board, not for workers to get jobs at Airbnb, however after they left Airbnb, to assist highlight and spotlight the workers that they’d and the experiences that they supplied, for different jobs and potential alternatives sooner or later.

ALISON DACHNER: This can be a frequent observe now for retirees too, and that’s one purpose folks go away and it’s actually arduous to shift from, I’ve been employed for 50 years, particularly once I’ve recognized with my profession. We see it in docs and surgeons, to be fully retired and off the grid, some folks adore it, however different folks ,that’s a giant transition and there’s numerous thought that goes into how will we facilitate that? So bringing them again as Brown Bag audio system, assigning them a mentorship function for present residents, there’s all types of ways in which they’re bringing again a few of these retirees within the medical discipline, to seize that information they’ve and provides them the chance to maintain a foot within the door.

CURT NICKISCH: The Airbnb instance is attention-grabbing as a result of this obtained numerous press after they needed to lay off staff in the course of the pandemic, as a result of journey and journey spending was approach down. How do you modify this for workers the place you’re letting them go involuntarily or they’re being let go involuntarily? I do know numerous firms in the course of the pandemic needed to have sticky advantages or severance funds or cowl medical bills for someone who left, to make it simpler for folks to come back again. Is there a parallel there?

ALISON DACHNER: I feel that actually lends itself to the significance of getting a well-developed program or initiatives which might be identified by employers prior to those potential layoffs or redundancies. As a result of telling somebody they’re laid off after which be like, “However be a part of our alumni membership, or we’re going to attempt to assist you on this approach.” They’ve a bitter style of their mouth most likely, even when they’d an awesome relationship with the employer.

So having this in place forward of time, even when there’s a shock lay off or somebody loses their job in some of these disaster conditions, they know what to anticipate, and even when they’re not prepared to interact as an alumni instantly, figuring out what exists and being actually conscious of the advantages to them, they could come again they usually could also be extra keen on being an engaged alumni or benefiting from a number of the advantages which might be afforded to them, or creating worth to the employer.

CURT NICKISCH: Let’s speak about the way you get this by at an organizational stage and simply as a supervisor, I discover it attention-grabbing that you just say that managers need to be ready to have extra of those conversations to debate the truth that someone might not be there long-term. And I’m simply curious how you’d hear a dialog like that go?

ERIN MAKARIUS: I feel it needs to be a part of steady growth {and professional} growth alternatives. So usually managers have profession discussions with workers to speak about their present efficiency and future profession objectives. And so if you happen to make it a part of this steady dialog, it turns into a little bit bit much less awkward and extra simply a part of the annual course of, or much more usually than that, of actually having discussions in regards to the profession and the long run alternatives. And that could possibly be throughout the group or past.

ALISON DACHNER: I fully agree. It could possibly be so simple as asking somebody, “What are your strengths that you just don’t use in your function? Or what abilities do you’ve that you just want you might deliver to work? What kinds of challenges do you assume you’re prepared for, that we haven’t given you but?” And simply beginning with the, how can we meet a few of your wants right here after which that begins the dialog about, okay, the place may you have to go to do these items?

CURT NICKISCH: Yeah. How do you see this getting instituted at corporations? Is that this managers going to HR and asking for one thing, is that this HR suggesting a program and doing it high down? What do you suggest?

ALISON DACHNER: I imply, there must be buy-in from the highest. So I’d begin with saying high down, however having involvement in all ranges goes to be necessary as a result of inside an organization, you don’t know what folks may need, or what’s necessary, or what’s a superb match, with out actually incorporating a crew.

ERIN MAKARIUS: And there’s not a one dimension matches all method for all organizations, however I feel we’d argue that it does contain a partnership between managers and HR, in actually occupied with what objectives do you’ve for one of these program, what knowledge do you have to get there? And ask them what packages and initiatives you have already got in place that you could make the most of for a extra strategic and proactive offboarding program.

CURT NICKISCH: What do you say to managers who haven’t purchased into this, who assume that this can be a waste of time and vitality and they need to spend their time on recruiting or retaining present workers?

ALISON DACHNER: I imply, you’re most likely not going to alter anybody’s thoughts in a single dialog, as a result of I feel the plan to do that displays the local weather that exists. And if there’s a person supervisor who’s simply not going to purchase in, it’s going to be a tough promote. I imply, I’d spotlight the worth to the person and the worth to the group. So if their focus is on recruitment, I’d say, “This might prevent an entire lot of time sooner or later, in your recruitment, or this might doubtlessly deliver you in referrals and rent high expertise by managing the folks leaving very well. They may refer you or put good issues on Glassdoor.” There’s all types of advantages that I’d spotlight, however I don’t assume one dialog goes to alter somebody’s thoughts.

ERIN MAKARIUS: However I consider our objectives of the analysis is to indicate that there’s worth in some of these packages and to display the businesses doing these offboarding packages have seen reputational benefits, human and social capital benefits, recruitment benefits. And in order that’s useful not solely to the employers, but additionally to the workers which might be at the moment within the group and which have turn into alumni as properly.

CURT NICKISCH: What do you do if you happen to’ve listened to this episode, you’re a supervisor at an organization, it’s not coming high down, however you need to take it to the highest, the place would you start?

ALISON DACHNER: I don’t learn about at a decrease stage, however I positively assume even among the many high administration crew, it’s typically arduous to create that buy-in. So I’ve talked to some CHROs who’ve indicated, “I feel this can be a great point to do, however nobody else is on board,” and it’s a extremely arduous promote for a CEO or a CFO to get them on board. And I feel it simply consistently comes again to what sort of office will we need to be? And what do we wish our workers saying about us sooner or later? And what kinds of folks will we need to recruit? When individuals are on the market speaking about us, what do we wish them to say? What’s our tradition total? And when somebody’s bringing that to a high administration crew or to executives, the reply to that actually dictates quite a bit, what you’ll be capable of do and what you gained’t. Framing it in that approach has been useful for the folks I’ve talked to.

CURT NICKISCH: How do you tackle the concern of competitors and what data folks will take to different firms? As a result of there are corporations which have non-disclosure agreements that restrict what folks can speak about after they go away and even how they’ll speak about your individual firm. What do you make of that?

ERIN MAKARIUS: There are useful causes that these exist in some organizations. So if you have to have a non-disclosure settlement, I feel that’s okay. However there are nonetheless issues you are able to do to facilitate the offboarding course of, to acknowledge the contributions that the worker made whereas they have been there and go away the door open for them if they’ve the curiosity or potential to come back again sooner or later.

CURT NICKISCH: If my firm doesn’t do that once I go away, what ought to I do?

ALISON DACHNER: The person leaving nonetheless can get some profit from staying related, simply as you’ve talked about in your introduction, your farewell e mail. Ending on good ties, sustaining connections, all of these issues are nonetheless useful to a person, or could possibly be useful to somebody who’s leaving. It simply doesn’t essentially profit the group in the identical apparent approach in the event that they’re not managing that course of. However I do assume, as Erin talked about, in some instances there are folks or organizations who select not to do that. And in different instances, there are firms that simply don’t even acknowledge the chance. We’ve had so many individuals since this was printed, attain out like, “I by no means even thought to try this. We simply retain, retain, after which say, goodbye.” And it’s not one thing that’s actually acknowledged as a lot but, which is a cool alternative.

CURT NICKISCH: Allie and Erin, thanks a lot for speaking about this analysis and opening our eyes to the chance that’s on the market to essentially be extra deliberate and strategic with offboarding packages.

ERIN MAKARIUS: Thanks for having us.

ALISON DACHNER: Yeah, thanks.

CURT NICKISCH: That’s Alison Dachner, professor at Boler School of Enterprise at John Carroll College. And Erin Makarius, she’s a administration professor on the College of Akron. Collectively, they’re the authors of the HBR article, flip departing workers into loyal alumni. You could find it within the March, April, 2021 difficulty of Harvard Enterprise Assessment or at

This episode was produced by Mary Dooe. We get technical assist from Rob Eckhardt. Adam Buchholz is our audio product supervisor. Thanks for listening to the HBR IdeaCast, I’m Curt Nickisch.



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