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Goodbye, Hello: Today's Exiting Employee Could Be Tomorrow's New Hire

Monday, October 2, 2017
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In today's business environment, people change jobs far more frequently. In fact, the average U.S. employee has about 12 jobs during their career. Millennials -- who, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, average about 18 months at one employer -- likely will have even more jobs than that. While that data point may be disheartening for HR teams, which have to absorb additional recruiting and retraining costs into their budgets, it doesn't have to be.

Growing statistics also show that many job hoppers would consider returning to a previous employer: According to Workplace Trends, 46 percent of Millennials would, along with 33 percent of Gen Xers and 29 percent of Baby Boomers. And the same research finds that 40 percent of HR pros would consider hiring former employees. This trend, known as "boomerang" employment, makes it essential for companies to ensure they have an effective offboarding strategy.

You might ask, "Why on earth do we need an offboarding strategy?" You're not alone: 80 percent of companies don't have one. That's because as HR pros, we often see an employee's first two weeks on the job as one of the most important times. And while that's true, the last two weeks are just as important.

In today's Glassdoor culture, a positive offboarding experience can pay significant dividends for your organization. Employers gain an ambassador who can offer potential recruits a shining review of their company. You never know -- someone in your employee alumni network could send you your company's next top performer.

And, red-carpet offboarding can also inspire former employees to "boomerang" back, by establishing a lasting positive sentiment toward the organization. Even better, these "boomerang" employees may return with fresh skills, degrees, and/or professional connections that could turn into new customers -- none of which your company had to pay for.

Also, boomerang workers reduce recruiting and retraining costs while enhancing overall team morale and productivity. Finally, a boomerang employee is more likely to come back to you with a positive attitude and an added retention tool: They can tell your workforce with authoritative voice that the grass isn't always greener.

Here are my three tips toward building a solid offboarding strategy:

1. Be empathetic. Obviously, losing an employee -- especially a great one -- is never easy. After all, it feels like a rejection of your company and its investment in them. However, it's crucial that organizations make employee exits a positive and professional experience. Use empathy to put yourself in employees' shoes and think about what would make the process easier and more effective. Ask for meaningful feedback during their exit interview -- not simply, "Why are you leaving?" Rather, ask questions like, "What opened the door for you to consider other options?" "Could you see yourself working here again at some point?" "If you could work for any team or manager in the company, which one would it be -- and why?" Thought-provoking questions like these can help you discern whether today's exiting employee could be a fit as a boomerang down the road.

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2. Be proactive. There's more to leaving a job than packing up your desk and turning in your ID badge. For many employees, the confusion and anxiety of losing or transferring valuable benefits while between jobs can be overwhelming and leave them feeling in a lurch. Providing clear next steps and options for managing/continuing benefits and wrapping up administrative tasks can give tremendous relief to stressed departing employees.

Even better, a seamless framework for benefits continuation and/or transition as part of the exit interview process removes the guesswork and admin time on both sides. Imagine a single source where employees could find plan options, costs, and enrollment information for major medical as well as ancillary benefits -- less administrative work for you, and more peace of mind for exiting employees at the same time.

This is another way to show empathy during the transition that will foster greater trust and goodwill for employees that are leaving -- as well as the ones staying.

3. Be open. After an employee has left the company, they may still have questions about their benefits. Make sure they know the door is always open. This shows them you prioritize their well-being, even though they're no longer an employee. It's a valuable step toward nurturing a lasting positive sentiment and creating strong alumni ambassadors (or potential boomerang employees) for the future.

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