Handling Departures with Dignity

Most employers know that they need a solid onboarding process to start the employment relationship off on the right foot. But many companies neglect to give the same attention to their offboarding processes. During these tough economic times, employers are being forced to make some hard decisions. With many organizations having to lay off team members, having a solid departure strategy grounded in dignity and compassion is a must. Handling departures well not only mitigates legal risks down the road, it also means that high performers who leave will be more likely to consider returning to work for you in future.

Employee departures are never easy. Making sure each step is handled with care and empathy can go a long way towards making the ending of the employment relationship smooth.

Have a plan

Though lay-offs and terminations often happen quickly, wherever feasible, create a concrete plan in advance. Having the details worked out beforehand means knowing who will be conducting termination meetings, what the messaging will be, and what kinds of supports are available to departing team members. When ending the employment relationship with remote employees, it also means giving yourself time to plan for the logistics of equipment return and working out the kinks for the logistics of the conversation. After all, there’s nothing worse than navigating a Zoom malfunction during a critical discussion.

Use a checklist

As part of your plan, create and follow a departure checklist to ensure no steps are missed in the process. Items to consider including on your checklist:

  • Prepare departure documents, including a letter outlining the details of the end of employment.
  • Prepare a departure meeting script, distribute your departure checklist, and prepare managers with the appropriate tools.
  • Notify payroll and others who require advance notice, communicating the departure details. Coordinate and confirm final payroll details, including last day of work, severance payments, and vacation or commission amounts owing.
  • Coordinate termination of access to internal systems, including email distribution lists and phone systems.
  • Retrieve company equipment, including laptop, phone, and building keys. If an employee is working remotely, make it simple for them by arranging for shipment of their equipment and providing clear instructions.
  • Compile and offer information and access to supports and resources for the departing employee, including EAP and EI information where applicable.
  • Conduct departure meeting, in person where possible. 
  • Confirm employee contact information (personal email and phone).
  • Draft and send Company Announcement regarding departure. Express gratitude for the departing employee where appropriate.

Focus on the person first

First and foremost, your departing employee is a human being who is experiencing a big life shift. Focus on the prepared messaging, be clear and kind in your delivery, and stay present with their reaction – a little humanity goes a long way during challenging conversations. If managers are conducting layoffs, provide a script and give them time to practice the message, so that when it comes time, the emphasis can be on supporting the human being in front of them.

Offer supports

The psychological impacts of lay-offs and terminations can be huge, so wherever possible, give employees the tools to move forward constructively. Ease the blow for departed employees by offering resources and supports that can help with the transition. Provide information and resources to help get them back on their feet, including details on how to apply for government benefits where applicable.

Your Engaged Assignment: At the end of the day, how you handle the end of the employment relationship is a direct reflection of your values as an organization. You get to decide what kind of employer you want to be! Ensure you’re walking the talk when it comes to your core values by reviewing the tips above and customizing your own departure checklist.

Need some help with the design of your offboarding process, we have the tools and the expertise to make sure it is done right. Reach out and we can help!

Engaged’s Navigating Discipline and Dismissal workshop can also equip you with the knowledge, strategies and ethical considerations needed to address these challenging aspects of HR with confidence, respect, and fairness.