SECTION 6 OF 6
Offboarding: Handle With Care
Parting ways with an employee can be a painful process.
“This is one topic that is never easy to touch on,” said Vanessa Gonzales, co-owner and founder of Albuquerque Plumbing, Heating and Cooling Inc. “How we end this business relationship is just as important as how it was started. The team member leaving can either tarnish your company’s reputation or say they know you were great even when it didn’t work out.”
Angie Snow of Western Heating and Air in Orem, Utah, said employees become “like family,” so when they leave the departure truly is sweet sorrow.
But parting ways also can be a necessity, for various reasons.
Snow remembers learning that one employee she had grown close to was lying on the time card while doing payroll. Snow called it “a real sideswipe,” and felt the hurt personally. Her husband, Ryan, recognized the difficulty Snow would have in the exit interview, so he told her he would handle it.
“That’s when it’s nice to have a business partner,” said Snow, who also works as ServiceTitan’s Senior Manager of Product Adoption.
All explain why preparation and a structured process are such important best practices for offboarding. The process removes emotions, protects the company and ensures the situation – be it easy or difficult – is handled in the most professional and appropriate way possible
Among the best practices offered by Gonzales and Snow when it comes to offboarding an employee:
Create a plan and update it annually. Create it, go over it, record it and ensure the right people know of it. Updating annually keeps the company current. “Making the process as automatic as possible takes the potentially highly charged emotional situation and helps keep everyone professional,” said Gonzales, who also is ServiceTitan’s Senior Manager of Product Utilization and Customer Service.
Define why the termination is needed. It could be theft, falsifying docs, failing a drug test, not meeting numbers or a failure to improve or make changes. A short and clear statement is important.
Define when and whether the employee can return. Also have a policy on how much notice is needed. If notice has been given do they work until they leave? What if they are going to a competitor? Be prepared for when it takes effect. If it’s at the beginning of the day, does the employee get paid for that day?
Humanity is vital; be aware of and sensitive to feelings. There’s enough callousness in the world without adding to it in a situation that could already be difficult. Keep in mind how you would want to be treated in this situation. “This can be upsetting, humbling and embarrassing,” Gonzales said. “You want to keep this in mind when scheduling this meeting. Make sure they will be able to pack personal belongings or unload their work truck without prying eyes watching.”
Understand that sometimes people can advance their careers elsewhere. It happens in every profession, but it’s not easy to lose good people – unless you have the right attitude about it. “We’re here to grow people,” Snow said. “It’s part of what we do. We’re in business to help people grow and become the best versions of themselves they can be.”
Preparation prevents poor performance. Have a box for personal belongings and have all documents needed ready before you begin. These could include termination letter, separation agreement, disciplinary paperwork and an exit interview checklist. Finally, have the final paycheck ready.
The exit interview checklist is important. It should be thorough, and include the reason for separation, with a different line to initial for voluntary or involuntary. It can have a checklist of items that should be returned to the company, including cell phone, credit card swiper, tablets, company credit cards, keys, key fobs, uniforms, and, if applicable, a gas card. The checklist also should have line items to verify that the former employee was given a separation letter (if applicable), letter of recommendation and/or final paycheck. The checklist concludes with items that need to be verified by HR.
When appropriate, consider having the employee fill out a questionnaire about the company and how they were treated. Snow said that allows the company to ensure they have treated someone well, and tells them ways they can improve. “It’s been great feedback for us,” she said.
Have HR or another third party witness the discussion. Follow your prepared process completely. Doing so avoids legal exposure.
Prepare to handle the company vehicle. If a departing team member has a company truck or car, have someone monitor while the tech removes tools, minimizing the chance of tools, parts and equipment leaving with the tech. Another team member could drive them home, or they could call for a ride.
Remove all references to the employee from all social media accounts. Simple logic.
Within ServiceTitan, do the following when a team member is taken into the meeting for offboarding:
Have another person or manager uncheck the employee’s mobile access button. Once all jobs have been reassigned and all payroll items have been exported, deactivate the team member.
Change the assigned truck. Some businesses have a New Team Member Truck for an unassigned employee. Finally, move the phone number and email assigned to the employee to the notes section in the employee or tech setup, ensuring you no errors if phone numbers are recycled.
Offboarding that isn’t voluntary is difficult.
“This is one of the hardest things to do as a business owner even if it is for cause,” Gonzales said. “We treat this respect and empathy. We thank the team members for their service to the company and always wish them luck when it is appropriate. We often reflect on previous terminations and think, ‘Did we really do everything to help them succeed?’
“And when the answer is yes, then we are able to have some peace.”