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What About Offboarding? Are you paying attention to exiting employees and the important information they can provide?

By Heather R. Huhman Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

AndreyPopov | Getty Images

From balloons to decorations to catered parties, companies go above and beyond to welcome new employees and set the tone for longevity. First impressions matter, of course. But what about last impressions?

Related: 3 Reasons Why Your Best Employees Leave for New Opportunities

If saying goodbye goes awry, employees may turn to social media to spread less-than-positive information about the company. In fact, 25 percent of job seekers surveyed by Adecco in October 2015 said they used LinkedIn to check an employer's profile, while about 22 percent said they used Facebook to see what others said about the employer.

The lesson here is that the process for offboarding employees should be just as important as the onboarding one, and that companies neglecting the former, integral process may experience negative impacts. Here are a few things to consider, to ensure your formal offboarding program is successful:

1. Make saying goodbye positive.

Losing talented employees is never easy. However, it's crucial that hiring managers and bosses make employee exits a positive, respectful experience for all involved.

Companies that burn bridges with exiting employees are at risk of harming their employer brand and reputation. Saying goodbye with a smile is the first step to kicking off a positive and rewarding offboarding process.

Ensure that the offboarding process goes off without a hitch by guaranteeing that the departure process is easily navigated. Establish a checklist for proactive communication with the employee by your various departments to make sure all files are closed. This may include a resignation letter and an appointment with the benefits manager to evaluate paid time off, retirement plans and other important details.

Another way to keep things positive is to share a congratulatory announcement with the employee's co-workers and team, as well as to plan a supportive and appropriate send-off on the employee's last day. Keep employees in the know with an employee workplace engagement tool like Workplayce.

2. Go beyond the exit interview.

A one-off exit interview just won't cut for any hiring manager looking for actionable feedback to improve a work role as well as the overall work environment for current and future employees. Offboarding should be seen as an opportunity to ensure growth and improvement for the health and well-being of a company. This means allowing exiting employees to share both positive and negative feedback.

Develop exit surveys customized for each position. This can be done in a paper survey format or via an online survey provider. Get more details about an exit by asking the employee's reason for leaving and questions about the overall success of his or her direct manager and about company resources and the work environment. This will reveal the good and bad trends that exist internally.

Related: New Career? Ending a Relationship? Here's How to Make a Seamless Transition.

3. Turn exiting employees into brand ambassadors.

Past employees' opinions of their ex-employers matter both online and off. A June 2015 CareerArc study found that 52 percent of more than 1,300 job seekers surveyed said they visited company websites and social media when evaluating employer brands. And 17 percent said they turned first to individuals in their personal and professional networks who had knowledge of a targeted company.

Further, 73 percent of job seekers surveyed said they found negative remarks on employer review sites to be very damaging.

Employees past and present should be treated as invaluable ambassadors for a company's employer brand. A strong offboarding process can set up employees for a future of singing a company's praises for years to come.

Provide departing employees with an opportunity to positively represent the company and keep in touch. Add these employees to an email database for future contact about company news, job alerts and referral opportunities. Or even issue an open-door invitation to stop by the company during future happy hours, to "catch up."

4. Use past employees in your referral program.

It can be hard to see the positive side of losing a great employee. But better, more positive offboarding can strengthen a company's referral program.

A July 2015 Jobvite study found that 78 percent of 1,404 recruiters and human resource professionals surveyed said referrals identified the best candidates. Companies that provide a positive and seamless offboarding process have a better opportunity to maintain positive relationships with past employees and add them to their referral networks.

Go beyond the exit interview to establish and continually improve the offboarding process to include exit surveys, strong communication throughout an organization and a plan to stay connected to departing employees.

Related: Creating a Company Culture Where Employees Never Leave

Making lasting positive impressions through offboarding can benefit a company for years to come.

Heather R. Huhman

Career and Workplace Expert; Founder and President, Come Recommended

Waldorf, Md.-based Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager and president of Come Recommended, a content-marketing and digital-PR consultancy for job-search and human-resources technologies. She is the author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle.

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