Six Key Elements of an Employee Exit Plan

Six Key Elements of an Employee Exit Plan

Posted by Tracie Lilly on 7/24/19 10:10 AM
Tracie Lilly
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Posted on: July 24, 2019

Updated July 24, 2019

If your current exiting employee checklist consists of:

  1. Change security code for facility access
  2. Assign backfill for job

...then you really don’t have an Employee Exit Plan at all. A company-wide plan for this employment life-cycle event should be created.

Whether your employee resigns with two-weeks notice, you make a termination decision with three-days-notice to key management, or an employee walks off the job with no notice, a structured response process will best serve your team and business operation.

Six key areas of focus will help provide a structured process when facing the departure of an employee. Each area requires dedicated time and attention.


Regardless of the exiting employee’s circumstances, remaining calm and professional will better ensure a smooth transition for your company and keep doors open should future encounters with the exiting employee develop. For those offering a notice, leadership will need to determine if the employee remaining on site for two weeks or more will be more productive or harmful to the company. If harmful, you can respectfully accept their resignation and indicate that in the interest of the business operation, you will accept it effective immediately. You may communicate that you will pay them for the two-week time period since they offered to work. If you don’t offer to pay the employee, you should understand that he or she can file an unemployment claim for the time they had offered to work through a resignation, but weren’t permitted.


In cases where it would prove beneficial for a notice to be worked out, be sure to utilize this time well and stay connected to what is being accomplished. Provide a structured process and designated time each day for the exiting employee to complete a Transfer of Knowledge document. This document should briefly outline job tasks, current projects, deadlines, status updates and applicable contacts. The list should include a location of where the related information is stored (electronically or physically). 

Make sure you don’t just ask for this and then check in on his last day. Check in regularly on progress, as  it is easy for the exiting employee to have his own ideas of how best to use his last two weeks, such as  getting one project done. While that’s one thing done, that may still leave the team in the dark about everything else the exiting employee was doing. Documenting all work elements and status is crucial. You may also assign one or more team members to do some shadowing with the exiting employee.

When there is no notice, dedicate the necessary time for someone on the team to research the former employee’s email account, recent documents and physical files accessed to gather as much knowledge as possible on his current tasks and responsibilities. 


A quick analysis of the circumstances is appropriate. Analyze the job description. Does it need to be updated? Is the workload appropriate, or is it too much or too little? Is there an opportunity to absorb tasks internally or adjust workflow structure? Would a temp help with the workload during transition?

If backfilling the role, will you post the position internally and/or externally? Who will participate in the screening and selection process? Take the time to analyze the situation. Don’t miss out on an opportunity to make the business function even better with a few minor, or even big, adjustments to process.


Equally important for the future planning of the vacant position is seeking feedback through an Exit Interview. It can provide helpful insight to the structure and culture of your operation. There are many methods for conducting an exit interview. Of course, this would not be productive with a terminated employee or disgruntled employee. In those cases, take some time to reflect on if there might be anything the company would want to do differently to help ensure a right match hire and effective employee support and engagement.

Further Reading: Terminating Employees: Timing Is Everything 


This is possibly the most important element in addressing an exiting employee. How you communicate will determine how much of a negative impact this development can have on your operation. An abrupt one-line email to the team stating the employee is no longer employed with the company will likely result in confusion and lowered morale.

A structured company-wide message that communicates a calm and prepared response, answering logical questions of interim solutions and contacts for that role’s duties best minimizes potential for unintended negative reactions. If the employee is working out a notice and leaving on good terms, some employees will want an opportunity to say goodbye. Scheduling an opportunity for that and thanking the exiting employee for their service goes a long way in demonstrating a positive work environment to your team members. 

Be sure to consider specifically who is impacted by their departure.


  • Ensure every department that is affected by the exiting employee’s role understands how that function or task will now be handled and by whom.
  • Create a comprehensive exiting employee checklist that covers everything from changing security and information system access, to what company property needs collected, to determining if the employee is owed any additional final pay such as PTO or commission, to reviewing non-competes and confidentiality agreements and routing email and voice mail for 30-day monitoring and response, ensuring no important messages slip through cracks in the transition.
  • Communicate the final status of the role and who will be filling it.
  • Did the exiting employee connect with customers/clients? How will that interaction now be addressed? How will they be notified?
  • Did the exiting employee connect with vendors, suppliers, and business partners? How will they be notified? Who will be their interim contact person?
  • Communicate the final status of the role and who will be filling it.


Lastly, be sure to circle back around and thank all those who assisted during the transition, took on additional work while a replacement was found, etc. Determine what method of appreciation is appropriate (one-to-one, public, or even monetary) and be sure to follow through with sincerity.

Employee departures can potentially have a long lasting and negative ripple effect within an organization. Put structure into place now for dealing with developments like this to ensure a smooth transition and even capitalize on the opportunity to review workflow and help your company function better.

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Topics: Human Resources

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The HR Division is made up of a team of professionals with a vast level of experience and HR expertise, assisting organizations of all sizes and within a wide variety of industries. They readily partner with clients to address strategic and compliance challenges surrounding the employment life-cycle and the ever-changing laws that regulate it. Inquire below about how they can help you!