Current offboarding processes not helping skills shortage, research suggests

Experts say issue could partly be solved by focusing on employee exits rather than just hiring struggles

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More than two-thirds (71 per cent) of businesses are potentially failing to fill skills shortage vacancies by not having an offboarding process that enables good relations with departing employees, new research by Wiley Edge has found.

Data gathered from 1,500 business leaders and young workers by the training provider revealed that more than three-quarters (78 per cent) of organisations are struggling to replace departing employees as the UK skills shortage continues.

In fact, according to its report, The Hidden Cost of Onboarding Graduate Talent, 22 per cent of employers have issues with getting adequate replacements for leavers, and more than a quarter (26 per cent) regularly have a period of one month or more between an employee leaving and their replacement starting.

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With businesses across the UK facing talent attraction and retention problems – for many employers, the so-called ‘Great Resignation’ and skills crisis have been more than just news headlines – Tom Seymour, senior director HR at Wiley Edge, said more focus needed to be on employing potential returners.

“One potential solution to this problem that is often overlooked by employers is the value of boomerang employees. Employees who have left on positive terms may also be more inclined to return to the business at some point in the future, creating a much-needed source of trained talent,” he said.

“Not only can this help businesses to tackle skills gaps, it also means any time and money spent on employees’ training and professional development will continue to be a valuable investment.”

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Clodagh Murphy, director at recruitment firm Cathedral Appointments, explained that re-employment of leavers can also help with retention and organisational culture, as well as offering the business a chance to reflect and improve.

“An old employee coming back into their previous place of work showcases to their peers that this company is worth staying in. It offers a morale boost to all in the office and you, as an employer, can learn about what didn’t work for them the first time round and ensure any issues are fixed,” she said.

Chris Goulding, managing director at HR recruitment firm Wade Macdonald, has a similar view: “[Returners] can hit the ground running with organisational processes and customer relations because they know the business, and social media makes it easier than ever for employers to re-engage with old employees,” he said.

However, only 23 per cent of businesses said former employees regularly return to their organisation, and a quarter (25 per cent) said they almost never employ returners.

Furthermore, separate LinkedIn data shows that returning employees only account for 5 per cent of all new hires in the UK.

For Seymour, this is where a suitable offboarding process can help alleviate potential issues. “Employees who have left on positive terms may also be more inclined to return to the business at some point in the future, creating a much-needed source of trained talent,” he said.

However, it seems many businesses are falling short in offboarding provision, with Wiley’s data revealing that only 35 per cent of businesses encourage departing employees to give honest feedback and less than a third (29 per cent) of businesses celebrate the achievements of their departing staff.

Only 26 per cent of employers give employees the chance to have an exit interview with a senior member of the business as they depart.

Zoe Walters, CEO of outplacement business The Outplacers, explained that having a value-adding offboarding process that benefits both the leaving employee and the business was crucial.

She said: “Good offboarding, like onboarding, is about transparency, expectations and process. It’s about understanding where the important milestones are and where potential trigger points are and understanding as an employer you are a key part of the transition plan.”