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Working the Future blog: our latest insights and future of work sensemaking

SAY HELLO, WAVE GOODBYE: HOW OFFBOARDING BUILDS ORGANISATIONAL RESILIENCE

2019-06-10 11:50

Cathryn Barnard

Blog, FUTURE OF WORK CONSULTING, RECRUITMENT, FUTURE OF RECRUITMENT,

SAY HELLO, WAVE GOODBYE: HOW OFFBOARDING BUILDS ORGANISATIONAL RESILIENCE

Letting workers go with grace, humility and civility is a powerful weapon in the ongoing war for talent. We’ve entered a new age of the boomerang employee...

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More and more UK businesses are experiencing the twin challenges of recruitment and retention. Finding, and then retaining, the right people with the right attitude and skills to help grow a business has never been more critical. We hear this every week in our C-suite conversations, and it’s also reflected in the business press. A recent IBM report on recruiting stated: 


"By 2020 the talent shortage in the US alone is projected to be around 23M employees. This is not simply a human resource issue. It’s an issue already vexing the C-suite, as 60% of execs struggle to keep workforce skills current and relevant in the face of rapid tech advancement". 
 

In the UK, two key areas of increasing skills shortage are technology and cyber security. Even if our academic system was able to deliver young adults with the right technological baseline of skills tomorrow, the organisational ability to foretell which mix of skills will be needed and for how long, will continue to confound many. 
 

At a foundational level, we know the future of work is digital, and we also know it’s deeply human. Figuring out the sub-text is the hard part. All too often, the prevailing narrative that surrounds the business landscape is technology-centric, and the human opportunity is left significantly understated. 
 

It’s likely that skills shortages in niche areas will continue, particularly with the emergence of ’hybrid jobs’; the pairing of skill-sets in ways unseen previously. It’s therefore vital that employers hold onto valued top talent; the sunk cost of losing both skills and organisational knowledge simply can’t be ignored. 


But why is the pace of staff turnover accelerating? 

Modern workforces are expressing a desire for more freedom, flexibility, and choice at work, a work environment that provides continuous development and learning opportunity, and critically, a sense of connection and belonging. That’s a massively tall order for most organisations, who are still using 20th Century thinking when it comes to workforce planning. 
 

Socio-culturally, the last decade has seen a significant shift away from a ’job for life’ mindset, towards a more short-term view of identifying work opportunities that can deliver meaning, development and growth. Quite simply, the UK workforce is becoming far more individualistic in outlook, and more comfortable with moving on as soon as the job opportunity ceases to deliver perceived ’value’. 
 

As it adjusts to meet the needs of the 21st Century workforce, one of the simplest things that any modern business can do to build organisational resilience, is to accept that a permanent job opportunity no longer necessarily correlates with long-term. 
 

If continuous turnover is the new normal, what can be done to avoid losing key talent? 

One super-effective approach is to leave the door open for exiting workers to return.
 

This makes perfect sense. From here on in, the opportunities that entice skilled workers are far more likely to be project-based, and employers it will find it increasingly challenging to provide continuously engaging assignments. Such is the increasingly fluid nature of work. 
 

As workforces become more flexible, we will see impermanent work teams coming together on a temporary basis to deliver value, then disbanding once that deliverable is executed. We should extend good grace and intent towards departing workers, irrespective of employment status. 
 

Keeping track of workers who’ve added value will become a critical asset for any business; keeping in touch with workers who’ve developed organisational knowledge, and who’ve delivered good work, ensures faster ramp-up time when the next opportunity presents. 
 

Welcome to the world of offboarding 

Letting workers go with grace, humility and civility is a powerful weapon in the ongoing war for talent. We’ve entered a new age of the boomerang employee. 
 

By creating an offboarding strategy that is respectful and inclusive, exiting co-workers can be invited - and are far more likely to accept that invitation - back into the organisation to deliver value at a later date. Furthermore, when treated with respect and dignity, both throughout the ’employee experience’ and into the off-boarding stage, departing workers are far more likely to act as strong advocates for an employer’s brand, and recommend a business to their peers and contact network.
 

Some organisations are already seeing the value in building an alumni network that transcends the social benefit of former colleagues staying in touch. Powerful alumni networks enable the organisation to dip in and out of talent, creating a truly fluid and flexible 21st Century talent-ecosystem. 
 

Successful and resilient organisations of the future will be fluid and agile, meeting emergent customer needs as they arise. Key to organisational fluidity is workforce flexibility.

 

A robust offboarding strategy is an excellent starting point. 
 

If you’d like to discuss an offboarding strategy with us, please do get in touch today.

 

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Looking to dive deeper into some of the areas covered in this blog post? Check out our Recruitment and Retention and Foresight Focus reports and products.

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