Samstag, 3. April 2021

Exits and offboarding of employees as strategic challenges for a modern HR - Ideas and solutions in an interview with Florian Martens of Partwell

Once again, I came across an interesting HR start-up via Twitter. With Partwell, I can present a startup that offers a very special service in the field of HR. It is about the handling of exits or employees who voluntarily leave the company. In recent years, the term "offboarding" has come into use for this process and the associated tasks. With this, Partwell provides services in an area that, in my view, is of extraordinary importance for companies, but which, according to experience, is rather neglected. The founder – Florian Martens - is at my disposal for this interview. Thank you very much at this point for the interview.

Peter: Hello Florian, could you be so kind and introduce yourself?
Florian: Of course, I'm Florian Martens the founder of Partwell HR. After dedicating the thirst half of my life to playing Basketball for various professional sports clubs in Germany I studied engineering at RWTH Aachen and TU Berlin. I began my working career at Deutsche Bahn, digitalizing core infrastructure.
As you can see, my path to HR tech wasn't exactly straight!
At Partwell, we're helping organizations implement and manage strategic offboarding programs.

Peter: How did the idea for Partwell come about?
Florian: The idea for Partwell originated from my personal experience of leaving Deutsche Bahn. During my notice period, I made a pretty extensive offboarding plan. I wanted to make sure all my projects were handed over and everyone understood my reasons for leaving. On my last day, however, I realized I hadn't executed my plan at all. In total, my offboarding was pretty messy and the next person taking over would have a hard time getting started because of it. As I looked back on the situation, I noticed that I started my job the same way. On my first day, I was handed a project that the person before me hadn't properly documented nor handed over. A vicious circle! I began researching the problem and found that 9 out of 10 employees claim that their organization has no or an insufficient offboarding process. After this realization, I set out to build an exit interview platform and grew the idea from there. Today, we're building a holistic offboarding platform that helps organizations analyze attrition, retain knowledge, and rehire strategically..

Peter: What experiences have you had with clients using your services? Many HR managers often talk about offboarding but do not have a structured process in place. This can cause problems when using an external service.   
Florian: Absolutely, many organizations are just now starting to realize the effect that employee offboarding has on their day-to-day operations. This newfound attention is fueled by recent publications from e. g. the Harvard Business Review and research done by various universities. Today, research can show that companies with strong offboarding programs have advantages in human & social capital, brand awareness, access to talent, recruiting costs & culture. For many organizations, investments in retention have reached a point of diminishing returns while advantages related to offboarding are low-hanging fruits. It should come as no surprise that many new economy category-leaders such as Zalando, Google, Facebook, or McKinsey & Company have short average tenues and great exit cultures. Our current clients have subscribed to this vision and share our long-term goals. Strategic offboarding is a long-term strategy and we are very intentional about communicating it as such.

Peter: How can I envision working with Partwell in offboarding of an employee? How does the coordination between client and service provider work in this sensitive process?
Florian: Partwell is first and foremost a technology platform that allows HR teams to run a highly automated offboarding program with minimal administrative effort. As soon as an employee communicates his or her decision to leave, our platform assists the employee on their offboarding journey. This journey can include a formal stay interview, knowledge transfer, handover of responsibilities, exit interviews, etc. For this, we invite three stakeholders to the process: the leaving employee, the direct manager, and the HR team. Moreover, we have completely redesigned the way organizations engage with alumni. We allow organizations to create custom alumni experiences that increase the number of boomerang employees and alumni referrals. We help organizations think more circular about the way they hire and capitalize on what they have already built: their networks. Partwell provides the infrastructure and HR administrators can add their personal touch where it matters most.

Peter: I have seen that you also offer extensive analyses in the context of offboarding. Could you briefly describe the spectrum of these services?
Florian: Absolutely, a common shortcoming of exit interview programs is that they fail to produce meaningful action. This is why we've built a tool that makes it easy to analyze and share exit interview data. Additionally, we go over and beyond to identify meaningful KPIs for offboarding processes that inspire action. For example, not many organizations know how many projects were stopped because of departing employees or how many employees leave the organization with critical knowledge. All this and much more becomes simple with Partwell. More importantly, we've built a platform that not only collects and analyzes data but allows organizations to do something with the data. We're all about action! For example, the exit interview data is used for the rehiring automation. The platform will use the data it collects. We want to make sure our clients see results, not just data.

Peter: I am particularly interested in the topics of knowledge transfer and strategic rehiring? How do you organize these demanding tasks? Are there any interesting experiences here?
Florian: Let's start with knowledge transfer since this is my favorite topic! Today most organizations claim that knowledge is their most relevant asset. Yet, hardly any organization has a process in place to manage knowledge transfer. This is not only true for employee exits but it's a much bigger problem that Partwell can't solve alone. We mainly add the element of accountability to the knowledge transfer process. We ensure that leavers with critical knowledge perform a structured knowledge transfer and offer to coach them through simple and easy-to-use methods. Partwell is not the place where the "knowledge" is stored. In the case of running a rehiring program, we're trying to introduce a paradigm shift to the HR industry. For this, I'd like to start with what we know from institutional and academic research. We know that around 30% of leavers stay in touch with their former organizations after departure. We know that 15% of new hires are already boomerang hires or referrals by alumni. We also know that 40% of leavers would consider reapplying to a previous employer. Lastly, we also know that rehiring is far less risky compared to hiring from scratch. As you can see, the case for rehiring programs is pretty strong and you'll easily find many organizations already rehiring between 10-20% of leavers. For many HR professionals, this is counterintuitive. They wouldn't expect a leaver to come back to a job they previously gave up. The truth of the matter is that there are plenty of reasons to change jobs and the grass isn't always greener on the other side. Often, leavers simply regret their decision to leave - very rarely companies capitalize on these opportunities. Google is a fantastic example. For software developers in the U. S. Google will schedule a check-in 6 months after departure. An outbound team will actively re-recruit good leavers. The 6-month check-in is also one of our strategies to increase the rate of boomerang hires with Partwell.

Peter: What do you recommend to HR managers who are planning to introduce your service? How should they prepare?
Florian: Working with us generally doesn't require any special preparation. Depending on what you want to achieve with your strategic offboarding program it can be helpful to understand your current situation very well. If your main objective is to build a strong rehiring funnel you can look at how many boomerang hires you currently generate organically (by doing nothing). If you see 4-10% of leavers boomeranging organically, you can expect very strong results by using Partwell. If you hardly see any organic rehires you might not be a place leavers like to return to. Actively recruiting leavers may not be the right strategy for you. In this case, Partwell can still help you find out, what leavers think about your organization and retain knowledge before departure. HR teams can also try many of the strategies we automate before automating and optimizing them with Partwell: Have you tried offering stay interviews to your leavers?

Peter: What's next for Partwell? What are your plans for the near future?
Florian: We plan to become the leading provider for both offboarding and corporate alumni management. We will continue to drive meaningful results for our customers to celebrate.

Peter: Thank you very much today for this insightful interview and your kind support of my blog. I look forward to seeing the further development and success of your startup.

My Interviewee Florian Martens studied Engineering at the RWTH Aachen and TU Berlin. He worked for Deutsche Bahn AG as a Technology Strategist & Program Coordinator.

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