How IT onboards and offboards employees

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Joanne Yip|June 20, 2022
General blog image 2
General blog image 2

My employee onboarding experience at my current job started with cookies — no, not the digital kind but actual, baked versions that were sweet, moist, and utterly delicious. This was followed by a more mundane and relatively fuss-free process of setting up assigned equipment, accounts, and login details.

And while I do have many fond memories of my previous jobs, I found the offboarding processes to be either haphazard or nonexistent. This is not surprising considering that many organizations tend to pay less attention to exit procedures, underestimating the security risks that comes from doing so.

Let’s take a closer look at the steps that IT can take to onboard and offboard employees more efficiently, whether they are onsite or remote.

What is employee onboarding?

Employee onboarding involves a series of activities to integrate new employees into the organization and equip them for their respective roles. (This may or may not involve baked goods.) A typical onboarding program includes:

  • An overview of the organization

  • General policies and procedures from IT and Human Resources (HR)

  • Department overview and assigned role(s) and responsibilities

What steps should IT take to onboard employees?  

Whether IT is supporting onsite or remote employees, handling the onboarding process well sets new employees up for success, enabling them to ramp up quickly and become productive members of the team.

1. Lay the groundwork

Before a new employee is scheduled to start work, IT needs to work with the HR team to prepare all the necessary information and administrative paperwork. This can include the following:

  • Collecting employee information like name, department, and role or designation

  • Setting up the user’s corporate email address along with login instructions

  • Compiling a list of all hardware equipment and software needed, including any licenses and subscriptions

  • Preparing documentation for signing before handing over company-issued equipment

  • Scheduling a white-glove session on the new hire’s first day to help get them set up

Quick tips: Develop an onboarding checklist to help you get organized and to make sure that you don’t miss out on any important onboarding tasks. Automate workflows as much as possible with automation software to save time on repetitive tasks.

2. Ship hardware

Prepare to ship whatever hardware equipment the new hire needs for work. If you need to purchase new hardware, make sure to check ahead of time that the items are in stock and ship them out early. For remote employees who are receiving their equipment at home, share the list and shipping details with them so that they know what to expect and when.

Quick tips: Equipment checklists are a useful way to keep a record of what has been issued. Such lists also serve as a useful reference to check against when employees leave and have to return their company-issued hardware.

3. Set up devices and user accounts

Schedule time on the first day to take the new employee through the setup process. If they are allowed to use their personal devices for work, make sure that they are set up in compliance with your organization’s BYOD policy.

Quick tips: To provision user devices for a remote employee, you can use endpoint management solutions like SmartDeploy to deploy a corporate Windows image, device drivers, applications, and remote tasks over the cloud. The best part is that you don’t even need a VPN connection to do this securely.

4. Introduce IT policies and support channels

During the onboarding process, it’s crucial for a new employee to know what the dos and don’ts are when it comes to IT security. Users are often the target of cyberattacks, like phishing, so establishing ground rules upfront such as good password practices and security training can help to reduce cybersecurity risks in the long run. Provide self-guided resources, helpdesk contact details, or any other channels where users can get IT support if needed.

Quick tips: Lean on communication tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams with dedicated channels for new hires to find answers to FAQs on common issues. To avoid misrepresentation or inconsistency, create self-directed resources that would serve as the single source of truth.

What is employee offboarding?

Employee offboarding refers to the process of formally separating a current employee from the organization when they resign or are terminated. It’s like facilitating a breakup where you want to make sure that both sides part with no major hard feelings and that no one is hanging on to stuff that they shouldn’t.

Having a diligent and thorough offboarding process can help to reduce the risk of costly data breaches involving departing employees, and the potential business and reputational damage that can result. McAfee learned this the hard way when three former employees were found to have stolen trade secrets and handed them off to a competitor.

What steps should IT take to offboard employees? 

Offboarding usually starts with an exit interview and ends with removing the employee’s access to internal systems, tools, and data once the individual leaves. For IT teams, we break down the key steps below.

1. Perform a risk assessment

Most employment contracts have non-disclosure clauses, but an individual risk assessment can help provide a clearer picture of an exiting employee’s risk level to the organization. What are the reasons for departure and are there any grievances? Do they have access to confidential information or strategic business relationships? Higher-risk employees should be monitored more closely for any unusual activity like suspicious data transfers.

Quick tips: When gathering information during exit interviews, show empathy and support if the individual is having a hard time. Use assessment forms to record your observations. Any monitoring activities should always be kept within the boundaries of privacy laws and ethical considerations.

2. Initiate knowledge transfer

All relevant knowledge and data should be seamlessly transferred to the organization before an employee leaves, for business continuity, and IT security reasons. This includes roles and responsibilities, ongoing projects, and business contact lists. At the same time, use auto-reply emails to inform stakeholders of the transition and to provide a new point of contact.

Quick tips: Keep the list of handover questions for departing employees short and succinct. If the document is too long, people might not read it all. Standardized documentation can be a good way to keep a clear record that focuses only on the most important areas.

3. Back up data

Always back up all data about the departing employee, preferably to your company’s cloud storage. If there are any legal claims or compliance issues that surface post departure, this will serve as a critical reference source.

Quick tips: Don’t wait till it’s time for offboarding to back up data. Regular data backup is good practice that should be nurtured along with a strong security culture across the organization.

4. Remove access to company systems, data, and other digital assets

One of the most crucial steps in the offboarding process is removing access to company networks, confidential data, and assets. Cancel any subscriptions or licenses that have been issued to the departing individual. Also make sure to reset passwords to shared company apps, accounts, and services.

Quick tips: Create a more efficient and secure process with tools like Identity and Access Management software and offboarding checklists. If in doubt, adopt a zero-trust approach and always follow security protocols closely.

5. Retrieve company-issued equipment

Of course, the last step is for employees to turn in their equipment. This is when a checklist (used during onboarding) comes in handy to help make sure that all company-issued hardware is returned. It’s good practice to notify employees of when their accounts will be deactivated. This should be done in advance to give them time to back up any personal data stored on their work devices or accounts.

Quick tips: For organizations with strict security regulations, using the right tools can help make sure that devices are sanitized in an efficient and effective manner. For instance, SmartDeploy’s imaging solution can be used to remotely reimage devices or nuke them using the Remote Wipe task.

For more offboarding how-tos, check out our video on how to handle remote employees when they leave the organization.

Onboarding, offboarding, and everything in between

Well-executed IT onboarding and offboarding processes can help employees start and end on the right note. But IT teams also play an important role throughout the employee lifecycle, working behind the scenes to keep networks and endpoints secure and running smoothly so that users can stay productive. From PC provisioning to software updates and patch management, join our live demo to find out how SmartDeploy can help IT device management tasks and improve end-to-end support. Or download a free trial to try it for yourself.

joanne profile
Joanne Yip

Joanne has always loved the impact that words can make. When she isn’t typing away in the world of sysadmin, Joanne loves hiking with her husband and dog, true-crime podcasts, and dreaming of her next scuba diving adventure.

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