Onboarding and Offboarding Best Practices

Posted by on March 15, 2019

It's time for companies to get serious about consistently applying onboarding and offboarding best practices each time a new employee joins or leaves the team.

Employee onboarding refers to the process of helping a new hire integrate successfully into the workplace and culture of the hiring company, in hopes that the employee will become a happy and productive team member. The best hiring managers understand that in order to effectively retain an employee, the organization must deliver an onboarding program that prepares the new hire for success in their role and connects them with vital resources within the company. In addition to helping new hires feel at-home, the onboarding process also has an administrative component. The hiring organization must efficiently make arrangements with the new hire that include payments, benefits, and payroll taxes, and provide any legally mandated training. 

Because the set-up process for new hires requires input and delivery from multiple departments, it is not always easy—or efficient. Companies may use legacy spreadsheets, email chains, or even sticky notes to coordinate new employee services, but today there are HR service management (HRSM) software tools available that use an efficient and traceable ticketing system to ensure a smooth and coordinated delivery of onboarding services, even when multiple departments are involved. Leading HRSM tools include automation features that make the process even easier, but it's still up to organization leaders to define and enforce best practices.

Unlike the onboarding process, employee offboarding (or exit management) is largely an administrative process. When an employee leaves their job, the employer organization must take the appropriate steps to recover company assets, revoke access to the organization's systems, and ensure that the employee's final pay is processed fairly and properly.

Effective onboarding leads to benefits like higher job satisfaction, improved employee retention, and even improved job performance, while a thorough offboarding process is necessary to protect the organization from potential sources of liability and ensure organizational continuity. Let's take a look at some of the onboarding and offboarding best practices that can help organizations optimize these key processes.

RELATED: Set Employees Up for Success with HR Employee Administration

What Are the Challenges of Onboarding?

Hiring managers face significant challenges when coordinating the in-person and administrative aspects of a successful onboarding process. Each new hire must receive a number of services from the organization, all coordinated through the HR department as part of their onboarding process. A hiring manager may have to coordinate with various departments to get new hires various items, such as: 

  • Building access key card 
  • Parking pass 
  • Identification badge 
  • Work space and equipment such as a desk, computer, etc. 

Hiring managers may also have to coordinate to get benefits, direct deposit, and payroll taxes set up. 

Ensuring that these services are coordinated in advance and ready for the employee's start date demonstrates the employer's professionalism and attention to detail. Still, cross-departmental cooperation in the hiring process is burdensome for HR to manage, and hiring managers are often left scrambling to set up a new employee for success.

In addition to managing the administrative aspects of hiring, hiring managers are facing a whole new set of expectations in 2019. The role of HR as a department is shifting away from talent management and towards successfully integrating new hires into the company, helping them learn the skills needed to perform effectively in their new roles, and helping connect them with important company resources—people, assets, tools, etc. The new focus on "candidate experience" and "employee success" reflects the newfound wisdom that a successful onboarding process leads to better hiring outcomes.

As a result, hiring managers must master the administrative aspects of onboarding so they can focus on onboarding as a longer process with major implications for employee satisfaction and retention.

Employee Onboarding Best Practices 

Organize Your Onboarding Process Beforehand

An onboarding process is exactly that—a defined process that should be documented somewhere and followed the same way each time. There are several reasons why it is important to have a defined process to follow for onboarding new employees. Firstly, you want to make sure that no important steps are missed—either in advance of the employee starting or once the employee has already started. There is nothing worse than having a new employee report for work on their first day, only to find that the hiring manager forgot to assign a work space because it wasn't documented anywhere.

Your organization should create a comprehensive onboarding checklist and follow it every time. Include roles and responsibilities for each item—perhaps HR is responsible for coordinating services, but the new hire's direct manager is responsible for orientation. Cherwell's HR Service Management software (HRSM) can help you plan and organize your onboarding process, and track the progress of candidates, helping ensure that no critical steps are missed on the way to ensuring a successful hire.

Spread Out Paperwork, But Don't Lose Track

There is frequently a lot of paperwork associated with hiring new employees. They may be asked to review and sign an employment agreement, a non-disclosure form, or another type of employment agreement. They'll have to provide payment information for direct deposit, sign up for a benefits package, fill out their W-4 form for federal tax withholding, and more. In addition to the initial paperwork, some organizations have employees complete mandatory training during their first week—this can consist of watching training videos, completing a quiz or workbook, and essentially amounts to a lot of alone time in front of the computer.

Organizations can improve this part of the process by spreading out the paperwork over the first one to three weeks of employment instead of concentrating it all into the first couple of days. A new hire that shows up on their first day ready to give their best effort can easily become discouraged when confined to their office for four hours of training videos. Alternatively, employers can leverage an HRSM self-service portal, enabling new hires to complete paperwork and training on their own time—even in advance of their scheduled start date.

RELATED: Successful Digital Transformation Requires Behavioral, Process, and Organization Change

Establish Departmental Cooperation for Onboarding

Departmental cooperation is crucial for a successful and coordinated onboarding program. As we showed above, getting a new employee set up for their first day often requires services to be coordinated across departments, with security, IT, facilities management, and HR all playing a role in service delivery. Organizations must develop a streamlined approach to notifying each department of its responsibilities in advance of a new hire's arrival and ensuring that services are delivered on-time to optimize their experience.

RELATED: What HR Can Learn from IT about Workflow Automation

Connect New Employees with Internal Resources

One of the worst things that new hires can experience is needing help and not knowing where they should go or who they can ask. As new employees, they're likely unfamiliar with an organization’s policies and processes, and it can sometimes be intimidating to out to unfamiliar colleagues in other departments to ask for help.

Invariably, however, new hires will need to access HR, IT, and security services in their first month. They may even need someone to show them how to use the office printer. They may need to liaise with other departments as part of their role and would benefit from knowing someone that works there.

In order to succeed in their roles, new employees need to be connected to important resources in the company. This means helping them establish points of contact in other departments and a good working relationship with their direct manager and at least one member of the human resources team. It also means ensuring that new employees are adequately informed about what types of services the organization offers and how they can access those services when required.

Consolidate HR Resources

While some organizations assign different onboarding functions to each HR staff member (one person for payroll changes, one person who deals with benefits, one person who does W-4 changes, etc.), this strategy is far from optimal. Having each staff member specialize in just one aspect of the process creates knowledge silos and a disintegrated system that makes it inconvenient for new hires to access HR services when they need them. It also leads to situations where “Karen is on vacation and nobody knows how to set up benefits until she gets back.”

Organizations can combat this by adopting an integrated approach to HR. All HR systems, knowledge, and requests can be combined into a single HRSM platform that removes individual touch points for specific tasks and creates a single point of contact for service requests to which any member of HR staff can respond.

Leverage Automated Workflows for New Employee Onboarding

Organizations should use automated workflows to save time and increase efficiency during the administrative portion of the onboarding process. Organizations that have adopted a service management approach to the onboarding process can use HRSM software to better coordinate the onboarding process between departments, minimize tedious manual work, and eliminate needless delays.

In the past, a hiring manager might have to send emails around to each department—ITsecurityfacilities management—with details about the new hire and requests to perform the corresponding onboarding services (set up a workspace, provide a security card, assign parking, etc.). Today, this process can be largely automated, leaving hiring managers to focus on the more value-adding aspects of the onboarding process that will lead to superior employee satisfaction, retention, and engagement.

Employee Offboarding Best Practices

When it has been confirmed that an employee will be leaving your organization, it is important that you have the proper systems in place to conduct a successful employee offboarding or exit management process. Here are some best practices you should be following:

Communicate Clearly with Remaining Staff

Rumors swirling around the office about the impending departure of a team member are a major distraction, and intentionally hiding news like this from employees can create an atmosphere of mistrust at your organization. Instead, let your staff know that a colleague of theirs will be moving on and start communicating to team members about how they may assist with the offboarding process.

You may also want to communicate about the impending departure with customers of yours that the employee built a relationship with. Your goal should be to facilitate a smooth transition into a new relationship with a different associate.

RELATED: Navigating the Human Resources Frontier Digital Transformation through Service Management

Plan an Exit Interview to Gather Insights

An exit interview is an excellent opportunity for your organization to collect feedback from employees that is honest and reflects their true experience working for you. An exit interview also gives you the opportunity to thank the employee for their service, and even leave the door open if you might want to re-hire them in the future.

Revoke the Employee’s Access to Systems and Facilities

A coordinated effort between departments is required to ensure that once an employee leaves the organization, their access to the building, servers, networks, and even their email are all terminated promptly. Hundreds, if not thousands of data breaches each year are likely caused by former employees who never had their system access properly revoked—don’t let the same happen to your organization.

Finalize Payroll for the Leaving Employee

When employees leave your organization, it’s important that you pay them everything owed for their work and remove them from your payroll system. Even large organizations have forgotten to remove workers from their payroll for months after they left or were fired, and there are countless cases of workers staying on payroll while not showing up for months or years at a time.

Establishing a clearly defined process for employee offboarding that includes finalizing payroll will help to ensure that this critical step is never forgotten.

Cherwell’s HRSM Solution Facilitates Employee Onboarding and Offboarding Best Practices

In today's age of transformative digital technology, Cherwell's HR Service Management is helping employers deliver the real-time, on-demand services that employees expect throughout the onboarding process and beyond. The application offers a centralized point of contact within the organization for managing HR service requests, automating workflows, maintaining an HR knowledge base, and performing other HR functions.

With Cherwell HRSM, organizations can document their onboarding processes and procedures while tracking the progress of new hires as they complete the paperwork and other activities associated with onboarding. Cherwell's HRSM streamlines workflows for a variety of functions within the onboarding process, including W-4 forms, new employee setup, benefit changes, employment verification, direct deposit, and more. Workflow automation makes it easier than ever for HR managers to integrate other departments into the onboarding process and provide a cohesive, convenient experience for new hires.


When it comes to establishing an effective onboarding process, remember to establish and document the complete process beforehand, spread out the paperwork to keep employees engaged (but use a tracking system to make sure it all gets done), establish and streamline departmental cooperation throughout the process (automate this with Cherwell HRSM), and help new employees connect with the internal resources needed to access perks and perform well in their roles. 

When an employee leaves your organization, communicate the change clearly to your remaining staff and ensure that you remove the individual's access to secure systems and remove them from payroll. Finally, conduct an exit interview to thank the employee and collect any feedback and insights they may wish to share. Follow these employee onboarding and offboarding best practices to create an employee retention and satisfaction success story for your organization.

Interested in what Cherwell can do for your organization? Request a demo today!

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