When considering any organizational strategy adjustment, there are always more effective approaches than others, with the goal being to get it right for your organization. As it shapes the employee experience, contributes to your industry reputation, and prevents workflow disruption—choosing the best implementation is especially crucial when developing your onboarding and offboarding strategy. 

Having a set of procedures in place for the beginning and end of the user identity lifecycle will ensure that new hires have the resource access they need to perform relevant tasks, and that employees who are leaving have a seamless departure while maintaining organizational security. We’ve outlined the best practices for company efficiency in both onboarding and offboarding processes for your identity access management (IAM) solutions

Onboarding Best Practices

Start with Pre-Boarding

Companies lose valuable time and resources by delaying their onboarding—sometimes 2-4 days at time. It’s best to grant your new employees access permissions even before their first day, and you can start by automatically disseminating relevant documentation. This process can begin before onboarding, in a period referred to as pre-boarding. In this phase, administrators can auto-send new hire paperwork (e.g., an NDA or W-4) for review and signature, allowing you to build the new employee’s digital profile with approved accesses and payroll well before their start date. Doing so not only supports a seamless transition for both company and new hire alike, but also sets your organization up to generate accurate employment reporting at any later date.

Structure and Define Program

An effective onboarding process is not the average paperwork-laden first day. It should include the tools and procedures for supporting new employees. Creating a schedule with communication cadence from relevant team members will ensure your new hires aren’t left isolated, while also helping managers and team members stay committed to their roles in the program. And with SaaS applications, cloud resources, and the new normalcy of remote work—consistency is key.

Reinforce Your Program with Training

Your teams will need to build training programs to set expectations and ensure operational consistency for all employees. Though training will look different for every organization, all programs will need to maintain a high engagement level early on to increase long-lasting retention. An effective training program could include department introductions, responsibilities review, video walkthroughs, and technology demonstrations that are each relevant to and customized for a given position. Many companies organize this information with an employee portal, organizing content while improving the user experience.

Utilize Automated Onboarding Workflows 

It’s best practice to establish an automated onboarding process for your IAM solution, easing the burden on your IT team and supporting efficient, cross-organization workflows. This automation might start with assigning proper permissions for every user in each department. Using implementations like role-based access, administrators can grant access to duty-relevant resources and applications on day one.

Use New Hires as Resources

Whatever the approach, be sure to follow-up with employees on an incremental schedule throughout the first three months of employment to review progress, identify barriers, and discuss future needs. Automating the process doesn’t close the opportunity for incremental improvements to your program. Sending retention surveys to new hires early can help cultivate quality feedback from them while their perspective on your company is still fresh—as opposed to after a poor onboarding experience.

Align Company Departments with Onboarding Procedures

Though Human Resources and IT teams are often head of new employee efforts, total organizational alignment is essential for program success. A high level of alignment not only makes it easier for new hires to assimilate, but it also ensures that each department is in organizational compliance with your procedures. 

Hold regular training sessions to prepare team members with organization-wide and department-specific content to share with new employees and elaborate on offboarding processes should an employee elect to leave or be terminated. This company-wide communication also avoids redundancy and ensures every process stage is purposeful and efficient. You should also be clear about accountability, so teams know who to report to should they have questions or need to address process-related issues. Doing so ensures your existing team provides accurate information while assuring them with a set structure to support them in either onboarding or offboarding situations.

Common Onboarding Challenges

Information Overload

Some companies do too good of a job pre-planning onboarding for their employees. Organizations want to move too fast, and are tempted to get their new hires up to speed as quickly as possible, providing all information on day one. All of the new hire documents, personnel to remember, and applications to master can result in an overwhelming and unproductive start. Digital onboarding puts less of a strain on this, as documents are easily organized and disseminated by the cloud.

Broad Onboarding for Specific Roles

When it comes to welcoming new hires into different departments of your company, not every onboarding experience should be the same. In fact, onboarding flows should be customized depending on role. For example, a new salesperson should not need to be trained on the intricacies of your HR software. And HR hires don’t need to learn extensively about your company’s CRM tool. Keeping your training specific to the role your new hire is stepping into gives them a chance to retain the information that’s important for doing their job.

Training Beyond Paperwork

Providing login credentials to relevant applications ensures new employees have access to the tools they need. This is only the beginning of your onboarding responsibility, as effective training on those applications is more important than the access itself. Companies waste valuable time dropping complicated tools and tasks on new employees’ desks without spending time walking them through how it all works. Whether it’s SOP documentation or education videos loaded to your cloud-powered solution, you can take the pressure off manual training while maintaining a thoughtful onboarding experience.

Offboarding Best Practices

Schedule an Exit Interview

Exit interviews have become commonplace in larger enterprises, and for good reason. Companies investing in forging positive relationships with former employees are seeing long-term benefits. There may be errors in your offboarding experience that leave former team members with access to confidential files, and mitigating that risk through a positive exit interview can add a layer of protection. Also, feedback at the end of an employee lifecycle is invaluable—providing you with unbridled honesty from a now unbiased perspective. Automated offboarding workflows can schedule this interview for you, taking pressure of HR while ensuring a quality offboarding experience.

Secure Offboarding Employee Credentials

If you do not have automated deprovisioning standards in place, departing employees may retain their credentials—leaving your organization vulnerable. And as insider threats are a common form of cyberattack, it’s crucial to safeguard against them by decommissioning employee credentials during offboarding. Establish an automated process to remove access approvals—from keycards to passwords—upon departure. Taking these actions mitigates risk and ensures that when employees leave your organization, they leave your data alone.

Manage Relevant Documents

Any contracts, NDAs, or other personal information related to the offboarding employee need to be terminated. Documentation around compensation, benefits, and taxes must be reviewed by your HR team to ensure nothing is being overlooked. If a former employee is still owed money, but your payroll department never knew, the process is to blame. Automation is another solution to this risk, as IAM solutions can use digital identities to trigger when the appropriate documents are seen and handled.

Communicate with Employees

The time between an employee deciding to leave a company and other employees finding out for themselves is crucial. Getting out in front of the communication to your organization mitigates the opportunity for a false narrative. This isn’t as simple an email to your entire company. There should be a thoughtful and layered approach to disseminating the news, and which departments receive which information. For example, accounting would have a completely different set of concerns as the sales team. And depending on which role is being vacated, certain departments might need more information than others. Having this strategy folded into your offboarding eliminates the “telephone effect”—where information is distorted as it moves through your organization.

Design a Redirect Strategy

It would be nearly impossible to understand the complicated communication cadence your exiting employee had with individuals outside of your organization. That’s why it’s important to ensure relevant parties—including potential business—trying to reach former employees are redirected to someone still involved in your organization. Though it’s not as simple as forwarding emails and calls—customers need to be redirected to someone in the company with specific knowledge, context, and the power to provide real support. Designing a redirect strategy within your offboarding program gives you the opportunity to optimize the transition and eliminate the amount of time it can take for a customer to reach someone with answers.

Document Termination Steps

As always, an offboarding process is only as useful as its consistency. And documenting the steps necessary to execute a smooth offboarding is the only way to guarantee you’re not forgetting any crucial steps—potentially leaving your company unprotected. A thought-out, defined process makes offboarding simple. Applying that process to an automated solution makes it downright easy.

Common Offboarding Challenges

Remaining Compliant

If the threat of cybersecurity wasn’t enough, there are a number of industry regulations and standards that need to be met when removing an employee from your system. Most confidentiality breaches and compliance violations are due to administrative errors, compounding the pressure on HR professionals to stay diligent in their efforts to safely offboard team members. With an IAM platform, you can automate these steps to ensure you always remain compliant.

Hidden Costs

With specialized employees, there’s a likelihood that their digital identity is tied to certain licenses and software applications. When these users are removed from your system, the recurring payments on the integrated software are never canceled, resulting in a hidden cost still being taken on by your company. There can also be unused storage on a platform that was used by the exiting employee, resulting in resources you’re paying for but not using. Surfacing hidden costs attached to exiting user identities can save you from wasting money in the long-run.

Employees Gathering Confidential Files

It’s impossible to predict when an employee will decide to leave a company. A lot of the time, employees with plans to leave will prepare for their exit by forwarding valuable documents and files to their personal email to leverage in the future. Often times, this is simply a professional trying to transfer knowledge from one job to the next. Other times, employees gather confidential files and information before you can launch your protected offboarding process. Certain IAM solutions can mitigate this risk by blocking specific files from being shared outside of your organization—including messages forwarded to personal emails.

Automate the Onboarding & Offboarding System

Of course, the overarching concept for each of these measures is automation. Without it, your teams are left to their own (many) devices, inevitably creating a chaotic assortment of different approaches. Again, consistency is key. 

Your IAM solution, with centralized digital identities and applications integration, can help to limit system access for easier offboarding revocations (and overall security) while equipping new employees with the appropriate materials they need (and only what they need) to hit the ground running. Process automation allows you to accomplish all of this, and keep track of every employee’s onboarding and offboarding progress to completion.

Wrapping Up

While setting up processes for incoming and outgoing employees is imperative for operational health and performance, having complete identity lifecycle management allows you to maintain high efficiency for every employee at any stage. See how SailPoint’s Identity Security platform can support and streamline your onboarding and offboarding efforts—and everything in between.


What does a good onboarding program look like?

A good onboarding program uses a combination of technology, diligent pre-scheduling, and overall company buy-in to ensure new hires have a positive experience. Ideally, all onboarding checkpoints are laid out on a schedule that is supported by an IAM solution, so that employees don’t feel isolated while assimilating to their environment. Additionally, a company culture that buys into this process is just as important as the automation that keeps it on track. If your IAM solution automatically schedules a one-on-one between a new hire and their new manager, it’s still the responsibility of the manager to host a productive introductory meeting.

How long does onboarding take?

Depending on the intricacies of your organization, onboarding should be looked at as a fairly involved process. A mistake companies will make is insisting on onboarding an employee as quickly as possible—from a week to just a day. Considering the challenges that come with rushing and consolidating your onboarding experience, it should really be looked at as a month-long transition. This amount of time suffices in introducing policies, how to use different tools and applications, check-ins on progress and feedback, and other best practices. It’s not about taking your time; it’s about being thoughtful in setting up new employees for success.

What to do after onboarding?

After onboarding is a great opportunity to check in with new hires about how their experience was. This way you can gather feedback on your process and make adjustments where you felt that the new hire wasn’t properly supported. Additionally, after onboarding is a good time to set expectations for the rest of the year. Many companies take a “30-60-90 day” approach, asking team members to set different goals at different checkpoints through their first three months to ensure a quality employee experience. Regardless, it’s imperative to maintain this level of communication with team members even when their onboarding is complete. Organizations are constantly adjusting their policies and practices—keeping existing employees abreast on the changes is just as important as onboarding.

Why are onboarding and offboarding important?

Onboarding and offboarding are important because they maintain structure within your organization—from your IAM universe to the collective satisfaction of your employees. Employee turnover can be mitigated by a quality onboarding experience, as the first impression given to new hires informs a lot about their relationship with a company. Additionally, proper training ensures you’re not wasting time and resources while new hires get acclimated with your tools and applications.

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