employee onboarding and offboarding

What is employee onboarding and offboarding?

Employee onboarding involves all the steps needed to get a new employee successfully deployed and productive, while offboarding involves separating an employee from a firm.

In today's rapidly evolving workplace landscape, understanding the processes of employee onboarding and offboarding is paramount for human resources (HR) professionals and organizations. These critical HR activities, though contrasting in their application, serve as significant bookends to an employee's tenure in a company.

Onboarding and offboarding in modern workplaces

Onboarding is the journey that begins when a candidate decides to join a company. It's a comprehensive process that goes beyond basic orientation; it introduces a new hire to the organizational culture, ensuring they're productive, engaged and connected.

It's a necessary component in any organization's strategy to advance employee retention, and it involves setting the foundation for the employee's entire professional journey within the company.

On the other end of the spectrum is offboarding, which starts when an employee is about to depart. Offboarding is the structured procedure to handle the transition. Whether due to retirement, career shifts or other reasons, this process safeguards organizational knowledge, ensures smooth role transition and concludes the employee's journey on a positive note.

Diagram illustrating the hiring and onboarding process.
The process flow for hiring and onboarding new hires.

Onboarding: More than just a welcome gesture

The emphasis on onboarding has grown exponentially, reflecting its integral role in employee retention and overall organizational success. Recent studies have shown that an effective onboarding process boosts retention of new hires by more than 80%.

To further illustrate the point, consider that a mismatch between an organization's portrayal during the hiring process and the reality a new hire encounters can significantly impact morale. For instance, pitching a tech-forward work environment but initiating with outdated paper forms would be confusing and disappointing.

Integrating employees into the workplace culture efficiently, making them productive swiftly and ensuring they are aligned with company values stand out as top priorities. The use of advanced talent management software and strategies, such as assigning mentors or setting up initial manager meetings, is now the norm rather than the exception.

Offboarding: Capturing knowledge, ensuring transition

Employee offboarding and succession planning is a critical yet often overlooked phase of the employment lifecycle. It's more than just a departure process; it's an opportunity to safeguard a company's intellectual property, gain feedback for organizational improvement and maintain a positive brand image.

When conducted effectively, offboarding ensures a smooth transition with minimal disruption, allowing the departing employee to pass on vital knowledge and insights. Additionally, a well-structured offboarding process can lead to positive alumni relationships, with former employees potentially serving as brand ambassadors, collaborators or even returning talent.

An early start to offboarding, such as through mentorship programs, can make this transition smoother. In essence, thoughtful offboarding reinforces an organization's commitment to employee well-being and professionalism, even as ties are formally severed.

The challenges of modern employee management

Over the past few decades, the talent pool has undergone significant transformations, driven in part by the evolving values and priorities of successive generations.

Baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) often prioritized long-term job stability and loyalty to a single employer. Their careers were commonly marked by a linear trajectory within a singular organization or field. This dedication stemmed from a blend of post-war economic optimism, societal expectations and the allure of the lifelong benefits many companies offered.

Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) entered the job market during the age of globalization and rapid technological change. They've exhibited a propensity to value experiences, personal growth and work-life balance over traditional job security. The economic uncertainties they faced, including the fallout from the 2008 financial crisis, coupled with an ever-connected digital world, have made them more receptive to diverse job roles, frequent career shifts and even the gig economy.

Now, as Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2012) begins to permeate the workforce, there's an even greater shift. While they've inherited the adaptability and tech-savviness of millennials, they're also demonstrating a keen sense of pragmatism, possibly shaped by growing up during times of economic and sociopolitical volatility. It's expected that the employment landscape will continue to evolve at an unprecedented pace as employers increasingly engage Gen Z employees, who grew up with digital systems and have a deep sense of purpose and desire for rapid career advancement.

Given the evolution of the workforce, it's fair to assert that employee onboarding and offboarding processes must also evolve, with HR leading the charge.

HR: The orchestrator of seamless transitions

For both onboarding and offboarding, the HR department stands at the nexus, ensuring synchronization among all involved parties. From IT ensuring timely system access (or its retraction) to administrative departments handling logistics, HR ensures everyone moves in harmony.

Both processes can be complex and resource intensive, and talent management is far more dynamic in nature than in previous generations. To ease the burden, contemporary HR technology now offers dedicated modules for these processes, providing tailored solutions for the modern challenges of onboarding and offboarding.

A chart showing the pillars of talent management.
The five pillars of talent management can help a company find and retain employees.

HR software streamlines and automates these multifaceted procedures, ensuring consistency, efficiency and thoroughness. Onboarding modules often encompass digital orientations, training schedules and documentation handling, offering new hires a seamless initiation into the company.

Offboarding functionalities ensure a structured exit, from capturing feedback through exit interviews to overseeing the return of company assets.

Centralizing the complex processes of onboarding and offboarding with HR software can enhance the employee experience and ensure that organizations capture critical data, maintain compliance and optimize their talent management strategies.

Learn 10 best practices and checklist for remote onboarding and 6 best practices for ensuring offboarding cybersecurity. Explore the types of technologies that help with remote onboarding.

This was last updated in September 2023

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