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The Risks of Improper Offboarding

Offboarding Incorrectly can Lead to Issues and Security Threats

No matter what kind of company you run, there will be times when you have to let employees go. This can be a challenging process for everyone, especially if the employee feels angry about being released from their job. The more sudden the offboarding process, the more risk there is for an employer.

If you have been struggling with managing layoffs or having to fire people who have broken non-negotiable rules, you need to be careful about your offboarding process to prevent issues in the long run.


What Are the Risks of Offboarding Incorrectly?

Offboarding is as important as onboarding. The entire hiring and firing process needs to be tackled correctly by your company to prevent issues that might crop up later on. Cutting corners on either of these critical steps in the hiring process can lead to trouble that you would rather avoid. Make sure that you never take the offboarding process lightly.


1.   Data Loss

The biggest problem that often crops up with offboarding is data loss. When you do not handle the process of offboarding properly, employees can have access to data that they should be prevented from accessing once they have been released from their job. Vengeful employees that have been fired or laid off can cause havoc by stealing data or corrupting and deleting it so that you cannot use it. This can lead to significant slowdowns to work processes and conflict with other employees or other businesses that work with you.

If you do have to let someone go for one reason or another, you need to be sure that you do not allow these people to retain access to company data. This will prevent data theft and damage to your critical company assets. You should avoid data loss with ease if you are careful about the way that you release people from their jobs.


2.   Compliance Issues

One of the most common issues businesses face due to incorrect offboarding is noncompliance, which can occur due to employee anger before leaving. In places like hospitals or other medical facilities where HIPAA is in place, this can lead to issues that cost the company thousands of dollars in fines. In other work environments, non-compliant behavior can lead to issues with stolen information, lack of proper information collection, or improper conduct, leading to fines and customer dissatisfaction.

Compliance is often the first thing to be thrown out the window when someone is mad at their employer, and this is one of the biggest risks to your business when you offboard someone incorrectly. You need to be sure that the people you have on staff will uphold the standards of your business for a whole variety of reasons, and it is not wise to trust angry employees to behave appropriately on your behalf once they know they have been let go.


3.   Theft of Intellectual Property

This is often the most significant risk to tech companies or companies that develop products and goods that haven’t yet landed on the market. If you have any developmental ideas or projects that you are making or selling, you need to be sure that you do not let offboarded employees access this kind of information and data once they know they have been let go. It is all too common for employees to attempt to steal intellectual property to take it with them to their new job or to sell the information to competitors.

If you are worried about the risk of intellectual property theft, it is also wise to have a document that outlines the terms of data management and intellectual property management when you are onboarding employees. This will help protect you if you have to let someone go. Theft of data and property is always a considerable risk for companies that make new products, apps, or other technology, and you will want to carefully protect yourself against this problem.


4.   Reputation Damage

When you let someone go, the reality is that they will probably talk badly about you to other people. Reputation for your business is essential when you are trying to attract new hires that are skilled and have a lot of experience. While you cannot control everything that people will say about your business when you let them go, you can try to handle the damage that might be caused by letting someone go in a way that makes them very angry.

One of the key parts of offboarding people correctly is that you will need to make sure that the employee who has been let go does not have extra time to interact with other employees or to steal company property and data. You will also want to be sure that you are fair and communicative with the person you are letting go of. The way you release people from employment can go a long way toward preventing a lot of damage to your reputation once they are no longer an employee.


5.   Cybersecurity Threats

This is one of the threats that employers are not always aware of, but it can be the most serious of the risks related to improper offboarding. Many companies forget to remove access to programs and remove employee access to cloud sharing. This can lead to major issues to do with company data that can be accessed by an employee even after they have left the company.

The other problem related to forgetting to remove users that are no longer with the company is that hackers often seek out these unused accounts to gain access to the cloud or to programs that your company owns. This can be a major risk to your company’s security, and you will want to be sure that you delete or deactivate the accounts of people who have been let go. This is a critical feature of company safety when releasing an employee from their contract or job.


Tips to Help Offboard Employees Correctly

Ensuring that you handle the offboarding process properly is critical for your company’s data security, cybersecurity, and reputation. You will want to be sure that you follow these tips correctly so that you do not have any issues with a disgruntled employee risking the security of your business or damaging your company’s reputation once they are gone.


1.   Plan Carefully

One of the biggest features of a successful offboarding process is planning ahead. You will want to be sure that you have the end date, the steps for transitioning, the collection of keys and devices, and the revocation of software access planned for any employee you are letting go. When you plan ahead, you will be less likely to encounter surprises that can lead to problems down the road.

Being organized can make all the difference in the offboarding process, and you will be able to plan the last day of this employee with care. This will help you avoid all of the risks we have already discussed. You will be able to give your former employee all of the information they need to know about their release from employment so they cannot be shocked or angry with the process overall.

Employee on laptop during offboarding process

2.   Communicate Effectively

Sneaking up on employees is never a good way to handle this kind of breakup. You will need to make sure that your former employee knows that you are letting them go, and you need to be sure that you are clear about the terms of the release. There are some situations where you will want to provide the employee with some warning and then make sure that you escort them from the building as you let them go. When data or intellectual property theft are a risk, you need to be sure that you do not allow the employee that is being released to stay at work for the rest of the workday.

Communication can be the difference between a successful offboarding process and one that does not go smoothly overall. This will also help manage reputation damage as well as employee anger. Offboarding is always uncomfortable, but clearly communicating why you are letting the person go can make a massive difference to your offboarding process.


3.   Take Care of Documentation

You will always need to be sure to collect all the proper documents when you let someone go. This documentation might include a resignation letter, a non-compete agreement, benefits forms, and more. It is important to get these documents signed to avoid legal difficulties later if a disgruntled employee takes legal action and gets a lawyer.


4.   Remove Access

Ensuring that an employee’s access to the cloud, to programs and data, and to their devices has been taken away is critical for cybersecurity risk prevention and the prevention of data theft and intellectual property theft. Access to software and devices needs to be removed as soon as an employee is going to be released from employment. This is an easy step to plan, and taking care of this need well before you sit down with an employee to release them is the best course of action.

Removing access to programs can increase the security of your programs and the overall company network. You should also make sure that anyone who moves to another team within your company does not have access that they should not. Dead or inactive accounts can lead to hacking and other problems with ease.


5.   Exit Interviews

Make sure that you conduct an exit interview for everyone you have to let go. This is an important step that allows former employees to get things off their chest and have their voices heard. This can also help you learn more about what led to the choice you had to make to let someone go. Being able to air complaints might reduce the possibility of an employee talking about how much they hated their job with you once they leave.

When you take the time to do an exit interview, you will be able to get some information about the experience that this person had while working for you that can lead to improvements in training and other processes. Maybe onboarding, team interactions, benefits and time off, and other factors led to the employee being dissatisfied and behaving in a way that led to their release from their contract. You need to know about this to fix the problems, which can prevent future issues.


Improper Offboarding Can Lead to Major Difficulties

You should always make sure that you take the correct steps to offboard employees. This will help prevent damage to your reputation, data and intellectual property theft, and cybersecurity issues. Making sure that you do not forget the critical steps that need to be taken to offboard an employee that has been let go for any reason can help you learn from former mistakes and avoid difficulties that can crop up when an employee is fired, or layoffs take place.

Offboarding is a necessary evil for any company owner, but you will find that the process is far less painful when you handle the process correctly from the start. Planning in advance can make a big difference, as can removing access to programs and cloud features your company uses daily. No matter why you need to let an employee go, taking these steps and using these tips and tricks when offboarding employees will prevent issues that can lead to major trouble for you as the employer.

Having a plan to offboard properly can seem like a daunting task, but Edge Networks is here to help! Let us take care of your company’s IT, including employee offboarding, so you don’t have to. To asses your risk, take our free, self-guided IT Security Risk Assessment, or contact us today for a free, 30-minute consultation.


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