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3 Reasons Modern Day Offboarding is Getting More Complex


July 11, 2017

4 minute read

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Employee offboarding is a subject only whispered about. Or so it seems.

Obviously, for those who have been let go, or for those who have had to carry out the task, offboarding is not fun, which is likely one of the reasons it gets so little attention.

Do a quick Google search for offboarding and you’ll get back just under 500,000 results. Onboarding on the other hand, when an employee and company are both in their honeymoon phases, gets much more love and attention. A search for onboarding returns 11 million more results than offboarding.


For most companies, offboarding is a serious vulnerability. So why the neglect? Unfortunately, burying heads in the sand isn’t a good answer because the topic of offboarding isn’t going to get easier any time soon.

Offboarding is only going to get more difficult and more complex. Here’s why.

#1 – The Gig Economy

The employee that sticks around for 10-plus years is a rare one indeed. It’s common now to change jobs after a couple of years. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms that as of 2016, the average employee changes jobs every 4.2 years, down 9% from just two years prior. This number is only going to decrease in the future.

This type of turnover is nothing new. But the technology involved is. SaaS has altered the playing field, and as a result, most companies take an ad hoc approach to offboarding. Despite the frequency, inevitability, and potential to cause chaos, offboarding is nothing more than a PDF checklist.

What’s more, with the rise of freelancers, contractors, and consultants, “turnover” is more prevalent than ever–so much so that the trend has been dubbed the “gig” economy. Already, freelancers make up 35% of the U.S. workforce. By 2020 (less than three years away), experts believe this number could rise to nearly 50%. What happens when companies are working with too many freelancers, granting access to data and applications, but failing to revoke it?

SaaS technology continues to make it easier than ever to collaborate. New apps like Google Drive, Dropbox, and Slack encourage sharing and make collaboration simple. While this drives productivity, it also allows data to flow freely (sometimes outside your organization) and makes that data difficult to track down and control.

This new style of workforce and the tendency to change jobs every few years is a growing concern, adding complexity to an already challenging task.

#2 – Sheer Volume of Applications Creates Additional Risk

According to an Intermedia and Osterman Research report, 89% of ex-employees retain access to email accounts, Salesforce, SharePoint, and other sensitive corporate applications, including some applications not often considered sensitive but that have the potential to damage a company’s brand (Facebook) or bank account (PayPal). And 49% actually log into an account after leaving the company.

What does this mean for organizations?

  1. Without a policy in place to prevent it, ex-employees can usually access applications and company data.
  2. Odds are high (over 50%) that if they can access it, they will.
  3. Even the most well-intentioned people will try to leave with company data, whether it’s on purpose or not.

Preventing access to approved applications is one thing, but imagine offboarding an influential employee who worked extensively with applications IT didn’t know existed? How would a company get that information back? They can ask nicely, but that’s about the extent of their power.

Whether it’s frowned upon, or even forbidden, employees will rarely place security above productivity. That’s why security controls are necessary.

Exiting employees should never take data or application access with them when they leave. This exposure not only makes companies vulnerable to data breaches, but it also opens the door for compliance issues, productivity loss, and potentially even lost revenue or destruction of shareholder value.

Interested in learning more about data security? Download our Google Drive security whitepaper: Protecting Google Drive Data: 5 Critical Requirements for Data Loss Prevention.

#3 – Data Sprawl Across Applications Creates Complexity

Today, data is created at an unprecedented rate. It’s common for employees to send and receive close to 3,000 emails a month. Executives might receive more than 10,000.

Within days of being hired, an employee will likely have access to thousands of company documents. They’ll gain access to applications, forward emails to or share documents with personal accounts, and handle sensitive data on personal devices using unsecured Wi-Fi networks.

For years, executives (and productivity application vendors) have focused on driving productivity through increased collaboration. But the result, when not executed with the full oversight of IT, is high productivity coupled with significant security exposures. In other words, IT has almost zero control.

It’s a multi-SaaS maelstrom, and it makes processes like employee offboarding extremely difficult to plan for or properly execute.

Download our latest whitepaper to learn how experts like Ryan Donnon, IT and data manager at First Round Capital, efficiently and securely offboard employees: Identifying and Eliminating Employee Offboarding Inefficiencies and Security Threats.