Automating the Onboarding Process to Realize Significant Return on Investment

Studies by SHRM have proven the value of implementing a strong onboarding program within an organization to improve employee engagement and retention. Automation allows organizations of all sizes to affordably capitalize on the benefits of a formal onboarding program. The key question becomes, ‘what is the return on investment associated with automated  nboarding?’

What is Onboarding?

Onboarding is the initial process of assimilating new hires into an organization. In addition to equipping new hires with the tools necessary to succeed in their new position, a successful onboarding program provides new hires with the resources to become fully engaged and culturally aware members of a productive workforce.

Why is Onboarding Important?

According to a SHRM onboarding study, nearly half of all hourly workers leave new jobs within the first four months and half of outside senior hires fail within 18 months.1

One way companies can improve these statistics is by the use of strategic onboarding techniques that help employees assimilate. While every organization has different onboarding techniques ranging from a formal onboarding process to the sink-or-swim mentality, the important thing to remember is that the faster a new hire feels welcome and prepared for their new job, the faster that employee will be able to contribute to the company’s overall success. As SHRM points out, employees who are onboarded using the sink-or-swim technique often struggle to figure out what is expected and how they can be successful in their new workplace.

What is a Well-Managed Onboarding Program?

A well-managed onboarding program is both well thought out and coordinated. The most important thing to remember is that onboarding is not one-size-fits-all. Different employees, depending on the level of their career, job function, geographic or cultural influence, etc. will require different onboarding techniques to ensure success. Although onboarding programs vary greatly from organization to organization, there are several over-arching characteristics present in all well-managed onboarding programs.

One of the most important elements of a successful onboarding program is to focus on the new hire’s experience. The onboarding experience must be enriching, yet simple. To accomplish this, onboarding requirements like forms and manuals should be presented as a clear and self-explanatory task-driven workflow.

  • In addition to this, successful onboarding programs:
  • Provide ongoing, clear, concise and consistent channels of communication
  • Facilitate learning at every organizational level
  • Clearly align new hires to key business strategies
  • Set milestones to gauge new hire success
  • Present information in easily-digestible amounts
  • Reinforce the employment brand and other positive aspects of the company culture
  • Provide the employee with both standard onboarding elements and individualized onboarding elements

Standard Onboarding Elements

At a macro level, many elements of the onboarding process are relatively standardized. For example, everyone in the company needs to complete the general paperwork and company trainings. New hires must be prepared with an understanding of the company overall. Such standard elements may include:

  • Company values, mission, and culture
  • New hire paperwork
  • General company-wide policies and procedures
  • Key business processes
  • Important-to-know people and organizational chart (CEO, Directors, etc.)

Individualized Onboarding Elements

The micro-elements of the best onboarding programs include items specific to the employee’s department, function, and/or location. To help understand why this matters, think for a second about the differences between departments of a well-known organization, such as a large automaker. In such a scenario, would it make sense to onboard a person to the finance team in the same way as one would onboard a mechanic? Some examples of elements included in an individualized onboarding program include:

  • Department or work location culture
  • Explanation of how the new hire’s function fits into the overarching company strategy and goals
  • Measurable managerial expectations and goals
  • Key departmental processes
  • Important-to-know people (manager, mentor, buddy, team members)
  • Customized learning plan and objectives

Automated Onboarding Programs

Many of the most successful organizations have automated their onboarding programs to streamline their talent acquisition initiatives and increase their return-on-investment. The software used to automate onboarding programs helps to reduce costs, while improving employee retention and productivity in the long run.

For example, an automated onboarding program also eliminates reliance on paper documents. Automated onboarding programs take advantage of an onboarding portal, a comprehensive and easily accessible location to store the documents necessary for the entire onboarding process. This gives new hires the opportunity to access information when they need it, placing critical documents at their fingertips even before their first day of work.

In addition to this, automated onboarding programs provide companies with many qualitative benefits, such as:

  • Improved New Hire Engagement: Tailoring the new hire experience to the employee’s job, department, location, etc. helps new hires acclimate to the corporate culture and procedures early. Fully branded new hire onboarding portals allow for streamlined communication of company benefits and business objectives engaging employees in the business before they start working.
  • Enhanced Human Resources (HR) Productivity: Automation streamlines processes, helping the HR department to regain productivity, and eliminate oversights. Reporting and metrics give HR a direct view into tasks that require completion and bridges the gap between departments involved in the onboarding process.
  • Increased New Hire Productivity: New employees are able to hit the ground running on day one with early exposure to important information and the opportunity to complete paperwork online. • Increased Retention Rates: Task management tools help to ensure new hires are equipped with the tools needed to succeed. Provide a window into your culture, assuring new hires feel they are a part of the larger organization.
  • Task Management and Process Improvement: Using system reporting capabilities, users can generate reports that expose bottlenecks in key processes. This allows users to measure key performance indicators (KPIs), and ensure important elements are not missed while identifying areas that may benefit from process improvement.

Barriers to Automating the Onboarding Process

Even with these benefits, many companies site cost as the primary reason why they have not fully automated the onboarding process. This, however, is only one side of the story. The return on investment associated with automated onboarding is significant. To that end, the question must change from ‘can we afford automated onboarding’ to ‘can we afford NOT to automate onboarding.’

Onboarding ROI

To establish the return on investment, one can look at the possible returns for a hypothetical company with 200 employees. Assuming average turnover and growth, the cost of onboarding new employees manually is approximately $102,000 per year.

By automating the onboarding process, this sample company realized a return on investment of more than $79,000 per year!

How is that possible, you ask? First, by automating the onboarding process, the company eliminated all costs associated with mailing. Electronic forms, like the W-4 and I-9, have been automated reducing the document preparation and processing time.

Second, the logistics, such as coordinating desk set up, supply orders, and IT requests, have also been automated, reducing the time spend and thereby the costs associated with these tasks. Just those changes alone reduced the hypothetical company’s onboarding cost per hire by half.

While the numbers used in the calculations below may vary from organization to organization, the point is clear, automating the onboarding process saves an organization a significant amount of time and money!

Automating the Onboarding Process to Realize Significant Return on Investment

Written By

iCIMS Staff


April 28, 2017



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