Employee onboarding & onboarding automation

What is employee onboarding?

Employee onboarding is the HR process of officially integrating a new employee into a company. 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. It involves: 

  • acquainting the new employee with the company’s culture, policies, and responsibilities in their new position
  • logging the employee on the company roster
  • including the employee in the payroll system
  • signing the employee up for company benefits.

Employee onboarding also requires new hires to fill out a significant amount of paperwork as part of their initial orientation. This can be a cumbersome process, especially if that paperwork must be printed and filled out by hand. Some of those features remain today, but they are often facilitated by software applications that make the process easier.

Some onboarding processes can last as long as 12 months, depending on the company and the role. It is a comprehensive process that introduces and orients the employee to their new position, and it is not considered complete until they are proficient at their job.

In the past, employee onboarding often involved giving the employee a welcome packet, which they would read and then answer questions about, or walking the employee through training sessions throughout their onboarding process. Today, companies can use specialized onboarding software to track, record, and manage the employee onboarding process, making it easier and more productive.

Why is employee onboarding important?

Employees need to start on the right foot when they get hired, as their initial experience with a company can impact their job performance moving forward. A strong onboarding experience can ensure the employee becomes productive in their role faster, and it can help them avoid some of the anxiety that often accompanies the new employee experience.

A good onboarding experience also affects employee longevity.

“According to an article by SHRM (the Society for Human Resource Management), 69% of employees are more likely to stay with a company for three years if they have a great onboarding experience.”

“Furthermore, organizations with a standardized onboarding process experience 50% higher levels of productivity from new staff members.”

While every organization has different onboarding techniques, 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.

The employee onboarding process

Once the paperwork is completed and the employee is officially a part of the organization, they have their first day of work. Their first day is the beginning of the onboarding process.

On the first day, the new employee will be introduced to their key objectives as well as the expectations that have been placed upon them. They’ll meet their coworkers and get to know the people with whom they’ll be working directly to accomplish their objectives. The first day is also an important step in acclimating the employee to the company’s culture, daily operations, office rules, and other important topics.

During the first week and subsequent months, the employee will be trained further on their role and given responsibilities. The hiring team, management team, or the HR department will check in periodically with the employee to determine how well they are progressing. Often, it’s during this time that the new employee will work under a mentor or a direct supervisor responsible for their training.

By the end of the first year, the new employee should reach full productivity in their role. They should be prepared to take on new challenges and develop their skills further. From this point, most companies focus on employee retention efforts and continuing skills development to make their employees more successful in the future.

Key elements of a standardized and individualized onboarding experience

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

What does a well-managed onboarding program look like?

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 overarching 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

Onboarding best practices

With thousands of customers in nearly every industry and located around the world, we’ve seen what works. Here are a few onboarding best practices that will help you inspire new talent:

  1. Set candidates up for success before their first day with a strong onboarding program. Preliminary training, paperwork, introductions, and familiarization with your culture and values can all be done before your new hire’s start date.
  2. Continue building on the trust and rapport between your recruiters and job seekers. Onboarding smooths the transition from candidate to employee, increasing productivity early and the likelihood new hires will stay longer.
  3. Focus on your organization’s culture and values. Your new hires spent a lot of time talking to your recruiters about what it’s like to work for your company. Onboarding is the time to reinforce and reassure them that they made the right choice. Show new hires what approach and values will help them get ahead and contribute to your company.
  4. Make it easy for new hires to learn more about your organization and find answers to commonly asked questions. Use an onboarding portal to include information on your company, their new team and role, products and services, benefits, upcoming events, and first-day logistics, such as what to bring and where to park.
  5. Include recruiters and hiring managers in the onboarding experience. According to a Harvard Business Review report, 40% of adults report feeling lonely at work. Friendly faces should make an appearance throughout onboarding, including new hire onboarding groups.
  6. Ensure everything – laptops, onboarding packets, paperwork, training resources, etc. – is set up and ready for new hires on their first day. Your business’ level of preparedness sets the right tone about focus, productivity, efficiency, and expectations. This is even more critical for remote employees

Onboarding automation

Onboarding is slow and error-prone when it’s manual and exists in a silo. Automated onboarding speeds up workflows, eliminates busywork for recruiters, and facilitates communication between HR, Finance, IT, hiring managers, and individual teams.

This ensures new hire tasks get assigned and accomplished before new hires arrive.

By making sure everything – laptops, onboarding packets, paperwork, training resources, etc. – is set up and ready for new hires on their first day, you set the right tone about focus, productivity, efficiency, and your expectations. Additionally, new hires have everything they need to hit the ground running.

Automating the onboarding process with employee onboarding software

Employee onboarding software is a technology solution that makes integrating new employees into their position within a company smoother and more efficient. Many of the most successful organizations have automated their onboarding programs with employee onboarding software 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. Most employee onboarding software is now cloud-based and includes a digital dashboard that enables talent acquisition teams and managers to track and communicate about a new employee’s progress.

Employee onboarding software also includes tools to make the menial tasks of onboarding more streamlined. HR personnel can use the software to automate menial tasks, such as filing tax documents, so they can focus on more important aspects of the onboarding experience, such as the employee’s progress toward full productivity and their understanding of the company’s culture.

Overall, employee onboarding software enables the HR team to track the entire onboarding process, from the moment an employee is hired to the point they become proficient in their role, and beyond.

Where does employee onboarding software fit into the recruiting process?

Employee onboarding software almost always comes into the picture toward the end of the recruiting process, after a candidate has been hired by the company. Once an applicant has been accepted, their information can be transferred or imported into the onboarding software so they can begin their onboarding journey.

Most employee onboarding software integrates with other human resource management systems, such as:

  • Payroll
  • Benefits management
  • Performance management tools

With the right solution, companies can even integrate their onboarding software with their recruiting tools, enabling a seamless transition from candidacy to onboarding.

For example, iCIMS Text Engagement software helps keep recruiters and hiring managers involved throughout the onboarding experience and offers another way to communicate and check-in with new hires. By integrating iCIMS Offer Management, employers can provide new hires copies of their offer letters in their personal onboarding portal. This makes the experience self-services, saving customers time hunting down original copies.

Best-in-class onboarding software includes easy-to-use templates for onboarding, task management tools, and automated messages including risk alerts and triggered emails. For the new employee, the onboarding solution may include dashboards that enable them to interact with the software through a secure portal. This allows them to complete onboarding tasks, so they are tracked and recorded.

Why is employee onboarding software important?

Many organizations struggle with onboarding, and with hiring in general. Companies that hire seasonal employees need to move through the onboarding process quickly and efficiently. Organizations with a high turnover rate, such as the retail industry, need to be able to fill roles quickly and reduce their time to reach productivity as much as possible.

Employee onboarding software helps by automating the burdensome tasks that get in the way of the real work of onboarding, such as filing tax documents. It creates a clear list of tasks that must be completed, so every stakeholder can have a clear understanding of where each new employee is in their process.

More importantly, this type of software provides the HR team and the new employee with a transparent and standardized process for incorporating new employees, which saves time and creates a consistent experience for everyone in the company. With a standardized process, the company can collect data on the onboarding process to spot trends and make incremental improvements. It’s also easier for the new employee, as they can rely on the software to guide them through their experience.

Most onboarding software helps with compliance obligations as well. The best solutions include tools for the automated preparation, signing, and management of government forms. This reduces risks and ensures no documents or important information is lost.

What to look for in employee onboarding software

At a minimum, an employee onboarding solution should include features that enable a company to do the following:

  • Seamlessly manage hiring paperwork
  • Ensure documentation compliance, even in compliance-heavy industries
  • Create automated task workflows for new employees and HR personnel
  • Track employee progress in the onboarding process
  • Create a single source of truth for employee information
  • Generate analytics and reporting on the onboarding process

The best solutions allow for complex integrations into your existing HR software. You should also be able to track the onboarding process across multiple systems, including human capital management and payroll software. This enables the new hire’s records to be moved easily into other systems after they are hired.

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 time spent 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.

iCIMS’ employee onboarding software

iCIMS Onboarding expedites the onboarding process through automated onboarding processes, templates, tasks, and electronic forms. Track the entire onboarding process across multiple systems and integrate your onboarding software seamlessly with your other HR solutions.

  • Prepare new hires for the road ahead with onboarding portals that guide them through their journey.
  • Include customized messages and videos, making it easy to showcase your unique brand and keep new employees engaged. Even if you operate in a compliance-heavy industry, iCIMS makes compliance easy with virtual paperwork tools.
  • Automate the management of your tax documents to ensure they are error-free and make compliance easy for your new hires through an intuitive guide.

The onboarding process should be exciting and engaging. iCIMS takes care of all the heavy lifting, so you can focus on bringing your new employee into the fold.

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