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HRlab Onboarding Software On-boarding Software: Critical or Just Helpful?

Micah Fairchild Onboarding Software: Mission Critical or Only Mildly Helpful?

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 By Micah Fairchild

Is Onboarding Software Technology Just Orientation 2.0?

The war for talent is now officially happening with the first wave of retirements occurring across the U.S. and Europe. As organizations struggle to contend with the numerous issues that come with this increased competition for talent, one of the most powerful weapons also just so happens to be one of the easiest to deploy—onboarding. Couple that ease of deployment with the fact that a recent Gartner report indicated that employee tenure is on the decline, employee turnover costs are on the rise, and the newest generation of workers is more demanding than ever, and the critical need for implementing effective onboarding practices becomes palpable. Further, with accelerating job growth, and the fact that many organizations are still short-staffed from the economic downturn, new solutions are increasingly being called for to aid in onboarding delivery. Automating even just some of the aspects of the new employee process can be just such a solution—often done in less time, with less cost, and with more success.

Onboarding Works Better with Software

One of the few business processes that can be automated, but not outsourced, onboarding simply refers to the business process of making sure new employees are fully integrated into the organization. From the time an applicant accepts a job offer to the point where that new hire can be considered a fully-functioning and productive member of the team, the onboarding process is either happening successfully or the new employee is on his or her way out.

While the actual onboarding process can range in what is included, it typically involves largely administrative, provisioning, orienting, and training functions. Because of these varied functions, the onboarding process can be extremely difficult to manually manage. In fact many companies find that bringing on a new employee results in a ridiculous amount of paper (which is bad for the environment); harried interdepartmental and intradepartmental coordination (which is bad for the organization); and countless forms and procedures that haven't been configured for quality in years (which is bad for the new employee). Recent data from a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) report even found that orientation materials alone can have processes that require 30+ signatures from the new hire. Given these facts, automating as many of these tasks as possible would seem to be both wanted and desperately needed.

New Hire Technology for Forms, Tasks, and Portals

Indeed, even at the smallest company, the work associated with onboarding can be astronomical. Forms must be signed, access must be given, works stations must be set up, security permissions must be granted, and the list goes on and on. These processes take time—and without automation—take work. Knowing the inordinate amount of resources that go into bringing a new employee on-board, the overwhelming majority of onboarding software solutions have the capabilities to: a) manage numerous new hire forms; b) serve as the facilitator for any necessary internal communications; and c) allow for "new employee" portals—with nearly infinite options for software customization. For example,

  • Forms Management modules – are designed to handle the countless administrative activities (such as forms) by gathering electronic signatures, verifying specific employment elements (like the U.S. I-9 form), and filing/archiving/indexing those essentials that make up an employee's personnel file.
  • Task Management modules – are designed (depending on the complexity that is wanted or required) to automate any and all tasks related to employee, manager, and HR responsibilities over a given time period.
  • New Hire Portal modules – are designed to support communication strategies for engagement, aid in self-service capabilities for learning/development, and add another layer of orientation (policies, rules, etc.) reinforcement.

Depending on the need, further capabilities can also be deployed such as benefit provider comparisons, social networking frameworks and others. Given onboarding's impact, as these systems evolve, it is likely that even more capabilities will be added to onboarding software suites including additional system integration points to talent management and human capital analytics.

Software System Capabilities

Effective onboarding practices have the ability to decrease turnover, increase productivity, promote engagement, and increase organizational commitment. Unfortunately, when it comes to the onboarding process, many companies falsely assume that a one-size-fits-all policy is best. Even a cursory look at the accounting and marketing professions for example can show that differences exist in the daily routines, compliance risks, and company culture interactions that these two functions represent. Why then should the onboarding process for an accountant and a marketing professional be the same? They shouldn't; and HR-savvy companies know it. These organizations are realizing that onboarding content should be customized—tailoring the experience to job types, locations, unique profession needs, company structures, and more. However, be careful not to "overengineer the onboarding process", says Gartner's Thomas Otter. "Focus on the basics [by helping] employees get the administrative activities out of the way quickly and [connecting] them with colleagues".

Measuring the Costs of an Onboarding System

As is to be expected for a system that can be far-ranging from simple to highly complex, the implementation models, pricing, and maintenance structures for automated onboarding software solutions vary. Though some HR systems are being marketed as stand-alone best-of-breed solutions or tagged as Applicant Tracking System (ATS) add-ons; most onboarding software winds up being offered through the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model. That being said, regardless of model, pricing can be per hire, per full-time equivalent (FTE), per user, or per module, with additional fees being levied for implementation and support. While Gartner's research finds that companies with 200+ employees should consider onboarding automation, keep these differences in structure and potential cost in mind when weighing out purchase and implementation decisions.

Onboarding Software's Bottom-line

"[Onboarding] is taking off as Human Resource organizations aggressively pursue coordinated techniques for delivering information, benefits, forms and context through corporate intranets and other electronic channels," says Gartner's Diane Morello. And for good reason. Onboarding affects everything. From the first impression an organization is giving to a new employee to long-term engagement affects, onboarding is strategic HR at its best. As such, it's not hyperbole to say that onboarding technology is a mission critical deployment. Choose not to implement at your own risk. End

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Effective onboarding practices have the ability to decrease turnover, increase productivity, promote engagement, and increase organizational commitment."


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