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12 Tips for Automating Employee Onboarding

Employees welcoming a new hire for onboarding

How would you feel if your first days at new job looked like this?

  1. When you walked through the door, no one at the front desk seemed to have a clear idea of who you are and what you were doing there.
  2. The first few days were spent filling out endless and repetitive paperwork and forms.
  3. There seemed to be no real rhyme or reason to the process.
  4. You experienced a rising sense of concern that the job for which you interviewed and the one you took were actually two very different things.

If so, you’re not alone. Consider these points from the SHRM Foundation’s Onboarding New Employees: Maximizing Success. (Note: SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, is the leading professional society for HR managers.)

  • “A study of employees in the United States and United Kingdom found that businesses lose an estimated $37 billion each year as a result of employees not understanding their jobs.”
  • “More than 25 percent of the U.S. population experiences some type of career transition each year.”
  • “Half of all hourly workers leave new jobs in the first four months, and half of senior outside hires fail within 18 months.”
  • “Organizations perceive effective onboarding as improving retention rates (52 percent), time to productivity (60 percent) and overall customer satisfaction (53 percent).”

Lack of an effective onboarding process also directly hits the cost line in companies particularly in mid-sized companies.’s How much does it cost to hire a new employee? notes, “Administration tasks, the costs of which are measured by the hours you devote to them, make up 2.3 percent of the total costs of hiring, according to a report by the Center for Economics and Business Research. That's just for the initial onboarding. Regular administration accounts for just over 8 percent of non-wage costs. Add payroll processing onto that for another 4 percent.”

Automating your company’s employee onboarding processes can help reduce costs, simplify paperwork, increase productivity and improve employee retention. It’s often mistaken that automated processes replace employees. That is not the case. Automating the employee onboarding process complements the efforts of human resources professionals to reduce administrative hours and simplify tedious tasks.

Despite all of this, the SHRM Foundations concludes that only 20 percent of organizations have a systematic approach to onboarding.

How to develop a winning approach to employee onboarding

So, what should you do about this? How can you become a leading rather than a lagging organization when it comes to maximizing the value of your new employees? Here are 12 tips from the SHRM Foundation (noted below in italics):

  1. Implement the basics prior to the first day on the job. There is nothing worse than arriving for a new job, full of excitement, and then spending the first day filling out forms. Get this activity out of the way before a new employee even walks in the door. 
  1. Make the first day on the job special. The first day of employment should take the excitement of the original job offer and acceptance and push it to the next level. This means thinking about the details of what will happen and who will do it BEFORE the new employee arrives at the doorstep. 
  1. Use formal orientation programs. “Formal” doesn’t mean overly “stiff.” But it does mean orientation should start by consistently conveying the core values and objectives of the organization and how the new employee fits into these objectives.
  1. Develop a written onboarding plan. Write it down. Until a process is documented, it isn’t really a process; it’s somebody’s wish list. The onboarding process is loaded with a set of repetitive processes that are not individually complex, but in the aggregate, often overlooked. This includes processes like creating email accounts, getting phone numbers, gaining access to company social accounts, identifying key training resources, and even configuring the physical workspace
  1. Make onboarding participatory. “Orientation” should not be something that is done TO a new employee but rather WITH the new employee. It’s their orientation.
  1. Be sure your program is consistently implemented. Consistency is key to gaining an understanding of whether a program is actually working. And the key to making an activity consistent is to have it clearly documented, and to automate as much of the “busywork” of the process as possible. 
  1. Ensure that the program is monitored over time. Make sure that confidential evaluations of the orientation process itself are done by new employees in a consistent way, and with the data from these evaluations visible and formatted so they are easy to understand.
  1. Use technology to facilitate the process. HR is usually imagined as a paper-dominated place where trees go to die. It doesn’t have to be that way. And freeing both HR and new employees from the drudgery of paper processes will free up time and energy to focus on what’s really important, setting clear objectives expectations.
  1. Use milestones, such as 30, 60, 90 and 120 days on the job   and up to one-year post-organizational entry  to check in on employee progress. All of these checkpoints and the documentation associated with them should be transparent, simple, easy to complete, and paperless.
  1. Engage stakeholders in planning. HR processes, included onboarding, cannot be done in isolation. When any process is automated, there is a tendency for “the business” to throw requirements “over the transom” into IT and expect IT to magically automate them. It doesn’t work that way.
  1. Include key stakeholder meetings as part of the program. Constant iteration, in small chunks, is the key to more agile and responsive processes. The real work begins once the initial automation is done.
  1. Be crystal clear with new employees in terms of: 1) Objectives, 2) Timelines, 3) Roles, 4) Responsibilities. According to HR Technologist, “When all departments are on the same page concerning requirements for onboarding, the new hire sees an organization with its ducks in a row. Of employees who undergo a structured onboarding process, 45 percent say they have greater trust in their organization.”

As you think through these 12 tips, there are two common elements to them; 1) digital not paper documents; and 2) automated and digital processes. The 12 Tips are loaded with expectations tied to documents and documentation. These can include W-4s, I-9s, insurance forms, direct deposit forms, non-disclosure agreements and countless others. And nothing will play a more important role in getting them to regret their decision to join the company – and set the employment relationship off on exactly the wrong foot. notes, “Automated employee onboarding solutions can help to reduce these costs by allowing your HR team to digitize nearly all of the necessary onboarding paperwork. By automating this new hire paperwork, your staff no longer needs to waste paper and valuable time copying and organizing orientation packets for your new hires. Allowing new employees to enter their own data automatically also minimizes the risk of costly errors and compliance issues.”

As you think through the best way to automate all of the above – and especially as you consider the many single-purpose SaaS (Software as a Service) HR solutions that are out there – make sure to consider that HR information and HR processes do not exist in isolation. Which means that the digital documents and digital processes critical to HR onboarding need to connect toand be integrated with the other core business processes of the organization.

Learn how to easily automate your employee onboarding with DocuWare Forms. Watch the webinar. 

DocuWare Forms - How to Onboard New Employees Webinar