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7 steps to improve the onboarding process for new hires

While recruiting and onboarding are two separate processes, combining them can create a better experience for new hires. Technology such as AI and machine learning can also help.

As the well-known adage states, first impressions count. And it's true that first impressions are important to creating a long-lasting, positive impact. Employee onboarding is an essential practice for giving new employees a positive impression of your company and increasing retention. Many new employees decide whether to stay or leave a company in the first six months, and a well-designed and effective onboarding process will lay a solid foundation to an employee's tenure that will strongly influence that decision.

While most organizations have an employee onboarding process, not every process is optimal, and there is usually room for improvement. You can improve the onboarding process by implementing common practices and advanced technology.

1. Experience

Your onboarding process should be simple, easy and logical. Remember, this is the new hire's first exposure to the inside of your organization. While they have seen the external workings of your company through the recruiting process, this is where they will get to see how your organization works internally.

Integrating the latest technology with your existing systems will provide a smooth and well-managed onboarding process. Using technology can allow you to do the following:

  • Manage each step of the process and track progress.
  • Use workflows and notifications for approvals and to keep all parties up to date with the latest status of the process.
  • Automate steps of the process, such as creating an email address and provisioning equipment.
  • Integrate the system with other systems to enable employee data to flow in from your recruiting system and to enable data to flow to downstream systems.
  • Digitize forms and signatures to remove paperwork and manual steps, such as printing, signing and scanning documents.
  • Enable capabilities such as intelligent behavior, interactive chatbot help and recommendations through the use of AI and machine learning.

2. Process

Onboarding is the next step after recruiting, so it makes sense to see where you can align these two processes into one end-to-end process. A clunky and painful recruiting process will negatively affect the new-hire experience, no matter how good the onboarding experience is. Ensuring a continuous process for the employee -- whether separate or externally -- will go a long way toward making the employee feel like they made the right choice in accepting the offer.

Your onboarding process also needs to be well-thought-out. It must be comprehensive and helpful without overwhelming the new hire. Some common steps you can think about to incorporate in your process include the following:

  • assigning a buddy and/or mentor;
  • providing information about the organization and its structure;
  • creating a new-hire portal;
  • setting up regular notifications and interactions; and
  • having prepopulated lists of activities to complete before the new hire starts -- e.g., greeting the new hire, having a desk and laptop ready, and showing the new hire key business processes.

3. Simplify

There is nothing quite as frustrating for employees than an overly complex or confusing process. With so much to be done during onboarding, it's important to think about how to simplify tasks for employees and managers. New employees are not privy to the nuances of the organization like managers and HR professionals are, so the emphasis should be on making it as easy as possible for the employees.

New hires should be able to have previously entered data transferred into the onboarding system, so when they begin to enter data into forms, they are not re-entering data again. Likewise, once new hires get into the process, it should be easy to follow and quick to complete. Keep the steps to a minimum, and make sure a new hire can easily navigate between activities in a logical manner.

4. Automate

Software innovations and integrations can automate as much of the process as possible. For example, if a new hire lives in an area where specific tax laws are in force and the new hire needs to take action, the system should be able to prompt this action and provide the required documentation needed to complete the action.

Automating activities such as access and equipment provisioning, notifications, recommendations and selection of forms for the new hire to complete will provide significant efficiencies to all parties and keep the onboarding process ticking along quickly.

5. Digitize

Digital documentation and digital signatures can save significant time and effort for everyone involved in the process, as well as enable captured data to be utilized in downstream integrations. For younger employees, access to a printer and scanner might not be possible or might be seen as antiquated -- especially when they are used to doing so much on their smartphone.

Digitization is not only about convenience; it also brings about standardization. Forms have standard entry with field-level validations, so all inputs align with what is needed to ensure full compliance with the process.

6. Integrate

Integration supports a number of the aforementioned recommendations. Data flow between systems is critical to trigger other processes and to prevent employees from entering data multiple times. This wastes time and can lead to data entry errors that may frustrate new hires who have to correct the mistakes. For example, if you ask a new hire to complete a tax document and then have them log into the payroll system to enter their tax preferences, you are going to make the new hire think twice about whether they made the right choice in joining your organization.

7. Improve

Seek feedback from new hires that can further improve the onboarding process. New employees may have new ideas about how you can further enhance and develop your processes, and it may quickly make them feel that their contributions are valuable.

This was last published in March 2019

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