Onboarding Applications- What They Will and Won't Do For You

Pam Puetz, VP & HR Services, First American Financial Corporation

Pam Puetz, VP & HR Services, First American Financial Corporation

Automated onboarding is quickly becoming the norm in human capital management applications and with good reason. From an employer’s perspective, an onboarding application provides a (relatively) paperless way to add new hires to the HR and payroll system, enroll in direct deposit and benefits, and comply with I-9 requirements. Better yet, onboarding allows employees an immediate online view of the organization, easier access to important “first day” information, a simple way to ensure personal information is accurate, and the convenience of electronic reminders of key deadlines. The automation also provides a way to measure both the effectiveness and the efficiency of the new process. The average time to onboard a new hire, for example, can be reduced from as much as ten days down to less than one day with implementation of an automated onboarding module. Employee surveys conducted ninety days after hiring can provide a qualitative way to assess the effectiveness of the onboarding experience and then put plans for improvements in place. Numerous studies have shown that companies using onboarding applications experience immediate and more thorough engagement and retention of new hires. Helping a new hire gain a better understanding of the new position, the company, its leadership and its culture will accomplish the following:

• Reduction of stress for the new hire and for the manager
• Improved organizational commitment because of better understanding
• Better job satisfaction–feeling competent sooner
• Lower turnover, especially during the first year
• Increased regulatory compliance (and therefore lower risk of fines)

Numerous studies have shown that onboarding, done right, can improve a company’s retention rates, reducing the high cost of turnover, and ultimately improving the bottom line. Realistically, however, there are four areas where automated onboarding modules may need some shoring up.

Onboarding modules are not surrogate managers:

The automation in an onboarding module can provide “just in time” notifications for all the tasks involved in bringing a new hire into the organization. What it cannot do is take the place of the hiring manager. The new hire’s first day is a critical time in the employee life cycle, and it’s important that the manager be present and available on that first day. While it’s unrealistic to expect a busy manager to spend an entire day with a new hire, the manager should plan to be there first thing in the morning, providing a welcoming presence. Additionally, if at all possible, new employees should be accompanied to lunch on their first day–if not by the hiring manager, by someone else on the team. Personal introductions, a brief tour of the physical environment, and an opportunity to ask questions face-to-face will go a long way towards making a new employee feel more comfortable.

Onboarding modules require some degree of integration:

If your organization uses a “best of breed” approach to providing human capital management applications, your onboarding module will require interfaces to at least two, possibly more, of your systems. For example, your best-of-breed talent acquisition system holds all of the new hire data generated up to the point of hire. If you haven’t interfaced this system to your onboarding module, all of that data will need to be loaded or re-entered. Likewise, if your onboarding module is stand-alone, it will need to be interfaced to your core HR system and your payroll system. This can add significantly to the time line, the cost and the work involved in your implementation.

Onboarding modules may not provide for downstream provisioning:

There are many facets to bringing a new hire up to speed quickly. It’s important to ensure that the newly hired employee has the work space, telephone, computer equipment and systems access they need to be productive on day one. This requires involvement by several departments in addition to Human Resources–such as Telecommunications, Information Technology, IT Security, and Facilities. You will need to put processes in place to pick up provisioning activities where your onboarding module leaves off. Be sure to involve the appropriate stakeholders in each of these areas in thinking through the entire onboarding and provisioning processes. Employees and managers don’t care about whether the process is an HR process or an IT process–and why should they? To them, it’s all part of the onboarding experience.

Onboarding is not new employee orientation (NEO): New employee orientation is typically an event one to four hours in duration a full day at the most a small part of the overall onboarding experience. The focus of new employee orientation is on providing a new hire with information about the company. Onboarding is a much longer and more comprehensive process of socialization anywhere from three months to a full year. Onboarding is much more interactive, requiring the participation of the new employee’s manager and others. Some onboarding programs feature mentorship, or at least a “buddy” system. Onboarding programs provide much more detail about the organization, its leadership, philosophy, strategy, goals, and culture–what it will take for an employee to be successful. Creative use of media videos, online polls, social media, intranet blogs and Q & A sessions help bring the organization to life for the new hire. The millennial generation, in particular, is so comfortable with this social media approach to assimilation into a company that the absence of automated onboarding will be perceived as disappointing–or worse. This generation does not have the patience for an onboarding process that takes days, even weeks in some cases and they will want to onboard using their cell phones.


In the final analysis, onboarding is all about taking a holistic view of what it takes to bring a new employee into the fold to begin building the bond between the new hire, the hiring manager and the team. It’s about getting that new hire as comfortable as possible as quickly as possible providing that feeling of “belonging” that is so critical to keeping talent engaged and productive. And because it’s about engagement and productivity, the impact to the bottom line is tangible and critical to the business. Onboarding, once considered an HR process, has evolved into an essential component of the employee hire-to-retire life cycle and rightfully so.

Check out: Manage HR Magazine

See Also: Muck Rack | CIO Review 

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