The Ultimate Guide to Automating Employee Onboarding


Susan LeonardAssociate Director of HR at Kissflow

Monday, November 18, 2019

Successful employee onboarding is crucial in determining how productive an employee is, how long they stay with company and how much of an asset they'll be. The secret to this success is automation.

Article 4 Minutes
The Ultimate Guide to Automating Employee Onboarding

The concept of employee onboarding came into practice in 1979. J. Van Maanen and E.H. Schein coined the concept of ‘organizational socialization’ by which new hires ‘learn the ropes’ of their organization, and this, later on, evolved to become employee orientation and onboarding.

New hires were brought up to speed in a number of ways from a quick trial and error process to a long intentional training program and apprenticeship. One of the earliest recorded ‘onboarding methods’ was during the construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad.

While three organizations were responsible for the construction of the Pacific Railroad, they used the same employee onboarding process.  

  1. Employees hopped onto a local train (just showing up was the offer letter/employment agreement)
  2. The local train carried new hires to the end of the track (nurturing period)
  3. New hires jumped off the train, picked from the available collection of assorted tools, and started working (employee orientation)
  4. Employees were required to complete an estimated 10 miles (16 km) of track in a day by blasting through hills, constructing bridges, and putting down track beds (production environment).

The entire employee onboarding process was merely the command of “Take this, do this, and good luck.” This poor onboarding practice led to a number of deaths and criticism like “The first transcontinental railroad was built with blood, sweat, politics, and thievery.”

While such negligence may not result in death in the current environment, it can result in employee dissatisfaction and churn. Even today, most modern organizations offer their workforce an eerily similar onboarding experience where they’re handed an arsenal of onboarding documents and pushed to their designated work desk.

However, paper-heavy employee onboarding processes can no longer address employee expectations, and failing to fulfill them can cost employers dearly. Deloitte’s recent onboarding research shows that nearly 4% of new hires quit after an unsatisfactory first day. What’s worse, losing an employee in the first year can cost almost three times the employee’s salary.

So, it’s critical that employers strike the right balance between the human side of onboarding and the documentation/compliance phase. With automation, organizations can streamline the paperwork part of onboarding and focus more on the human factor, and making the onboarding process more engaging.

The current state of employee onboarding

Despite the evolution of technology, there hasn’t been much change in the onboarding process; it’s still paper-intensive and manually driven. Documents collected during the onboarding process make up nearly 40-60% of an employee’s profile. This usage of paper forms makes onboarding time-consuming and expensive.

Additionally, employee contracts and onboarding templates differ based on the role and department, demanding extra time and effort from the HR team. Making a change is not only time-intensive but also insecure since there’s no audit trail to track changes made to these onboarding forms.

What is paperless onboarding?

Paperless onboarding is the process of using an automated HR system or onboarding tool to streamline every step, from the acceptance of the offer letter to the time an employee becomes productive. Employee onboarding tools not only make the process paperless but also enhance employee engagement, reduce the time-to-productivity, and ensure policy compliance.

7 benefits of paperless employee onboarding

Employee onboarding is a demanding process, but with the right tools, it doesn’t have to be. Although most businesses have some process in place to onboard their employees, there’s still some room for improvement. An automated employee onboarding process can help avoid expensive mistakes, including those that may put your organization at legal or compliance risk and provide a number of benefits:

  1. Keeps stakeholders informed and up to date
  2. Reduces operational expenses
  3. Ensures policy compliance
  4. Improves employee engagement
  5. Speeds up the time-to-productivity
  6. Enables real-time collaboration
  7. Lowers the administrative burden

Unlock the power of automated employee onboarding

Employee onboarding has a much broader scope than building rapport with employees; it can break or make an employee’s relationship with their organization. If ignored, it has the potential to affect the viability of any business.

In order to stay clear of retention risks, businesses need to stop making their employees drown in onboarding paperwork and move on to a systematic and automated onboarding process. A paperless onboarding process can take things up a notch, threading the gaps between various employee onboarding functions and dramatically improve employee satisfaction.

So, what are you waiting for? Start shopping for an employee onboarding tool that’ll make your employees fall in love with the onboarding process.

Susan Leonard

Susan Leonard is the Associate Director of HR at Kissflow. An incisive MBA professional, Susan has close to 10 years of qualitative and enriching experience in HR. She leads an entire range of operations including talent acquisition, retention and company culture management, and has been deeply involved in elevating processes to strengthen capabilities and ensure to meet current and future business needs. Prior to Kissflow, she was with Randstad India and UST Global.


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