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4 Reasons NOT to Automate Employee Onboarding




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4 reasons NOT to automate employee onboarding

HR managers are increasingly relying on tech solutions for the onboarding process. It’s more efficient, more consistent, and cheaper than having a flesh-and-blood colleague put a recruit through their paces. What’s not to love?

We all know recruitment is expensive. When it comes to employee retention, the onboarding process is a critical moment. An independent study of 9,000 candidates in 11 countries across four continents found that even once candidates have accepted a role, 91% admit they would consider leaving a job within their first month and 93% during their probation period.

According to the study, 36% of respondents listed a lack of proper onboarding as a reason to quit during the first month – compared to only 23% who would leave if they received a more attractive job offer! In other words, onboarding is a bigger factor in retaining new employees than job offers made by your competitors.

So, with HR tech firms promising to take the whole process out of your hands, what does the offline approach have to offer? And why does the automated approach sometimes fall short?


1. Trust is established in person.

A colleague’s first few days are a unique opportunity to build trust. If you miss this chance to establish an open dialogue with your new team member, it may never come again. The interview stage is a high-stress moment, and with so much at stake, a candidate will often feel as though they can’t be entirely forthcoming. The onboarding process is the perfect moment to break the ice, to get to know them, and to address any needs, concerns and questions they might have kept to themselves until this point.

An online questionnaire has the advantage of anonymity, which can encourage forthrightness when questioning established team members about issues that affect the wider organisation. But when it comes to fostering good relationships with your team members, there’s nothing like face-to-face communication.


2. You can pair recruits to a mentor or buddy.

According to 80% of the respondents to a survey by ServiceNow, the onboarding process is an «important moment at work» — yet 1 in 3 would prefer to go on an awkward first date rather than attend onboarding or orientation for a new job.

Similarly to a first date, the stress in onboarding often comes from a sense of being ill-matched and out of place. That’s why it’s so important to have a buddy or a mentor to accompany you in the process, make all the necessary introductions, and help you make your way around the workplace. That’s why in the same survey, 58% of respondents asked for a walk-through of key processes or a buddy they can turn to for questions. This goes to show that we have an innate need for human support.


3. New hires want to be acknowledged as individuals.

Nowadays, coming into a new organisation, professionals want to get an immediate sense of how they will fit in. What are their individual goals, and how does this fit in with the wider values and objectives of the organisation? A one-size-fits-all approach won’t suffice here. You hired this person because they have something to offer to your organisation, be it their skills, mindset, experience or personal traits. If you want them to feel valued, give them an opportunity to demonstrate their unique worth early on.

Setting specific tasks and acknowledging success is key. Inevitably, tailoring these tasks to an individual takes time, as does providing feedback on the result. But it will be worth it when you sit down with your new team member to congratulate them on a job well done.


4. Interacting with your team creates a sense of community.

Suppose you wanted to welcome a new neighbour to your apartment building. Would you leave a basket of muffins on their doorstep with a note, or would you ring the doorbell and hand the muffins over in person? Of course you would want to introduce yourself face to face, to see what they’re like and give them an impression of the new community they’re joining!

There is a limit to technology’s capacity to facilitate a sense of community. In a survey conducted by Human Capital Institute (HCI) and Kronos, 60% of employers said their primary goal for onboarding is to integrate employees into the culture — yet people and culture made up less than 30% of the focus in programmes.

Human beings learn by example. Using technology to communicate core values to your team is great, but it’s meaningless unless these values are practiced in real life. And that involves other people!

So, what IS the right way to use technology?

Reintroducing the human factor to the onboarding process doesn’t mean going back to the Stone Age. There are plenty of useful and innovative applications of technology that will make your new team member’s first weeks run like clockwork.

Using technology to augment the real-life experience, you can:

– Assess training needs
– Run courses
– Use gamification of team activities
– Support peer-to-peer learning
– Hold interactive meetings
– Ensure consistency across teams and events
– Track the status of tasks
– Gather (anonymous) feedback
– Review processes on a large scale



Adopting a blended approach

We’ve seen that both technological and personal approaches have clear, measurable advantages. Technology provides consistency, efficiency and data that can be easily analysed. Personal interaction between team members gives recruits a sense of belonging and support that will make them happy to be in their new job.

Fortunately, you can have it both ways. HR tech has come a long way. Providers of engagement platforms work tirelessly to provide the right balance between human and tech for every organisation they work with. Ultimately, it has to be human first. But this doesn’t stop us from using technology to make sure HR processes run smoothly, and successful approaches can be rolled out across organisations. That is the best way to use technology – not to run our lives for us, but to support us in reaching our goals.

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