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Micah Fairchild Onboarding Applications: 4 Reasons You Need Them Now More Than Ever

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 By Micah Fairchild

Onboarding Software Solutions: Why Now is The Time To Deploy

Often used interchangeably with terms like orientation, organizational socialization, and for all you Star Trek fans out there “assimilation”; onboarding is the process of bringing an employee new to the company (or new to his/her current role) up to speed on the knowledge, skills, behaviors, and cultural business issues that are necessary to be effective, productive, and engaged. And if you take a broad look across the HR technology landscape this application is one of the most common ones you’ll see popping up. It’s not a new or particularly novel concept, but vendors from best-of-breed point solutions for recruiting all the way up to the largest providers of human capital management suites are jumping “on board” en masse onto the on-boarding bandwagon.

Here at we’ve had the chance to review some of the more prevalent standalone solutions in this arena like Peoplefluent, Enwisen, and SilkRoad’s RedCarpet; but just as in focus now are the solutions that companies like Kenexa, SAP/SuccessFactors, Oracle/Taleo, and Cornerstone OnDemand are unveiling—with countless others emerging on practically a weekly basis.

What’s interesting though is that from an adoption standpoint at least, only one quarter of organizations are actually “implementing or exploring new technology vendors for on-boarding” according to Towers Watson’s HR Service Delivery and Technology 2011-2012 research report. And even Gartner pegs on-boarding applications’ market penetration rate at a paltry 5-20%. So this begs the question; is there a disconnect between what vendors see as important versus their customers? Are businesses failing to see the true benefits that on-boarding can bring or the critical need gap that these HR applications fill?

Given that incredibly low adoption rate and market penetration, we do think there are some disconnects that need to be addressed. More specifically, we’re seeing some areas like what SHRM’s recent research uncovered; that over half of all businesses surveyed identified time constraints and insufficient HR staffing as the main barriers to offering formal, structured on-boarding activities; and nearly just as many are waiting until a new hire's start date before any sorts of introductions are being done. These findings highlight the fact that far too many organizations aren’t looking at on-boarding’s bigger picture. That’s why we put together the following points to highlight what we think they’re missing.

On-Boarding Application Point #1: The Business Impacts Are Real

According to industry veteran and now Research Director at Aberdeen, Madeline Laurano, aside from the inherent time and resource alleviations that can occur by automating on-boarding activities, businesses can also expect to see “improved customer retention/loyalty”; “improved customer satisfaction”; and “higher revenues per employee”. In large part, the reason for these transformative benefits is that (as Aberdeen research indicates) a direct correlation has been found between how efficient an organization’s recruitment activities are and how the organization itself grows. To realize the full potential of these benefits though, Laurano suggests “merging” the processes of screening and onboarding because “when these processes are linked together, organizations are able to improve productivity and provide stronger candidate engagement”. Unfortunately, as transformative as these synergistic on-boarding activities can be, as of 2012, less than 15% of businesses were actually partnering these processes to drive business results.

On-Boarding Application Point #2: It’s More Than Just Form Automation

Just as it has been debunked time and again that on-boarding does not equal orientation; similarly, today’s on-boarding applications no longer simply mean form automation. Granted, expediting new hire activities like form completion does create efficiencies for both new employees and process administrators, but as cFactor’s Karl Tischler recently wrote, “Connecting new employees into the company creates better informed and engaged employees who are clear about what they need to do to help the company succeed and better prepared to collaborate and get their work done”. That means that the on-boarding process itself has to go beyond mere form automation. It also has to process those qualitative aspects of employee engagement like socialization and organizational culture in order to provide new hires with all the tools that are necessary to succeed—elements that the bulk of on-boarding applications on the market have proven adept at handling.

On-Boarding Application Point #3: The Workforce is Changing

As we referenced in one of our recent infographics on the impact Millenials are having on Social HCM, the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School conducted a study that indicated 70% of Gen Y workers “plan to change jobs once the economy improves”. And when you pair that statistic with Gartner’s research that indicates new workforce entrants will have more than 20 jobs by the time they retire, it’s clear that bringing new employees up to speed as quickly as possible is critical. What’s more though, according to ASTD (the American Society for Training and Development), it’s expected that by 2015, the majority of all open positions will require skills that only a small number of applicants have—making the on-boarding experience crucial to not only making new staff productive as quickly as possible, but also retaining those employees for the long haul.

On-Boarding Application Point #4: It Reduces Turnover

Jumping off from our last point, clearly the direction that the workforce is moving is going to make employee retention an even bigger issue than it already was. And if you consider research from the Wynhurst Group that found nearly a quarter of all turnovers happen within the first 45 days of employment, it’s clear that something has to be happening at the beginning of a new hire’s time that is causing these figures. If you guessed that the missing link was on-boarding; then you’d be right, because Wynhurst’s report goes on to say that, “New employees who went through a structured on-boarding program were 58% more likely to be with the organization after three years”.

On-Boarding Applications – The Bottom Line

If you hadn’t already gathered, the bottom-line for on-boarding (given the myriad reasons listed above) is that you need a formal process in place now; and more often than not, that means deploying an on-boarding application to aid, automate and systemically improve the process. The good news is that because on-boarding involves multiple areas for both efficiency and engagement, chipping away at this deployment is more of a possibility than with other HCM-related processes. In fact, as ASTD’s recent article, New-Hire Onboarding: Common Mistakes to Avoid, “as time, resources, and organizational buy-in build, begin the more long-term work—remembering that a successful onboarding program will help you to reduce turnover, curb unnecessary mistakes, save money, increase employee engagement and morale, and free your leaders for important long-term, strategic planning”. End

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According to industry veteran and now Research Director at Aberdeen, Madeline Laurano, aside from the inherent time and resource alleviations that can occur by automating on-boarding activities, businesses can also expect to see “improved customer retention/loyalty”; “improved customer satisfaction”; and “higher revenues per employee.”


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