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A complete guide to onboarding automation

Automation is the answer for more consistent, quality onboarding for higher retention rates in HR and staffing.

HR managers say the top three biggest challenges they face with onboarding are inconsistencies across the organization, competing priorities, and measuring onboarding effectiveness. Whether you’re trying to save time while improving employee experiences in your HR department or staffing firm, automated onboarding processes are the answer for more consistent, quality onboarding for higher retention rates and operational efficiencies.

While an automation solution might sound impersonal, it can actually add more opportunities to customize and streamline the onboarding experience so employees can feel welcomed and better informed as they get up to speed in their new role.

Automation can make your whole new hire process better. That’s because onboarding involves more than one system—it can mean dozens. The average new hire has 54 activities to complete during their onboarding experience. Onboarding involves many different people, departments and types of data and manual procedures that can be more automatic.

Even if you have an onboarding software, it probably doesn’t integrate with all steps in your onboarding process from recruitment and document processing to IT provisioning and reporting. That’s where automation comes in.

Onboarding automation is about connecting more than one system and more than one team. It can not only help recruiters and HR departments save time, but can positively impact your finance, legal, IT and operations departments, while significantly improving every new hire’s experience as they get their first impression of what’s it’s like to work with your company.


Connect recruiting and onboarding software 

To give a complete guide to onboarding automation, let’s take a step back to the recruiting process. Whether you have a recruiting automation software or are looking to add one to your employee onboarding process, both of these interrelated steps are great targets for saving time and creating a seamless talent acquisition experience for both recruiters and candidates from end-to-end.  

As soon as you’ve found the right candidate, you can use the last step in your recruitment process to trigger the first automatic step in your onboarding process, like generating and sending a formal offer letter for eSignature and completing other onboarding documents.


Start processing documents sooner

Best-in-class companies are 53% more likely to use pre-boarding by starting the employee onboarding process before a new hire’s first day. 

With automation, you can begin the onboarding process electronically before your new employee starts so that on their first day, your new hire can spend time on introductions, trainings and other face-to-face activities, not doing paperwork.

Send new employees a custom welcome packet with all the documents they need to review ahead of time, like their contract, employee manual, IT and security policies, and other important documents.

Use this time before an employee starts to send automated requests to collect and track forms like acknowledgements and their I-9, W-4 or W-9, background check authorization, NDA, direct deposit request,l and upload a copy of their driver’s license.

Onboarding automation can use webforms, email and eSignature tools, Optical Character Recognition and document extraction technologies to process, route and store incoming employee information automatically, so HR or hiring managers don’t have to.


Automatically enter employee data

Using a modern platform with robust integration capabilities means that an automated onboarding process can use any collected employee information to automatically update any of your systems of record like your ERP, accounting system, and payroll software, with your new hire’s information.

By automatically having these records and systems up to date means you can also generate accurate reports on headcount and employee demographics on-demand.


Engage better with new employees

When you automate repetitive onboarding tasks like paperwork and data entry, HR teams can have more time for what really matters: outreach and being a resource for new employees.

40% of new hires say getting a response from HR about their question takes too long. Onboarding automation can not only free up your team to have more time to answer questions, but it can also set up a system to better field inquiries, coordinate more outbound communication, and automatically collect data for an FAQ library.


Send swag

Use automated web forms in the onboarding process to collect other employee information like clothing sizes, preferred styles for company swag, and confirmation of their information for a business card.

An automated web form can gather this information in advance, then use the responses to trigger orders so that the new employee’s swag, business cards, and welcome gifts can be ready and on their desk on the first day.


Provision systems

Use automation to order tech assets and provision systems before your new hire starts. Automatically place orders for supplies and software licenses and create user accounts for email or other applications like Slack, Salesforce, and SAP, so your new employee is ready to log in on day one.

This saves time for the new employee and your IT team for a smoother technology onboarding process as they can train quicker with setup steps taking less time.


Plan an engaging first day

With automatic onboarding, new employees can arrive with most of their paperwork out of the way, leaving more time for a quality first day experience with a good use of hiring managers’ time.

72% of employees say one-on-one time with their direct manager is the most important part of any orientation or onboarding process. Automation can make sure both the new hire and their manager have time for an engaging introduction with no time wasted going over administrative tasks.

Onboarding automation can automatically schedule meetings with current employees for tours, orientation and training sessions, introduction meetings, a professional headshot session, and other first day tasks.

You can also use this schedule to automatically generate and send each new employee a custom itinerary ahead of their first day so they’re prepared too. 


Automate benefits enrollment

An automated onboarding process can also get employees started on their benefits enrollment more quickly. Either before or after their first day—send an automatic email with a customized explanation of the benefits package, instructions on how to complete enrollment electronically and schedule automatic reminders for important deadlines.

This can include commuter benefits, health plans, membership perks, 401k packages and anything else your company offers. Even though these programs have many different portals and management systems, a complete automated onboarding process can manage and connect them all.


Introduce continuous feedback

Only 37% of companies extend their onboarding programs beyond the first month, even though a staggering 20% of new hires leave a job for a new opportunity within the first 45 days in a new role.

Automation can help new employees beyond paperwork and their first day, week or month. One good use of extended onboarding automation is to send a new employee a survey after completing their first day, 30 days and 90 days. This can not only be essential for refining your onboarding process, but can help quickly identify any issues the employee is having.

Using artificial intelligence, a complete onboarding process can predict flight risk, so you can resolve turnover before it happens. Artificial intelligence can do this by using sentiment analysis to identify negative feedback in survey results as well as identify other risk indicators like a low percent of onboarding tasks completed. If flight risk is detected, it can trigger a resolution process that will alert the hiring manager to address any issues.

A good onboarding practice is also to set up automatic reminders asking hiring managers and HR employees to regularly check in with new employees to address any unresolved questions.




It’s possible for singular departments to undertake their own journey toward digital transformation, which can then serve as a model for a company-wide digital shift. 

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Written by Catalytic