June 15, 2021
Performance Management 04 November 2020
How Automation Improves the Onboarding Experience
Guest Poster

The most valuable asset of any organization is the talent (aka the human resource). Also, the main goal of most companies out there is to make sure they attract the best talent for their needs and integrate it into their business model.  

This is part of the onboarding experience, which is not always the most exciting. In most cases, new hires are met with a ton of paperwork, documentation, checklists, email threads, and more. In addition, new employees also need to go through training. This can be extenuating since there is a lot of information to process in a short span of time. 

Overall, onboarding can be quite stressful for both new hires and HR representatives. However, recent technology proved there is a way to improve the process by customizing it to each individual’s needs and taking over repetitive tasks. 

As such, today, we are going to discuss the automation of the onboarding process using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI & ML) systems and the benefits it brings for both new hires & HR representatives. 

What is Onboarding Automation?

Onboarding is a complex system that involves several systems, people, and departments within the company. New employees have a lot of documentation to process, and there is a high chance of miscommunication. 

However, if the process is realized using automation, every new employee will receive clear instructions and goals to follow. It will also help cut the amount of paperwork, and the system will connect all the necessary departments while keeping track of information and communication. 

But how exactly is this possible using smart algorithms based on AI & ML? Well, we are not going to dig too deep into the science of intelligent algorithms (there are lots of artificial intelligence and machine learning courses available online if you’re interested). Still, for the regular folks, AI & ML are buzz words that suggest smart technology that can learn from its environment.

For the onboarding process, it means you can entrust an automated system to select the best candidates for a position based on a few critical criteria. It also means the system can further thin down the list by sending quizzes designed based on the needed skills for the job. 

Overall, automation has the potential to make HR work easier by taking over repetitive tasks and establishing connections between departments. It can also keep track of new employees’ progress and signal HR representatives if something isn’t right. 

The Benefits of Automation in the Onboarding Process

Both the recruiting and onboarding processes are crucial to the relationship company - employee, so should we really entrust robots with this? First of all, it's important to know that: 

Automation does not cut human interaction - in fact, it supports it. Automation is a great way to make both recruiting and onboarding processes more efficient while keeping employees (new and existent) in the loop.

But, it’s best to take each of these benefits (and more) and discuss them separately:

A More Efficient Process

An automated onboarding process is one that’s well-organized into steps and phases. As such, everyone knows where they stand (both new hires & HR representatives). 

For instance, it’s important to map out the process into smaller pieces, such as:

  • To-Do before the first day (tasks that need to be accomplished by the HR department)

  • Things to do on the first day (getting to know the company and staff members, social interactions, paperwork, and more)

  • Tasks for the first week (integration with the team, getting familiarized with the projects, training, and so on)

  • Goals set & achieved between the months one and three.

By creating these phases, it’s easy to know which steps can be automated and how. For instance, an intelligent algorithm can take care of preparing the documentation, creating online forms that can be filled easily & quickly, and more.

In addition, it’s best to automate the communication process by preparing a series of personalized emails that will be sent gradually to new hires (similar to how automated email marketing workflows work).  

Not Everything Needs Automation

It’s also important to maintain face-to-face communication and make sure new employees have human interactions as well. It doesn’t help if they feel they are talking to an interface - this will not help with the first impression. 

While it may be tempting to automate the entire onboarding process (it would be more efficient), employees are humans, and humans need socializing to create bonds with their teammates. In fact, the lack of direct communication is one of the major problems with remote teams and employees.

As such, to know which steps to entrust to artificial intelligence, as yourself the following questions:

  • What are the more tedious and time-consuming tasks in the onboarding process?

  • Which of these steps are more prone to human error & why? 

  • Where do you need HR representatives to be focused and engaged?

  • Which step is more likely to need a high degree of personalization?

The answers to these questions will help identify steps that need automation. This will lead to freeing up HR representatives’ time and schedule so they can focus more on the human factor. 

Data Confidentiality, Fewer Mistakes, & Less Bias

An automated onboarding process can also take care of creating all the accounts needed for new hires and making sure their personal data is safely stored in the database, with the correct access rights. 

Data handling and account creation are activities prone to human error because of the volume of information that needs processing in a short amount of time. However, if the system is well-designed, every employee will be accounted for and properly monitored while using the company’s network and resources.This way, you avoid fatal mistakes, such as forgetting to block access for former employees or providing a new hire with higher access rights. Also, when filing is done manually, it’s easy to mishandle official documents or accidentally leak confidential data.

Unconscious Bias is a Thing

Studies show that unconscious bias is prevalent in most workplaces and can be present as social stereotyping. Unconscious bias is something that is triggered automatically by each individual’s brain and experiences, and it doesn’t involve any level of rational thinking. As such, a company’s recruitment process can be deeply influenced by its HR representatives when it comes to selecting and grooming new candidates.Since it’s not a rational process that can be controlled, the only way to fully remove it is to automate the process. Intelligent algorithms are the only ones capable of selecting a candidate based only on the given criteria without carrying about skin color, weight, or where they went to school (just a few examples).

Wrap Up

The onboarding process is crucial for a good employee-employer relationship, which is why it must be done right. Otherwise, if there is no real connection and the new hire doesn’t feel valued, there is a good chance they will leave for a better opportunity (20% of new employees do).

Automation is a fantastic way to take all the paperwork out of the way and make sure HR representatives are focused on creating meaningful connections with new hires. It’s also a way to make the process more efficient and guard sensitive information. 

Erika Rykun is a Content & Outreach Manager working with Udemy. In her free time, she enjoys reading books and playing with her cat Cola.