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Providing a comprehensive employee onboarding experience is something a lot of organizations neglect. According to Gallup, only 12% of employees say that their organization is excellent at onboarding new personnel.

We get it, people are busy and there are tons of projects all happening at once.

How can you handle the onboarding process as efficiently as possible in the shortest time possible and help your new employees get off to the best possible start?

Answer: automated onboarding.

In this article, I’ll share how to streamline onboarding new hires by taking some repetitive tasks off HR and managers' plates. An automated onboarding process will make your new employees feel welcome, integrated, and prepared to hit the ground running.

What Is Automated Onboarding?

Automated onboarding is the process of onboarding employees with the support of automation software. Those platforms automate employee onboarding workflows within organizations. Technically, they trigger predefined actions according to possible events within the company's systems.

They notify HR, managers, or new starters of any onboarding tasks they need to complete or execute them on their behalf. Other times, automated employee onboarding software requests integrated apps to change data.

Let's get specific with a few examples of onboarding tasks that software can automate.

  • Grant access to apps and request equipment that new hires need
  • Schedule orientation meetings
  • Ask the right individuals to review and sign onboarding documents
  • Establish the connection between new employees and their buddies
  • Distribute feedback surveys about the onboarding process

Before we dive deep into the why of automated onboarding, we'll recap why it's an issue in the first place.

3 Downsides Of Manual Employee Onboarding

If you haven't done it in a while but you're preparing for an upcoming tsunami of new hires, this is what you must avoid:

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1. Lower efficiency

A manual onboarding process is time-consuming for everyone involved. From HR personnel to IT support teams and managers, ticking off the onboarding checklist for each new hire takes time.

Besides, when you're so caught up in high-revenue projects, employee onboarding isn't a priority. And putting a lot of effort into customizing the onboarding experience for newcomers is a no-no.

Traditionally manual processes are also cumbersome for less mature companies with limited staff. For instance, documenting employee data and assigning onboarding tasks take up much of their time.

Automation is a way of optimizing onboarding by reducing the amount of manual tasks.

2. Reduced new hire excitement

If new employees spend the first day or week trying to get access to apps, chasing documents amid all the corporate systems, and asking the manager to go over the role expectations, you've got a problem.

You see, recruits gain momentum with the new job. And if you're trying to build a motivating onboarding experience manually, you might be sacrificing customization for speed, which kills newcomer excitement.

3. More human error

Manual onboarding tasks are error-prone. For instance, the HR team might run late to collect and save all the required employee information for payroll and benefits. Or they might forget to store those data in all the required locations or even forget where they stored it.

These mistakes also impact your ability to measure onboarding success.

Luckily, automation software can handle these error-prone data entry and other administrative tasks for you.

4 Ways To Automate Your Onboarding Process

If you're wondering about the steps you must take to automate your manual onboarding process, we got you. Let's talk about the how-to of automated onboarding.

1. Define pre-onboarding tasks

You usually do a few things before the new employees' start date, right? But employee onboarding automation can help you with that tremendously. Just follow the next steps.

The first one consists of listing the pre-onboarding tasks you usually do, such as:

  • Creating the employee profile in your human resources information system (HRIS)
  • Sending the new hire a welcome email and a form to collect information like clothing sizes so you can prepare a welcome package
  • Adding a new user to your identity management platform
  • Setting up the newcomer's account in your IT service management system
  • Informing the key stakeholders of the recruit's details
  • Adding the new employee to the appropriate channels in your business messaging platform
  • Asking their manager to indicate the apps that they need to access to do their job (plus the level of access)
  • Notifying the IT support team to check the available licenses and grant access
  • Alerting the newcomer's manager and teammates to block time on their calendars for introduction calls

At this point in the onboarding process, you prepare for the recruits' day one. This means you're one step closer to having a new workforce that'll be productive 

2. Standardize orientation steps

During a new employee's orientation, we recommend you:

  • Schedule an orientation meeting with new hires on their first day and invite them
  • Connect recruits with each other
  • Have them meet the team members
  • Disseminate new hire paperwork and employee handbooks

But, in an automated onboarding process, you don't have to do all this manually. There's automation software to assist you.

You just have to know exactly what the steps in your orientation workflow are so you can later configure the right software solution to follow them. That's how you speed up the process and achieve consistency by executing the exact same steps each time you onboard a newcomer.

For instance, establish that the orientation workflow includes adding each new employee to a business communication channel for recruits.

3. Structure the onboarding workflow

So far, we discussed the orientation workflow, but employee onboarding doesn't stop there. The process includes other workflows, such as 

  • Documentation workflows (with access granting)
  • Training workflows (with assessment quizzes)
  • Progress-tracking workflows (with regular check-ins)
  • Feedback workflows (with satisfaction surveys)

But first things first, you must design a clear process that standardizes the onboarding experience as much as possible. Our advice is for you to develop a 30-60-90-day plan.

If you don't know what that is or how to do it, check out our guide on writing a 30-60-90-day plan for your organization's onboarding (with a template).

Now, have you already created your 30-60-90-day onboarding plan? Okay. Then, the next step is to define, at each stage of the plan, which 

  • Documentation folders and documents do new employees need access to
  • Training courses or units must they complete
  • Check-in meetings must they attend
  • Satisfaction surveys must they receive and fill in

And you're ready to automate the onboarding tasks you just structured and outlined.

4. Invest in the appropriate tools

Consider the steps and timeline in your 30-60-90-day plan, plus the roles involved in each step. They're the input you need for setting up the automated employee onboarding software to run the workflows you just defined.

Well, actually, you need an adequate tool stack with automated onboarding capabilities. In other words, you need

You might find that some systems are already built into or integrated with each other. For instance, some HRISs have built-in electronic signature software, and some LMSs integrate with business communication platforms.

It's up to you to evaluate whether you need an entirely new tool stack or just find solutions that integrate with the ones you already have. You must also assess what's best to acquire: platforms with as much built-in functionality as possible or separate systems.

Whatever you decide, these are examples of what a workflow automation platform can do for you (automatically):

  • Trigger the pre-onboarding workflow as soon as you mark a candidate as hired in the ATS
  • Ask your electronic signature software to
    • Send employee contracts for review and signature by all the required parties in a predefined order
    • Remind those parties of the deadlines
    • Notify them of collected signatures in real-time
  • Forward the signed contracts to your cloud storage app
  • Instruct the HRIS to send new hires online forms for the collection of their data
  • Request your business communication platform to
    • Add newcomers to an onboarding channel
    • Introduce them to their respective onboarding buddies
    • Suggest recruits check out the corporate videos, policy and procedure books, employee benefit documentation, and organizational charts in the cloud storage app
  • Communicate with your LMS to
    • Enroll new employees in the relevant learning paths
    • Share links to the appropriate training courses or units when the right time comes
    • Notify the corresponding onboarding buddies of the newcomers' progress in the onboarding training program

Additionally, workflow automation software takes these tasks off your plate:

  • Task the IT support team with onboarding duties
  • Assign onboarding buddies to each new hire
  • Notify those buddies of the assignment
  • Schedule the orientation meeting, onboarding meet-the-team calls, and regular check-ins with newcomers in the calendars of those involved
  • Send timely reminders to those people

We compiled a list of the best onboarding software on the market to help you select the best solution for you.

For further onboarding advice, subscribe to the People Managing People Newsletter or join the conversation over in the People Managing People Community, a supportive community of HR and business leaders passionate about building organizations of the future.

Finn Bartram
By Finn Bartram

Finn is an editor at People Managing People. He's passionate about growing organizations where people are empowered to continuously improve and genuinely enjoy coming to work. If not at his desk, you can find him playing sports or enjoying the great outdoors.