As new employee orientation transformed into onboarding, technology became central to the process. The question for so many HR professionals is no longer "should we automate?" but rather "what should we automate?"
The question became even more important as HR professionals realized that the process is most successful when it's personalized. Onboarding is rapidly evolving, Beth Theodore, ManpowerGroup’s solutions managing director of Shared Services in Recruitment Process Outsourcing, said. Personalization is certainly a trend right now, and Theodore said it's one she hopes to see more of.
“We all know that the onboarding process can be a bit overwhelming for a new employee,” she said. “To make the transition from a great candidate experience to a great employee experience possible, your onboarding approach must have the right amount of personalization to make new employees feel welcome and reassured that selecting your organization was the right choice.”
But if personalization is central to your onboarding process, then where does technology fit in? “Employers must be careful about over-automating processes,” Danny Nelms, president of the Work Institute, told HR Dive. In using predictive analytics, for example, he said AI is effective in predicting outcomes, but comes up short in changing outcomes. In that situation, he said, employers should ask themselves: "How effective are we in socializing new hires in the company through, say, AI?"
Why onboarding needs technology
That doesn't mean such tools aren't useful, however. Based on more than 35,000 interviews, the Work Institute found that 50% of new hires leave their jobs within 90 days. In 2017, 1 in 4 new hires left voluntarily; by 2020, the figure will jump to 1 in 3. Nelms said they don't know how many new-hire departures are caused by onboarding mistakes, but that technology can be used to get feedback on that question, for example.
Recent technological advances have produced collaborative tools that can improve the process, too. They provide storage for new-hire paperwork; they give new hires 24/7 access to the information they need. The advantage of these tools is that they’re intuitive — easy to search and easy to share.
When leveraged properly, technology can provide new hires with much of what they need in real-time during their first year and beyond, said Theodore. “[However] we also need to be careful not to let technology do all the heavy lifting; it cannot replace the human touch, which will continue to be a critical component in the onboarding process.”
There's no shortage of options available for employers looking to add tech to their onboarding process.
Chatbots — one iteration of AI — allow workers to ask questions, retrieve files and more, without having to reach out to HR each time. They're being programmed to provide new hires with everything from basic facts to answers to complex questions. Nelms said chatbots are a good example of a how automation tools can improve efficiency for employers.
Both virtual reality and augmented reality are making appearances in onboarding, as well, and promise to make a huge impact on the process, according to Theodore. Employees can be immersed in their new role or company culture in an interactive way.
Gamification has entered the space, too, promising to boost engagement. Especially where training is involved, tech that uses this concept can help new hires learn all sorts of things in a goal-oriented way.
Choosing the right software
So how do you choose? Start by figuring out what problem you want to solve, the experts say. Are you trying to make the process more bearable? Are you out to boost your retention rate?
Next, map out your strategy. Which parts of the process will you automate? How will that automation get new hires the information they need?
It's also important to know who will own and manage which parts of the process. Do you need to train hiring managers on these tools before rolling them out to new hires?
Finally, implement a plan for measuring the success of these efforts. What metrics do you need to track? Will you collect feedback from new hires? What tools will you use to accomplish this?
HR has plenty of options for leveraging technology to make onboarding a more efficient and satisfying experience for new hires. But again, personalization can't be lost in this. Onboarding is just one part of the employee life-cycle, and it continues long after their first day. Theodore said employers must remember: onboarding is a journey, not a destination.