Before the switch: Your complete guide to onboarding automation implementation

Everything you need to know before implementing onboarding automation WorkBright

Your employees’ first weeks at your organization are characterized by a blur of new faces, a mountain of paperwork, and a good dose of the jitters. These initial experiences throughout the onboarding process can shape their entire perception of their new role.

When your employees have a great onboarding experience, they feel welcomed and valued. But when they don’t, they’re more likely to quit earlier than expected.

In a high-touch, high stakes scenario like onboarding, making sure every new hire successfully ramps up and starts contributing to your organization can present huge logistical challenges. This is where onboarding automation can be an enormous benefit.

An automated onboarding process has the power to improve both the employee experience and new hire performance, as well as internal operational efficiency and retention. Achieving these benefits depends on automating the right processes. 

Here’s what you need to know.

The challenges of manual onboarding

Employee onboarding is a bit like an assembly line. From the paperwork to ordering the tech, and putting together a new hire swag bag, everyone from the HR team to IT, people managers, and other stakeholders needs to play their part in building a great experience for new hires — right from day one.

In the leanest of teams, ensuring this process runs smoothly is tricky enough. But when you’re hiring at scale, each of these essential tasks and processes could become a point of failure — and that leaves you open to a few challenges:

  • Error-prone processes: When HR teams collect and upload employee data and documentation manually, it increases the likelihood of errors. Mistakes don’t just mean your employee starts off their journey with you on the wrong foot — they can also lead to fines if essential compliance mandates are missed.
  • Inconsistent onboarding experiences: In a manual process, your new hires’ experiences during onboarding can vary hugely between different departments, and even hiring managers. The result? Employees receive inconsistent initial training, which makes it difficult to set them up for success.
  • Increased time burden and labor cost: The logistics of onboarding — like emailing new hires, setting up their schedule, and keeping track of who is doing what, when —  places an immense burden on time-poor HR teams. 
  • Limited oversight of the process: In a manual process, it’s often hard to see what’s coming next and who owns a task, creating unnecessary blockers and stress for all stakeholders involved.
  • Suboptimal employee experience: In a manual process, it’s much harder to guarantee a great first impression. According to 2020 research, a poor onboarding experience can make your new hires more likely to quit. 2023 data from Monster backs this up: 57% of employees admit to having quit within their first year. 

In a manual onboarding process, if just one person misses their cue, it can create a ripple effect that can extend way past your new hire’s first 90 days. If left unchecked, all of these onboarding issues can result in lower job satisfaction, retention, and employee performance. The good news? They’re all preventable by automating your onboarding workflow.

What is onboarding automation?

Onboarding automation refers to how teams implement technology to structure and manage their employee onboarding processes. It’s an effective way to reduce the load of administrative and repetitive tasks, maintain compliance, and ensure that every new hire has a consistent experience in their first few days at your organization.

In an effective automated onboarding workflow, an event like a new hire signing their contract triggers a cascade of actions across different processes and teams — like notifying the IT manager that it’s time to order the tech, sending out first day calendar invites to each new hire, or reminding managers to send a welcome email.

Employee onboarding automation can be implemented in a few different ways:

  • Collect employee data and documents electronically.
  • Create personalized digital onboarding checklists for each new hire depending on their role and location.
  • Set up new employee user accounts across their tech and essential tooling.
  • Send new hires key information ahead of their first day as part of the preboarding process, such as their schedule, where to go, or your new hire welcome pack.
  • Create a welcome email workflow to connect new hires with their team and manager.

When done well, onboarding automation can streamline the whole onboarding process by taking on the most time-consuming or important tasks. There are no missed emails, forgotten steps, or waiting around, and everyone involved is able to work more efficiently to welcome new starters. 

And when your new team members have all the information and support they need to get started, they’re more likely to feel engaged right from the get-go. The result? Happier, more efficient, and more productive employees. 

5 ways to automate employee onboarding

Being thoughtful about how and where you implement automation in your onboarding process is critical to creating a great experience for all. Knowing what to automate will depend on your onboarding process and the outcomes you’d like to achieve.

Here are five great ways to automate your onboarding process that will help you increase efficiency, improve communication, and create a better new hire experience.

1. Automating your email and calendar invites can help to keep track of who is coming and when.

During the onboarding process, effective communication and coordination — both for new starters and your existing team — are critical. 2022 data from Leena AI found that 40% of organizations say there’s a disconnect between the talent acquisition process and onboarding. 34% of organizations surveyed reported experiencing up to 15% employee drop-outs before their first day. 

Better communication can ease this early turnover risk — but when you’re onboarding multiple employees at once, doing this manually can quickly take a toll.

Automating repetitive tasks, such as sending email welcome packs, sending first day calendar invites, or new starter email reminders to hiring managers means organizations can streamline communication and create a smoother transition for both the new hire and their team. This means nobody accidentally gets missed off the invite, there are fewer scheduling headaches, and that all of your internal stakeholders are ready to welcome their newest co-worker.

2. Automating your new hire paperwork can help to ensure that all the required forms are completed and filed properly.

Paperwork is part and parcel of each new hire. But the manual load of collecting, filing, and submitting documents for due diligence can be costly.

A 2019 Ernst & Young report estimated that the average labor cost of manually uploading employee data to your HRIS stacks up to just under $46. It might not sound like much — but when you multiply that by the number of new hires, it’s a cost that quickly adds up. Plus, manual processes are often more error-prone. With stricter regulations in effect as of November 2023, submitting mistake-laden essential compliance like Form I-9 or E-Verify can result in huge fines.

With automation, organizations can automatically send reminders, collect documentation, and manage employee signatures electronically, increasing efficiency while reducing the likelihood of errors or a compliance penalty.

3. Automating your orientation process can help new employees to get up to speed quickly. 

Your employees’ first few days at your organization are filled with an endless deluge of information. Helping them get up to speed with your culture, policies, and role quickly without feeling like they’re drowning depends on efficient information delivery.

Integrating automated onboarding software as part of employee preboarding can manage this process more effectively.  

Instead of manually sending all of the documents, files, and links through on the first day, try automating an email flow that drip-feeds key information or tasks for new hires prior to their start date. Organizations can also set up a workflow that automatically prompts hiring managers to send a welcome swag bag, or set up a welcome meeting or lunch.

4. Automating your training process can help employees to learn the ropes of your company quickly and easily.

The onboarding process is defined by learning. It helps new hires understand your organization and its culture, see where they fit, and gives them the resources and knowledge they need to fulfill their role.

But according to data from Gallup, employees can take a full year to ramp up to full productivity. According to a 2023 study, low employee satisfaction in on-the-job training can result in increased turnover intention. Optimizing this learning experience is essential to not only aiding your new hires to add value more quickly, but also to help them feel confident and competent in their roles. 

When organizations automate their employee training, they have a more consistent way of training new hires that doesn’t depend on back-to-back meetings, or a single person — like a manager — delivering the information. As a plus, you can even create customized learning journeys that both reflect each new starter’s role, responsibilities and individual learning needs, and scale across different office locations and working setups, like hybrid or remote working. 

5. Automating your feedback process can help to ensure that new employees are constantly getting feedback and improving their performance.

Feedback is essential to driving employee performance. In the onboarding process, it gives your employees vital context on where they need to grow to perform at their best.

A 2019 study found that when new hires regularly seek and receive feedback during their first few weeks, it not only helps them understand what’s expected of them in their new role, but also helps them assimilate the organization’s culture and reduces their likelihood of quitting.

But when hiring managers are onboarding multiple new hires at once, it can be challenging to give each the timely feedback and attention needed to nudge performance in the right direction.

Feedback should always be given by a human, but organizations can use automation to make this process more scalable. Automated onboarding milestone tracking, for example, means managers and new hires can stay aligned on onboarding progress, and course correct or unblock challenges where necessary. Organizations can also implement automated scheduling for check-ins like one-on-ones to make sure managers have regular touchpoints with their new hires. 

But remember that feedback works both ways — you can also automate your processes to request feedback and find out how your onboarding process is performing, too. This will help you make continuous improvements to your onboarding process.

Automated onboarding: Balancing employee experience with efficiency

Thoughtful automation of your onboarding process can lead to some huge wins for organizations — both from an efficiency perspective, and for employee experience.

Teams can integrate automation in their onboarding process in a few ways to reap these rewards:

  • Automating new hire emails and calendar scheduling
  • Eliminating errors from employee documentation and compliance
  • Creating orientation workflows to help new hires get up to speed more quickly
  • Personalizing and automating new hire training at scale
  • Building automated feedback loops to keep new hire performance high

But before plunging in with both feet and automating everything, you’ll need to consider how and where automation might fit into your existing onboarding workflow.

What works for another organization might not work for yours — so it’s important to evaluate where automation could add to your onboarding process. This starts with considering where your biggest challenges are in your current process, and identifying opportunities to improve efficiency, employee experience, and compliance outcomes. 

WorkBright can help you on that front. WorkBright is an HR onboarding software that helps teams optimize their new hire experience. From managing your Form I-9s to keeping track of employee training, our fully compliant platform helps teams fast-track the onboarding process, boost efficiency, and maintain a great employee experience. Book a demo with our team to find out more.