by Larry Larmeu

Cloud, integration, automation – how to fix employee onboarding

Feb 26, 2018
IT LeadershipIT SkillsStaff Management

Avoid starting off on a bad note by making the process of starting a new job enjoyable.

5 onboarding
Credit: Thinkstock

You know what they say, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Despite this, most organizations fail to put emphasis on the onboarding process.  Approximately 22% of organizations don’t even have a formalized onboarding program. Unsurprisingly, nearly ⅓ of new hires start to look for a new job within the first six months. With turnover costs often exceeding the cost of the employee’s salary, the price of neglect is quite high.

In my experience, having worked in over 100 different organizations ranging from startups with less than 5 employees to large enterprises and governmental entities, I’ve seen a wide range of onboarding experiences. This became a topic of my interest, and I began engaging with industry colleagues, asking them about the onboarding experience at their organization and others they’ve been involved with. Most feedback has been poor, including one where it took over a month for a new employee just to receive a computer!

Enter the cloud

Many organizations have begun to utilize cloud solutions in the onboarding process, including:

  • Posting jobs
  • Receiving applications
  • Reviewing candidates
  • Performing interviews
  • Selecting a candidate
  • Background checks
  • Asset Procurement
  • Facilities Requests
  • IT Requests
  • New Hire Orientation

There are great cloud solutions available for each of these functions, but often each of these processes is handled by a separate team in a separate application, with no integration and little communication between the teams and processes.

With most cloud solutions possessing the ability to integrate via web service APIs, there exists a huge opportunity for improvement by simply building an overarching workflow that orchestrates the entire process, including passing data back and forth between applications, utilizing automation to reduce the time and cost of onboarding new employees, while also improving the user experience.

Pulling everyone together

I will preface this with a statement you will come to find very typical of me: There is no technology solution that will solve this for you. Like most business problems, the way to begin solving this problem is to look at the people involved, analyze their processes, and then tie things together with technology.

The first step is to identify an owner for the overarching onboarding process. This person will be responsible for designing and maintaining the overarching process, working with the subject matter experts within each critical function, and will be accountable for the success or failure of the onboarding program.

Next, identify process owners for each team involved. Have meetings with them individually to discuss how their current process works, the perceived pros and cons of the existing process, and what they think can be done better. Quite often these subject matter experts already know what is broken, they’re just not convinced there’s anyone out there who can fix it.

Each team within the overall onboarding process requires its own inputs and will generate its own outputs. The key to creating an onboarding experience is the orchestration of each step of the way, passing data back and forth at the right times, moving each process forward instantly when their next set of inputs are ready.

Analyzing each individual process

Map each process individually based on the output of your process owner meetings, then begin to analyze the process internally, looking for wasted or duplicated effort.

Assess any policy needs regarding the onboarding process. If there are process steps that have arisen because of policy that are causing issues, are there opportunities to amend the policy? Are there regulatory reasons why certain actions must be taken? Are there any open audit findings regarding this process? If so, how can we fix those audit issues?

Next, determine whether there is a business need behind each step. Many times, I have found steps, or entire processes, which were not required at all. They were often set up by someone else, a consultant or ex-employee, and no one ever bothered to question it because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.”

If you’re looking for process guides to help you do this, I highly recommend looking at Lean and Six Sigma. The methods used in these frameworks are a great guide to slimming down and speeding up work.

Analyzing the end-to-end process

Once you’ve tidied up each individual process, begin to look at how they interconnect with each other.

  • Are there duplications of effort?
  • Are they being done in sequence when they could be done in parallel?
  • Are there breakdowns in communication causing slowdowns?
  • Are there processes requiring an unnecessary amount of human intervention?
  • Are there processes that we can automate?

Generally, there is a lack of both process and policy governing the interaction between different onboarding processes, often involving emails and phone calls to progress the sequence. Once we have found the bottlenecks, we can begin to work on solving these with technology.

Create and orchestrate

Now that we’ve identified the key players involved, analyzed their processes, taken their feedback into account, and analyzed the interconnectivity between each process, it’s time to create our orchestrated “process of processes.” Map out each step, from end to end, noting all of the dependencies between groups.

Once you’ve got everything mapped out, it’s time to engage the technology teams. Have them engage with the application owners for each process, proposing the plan and assessing any technical limitations, making any changes necessary to your proposal to mitigate these limitations.

Get buy-in

An important step in this process is to develop KPIs. KPIs should not only define the goals of the process, but it should also help illustrate to the key stakeholders what they will be able to gain from the changes.

Once you have the full proposal in place, bring all the teams together and guide them through your proposal. It is key to have all the key people in the room, to make sure that they discuss any areas of concern and walk out of the room in agreement with the plan.

Taming the best of breed

The best onboarding process I have come across takes all the steps previously noted into account, integrating multiple “Best of Breed” cloud services together, giving the potential employee one portal to:

  • Find the job they are interested in
  • Apply
  • Review the status of their candidacy
  • Accept or reject the job offer (if made)
  • Fill in their personal information (once, not multiple times in multiple places!)

In addition to this, the candidate is also provided a picture of the office that they will be working at, a map to get there, and even a picture and LinkedIn-style profile of their manager and other members of their team so that they can get to know their coworkers before their first day.

Many organizations already have all or most of these capabilities readily available, scattered around in multiple systems, and it just takes the initiative to pull them together into a single experience that provides an excellent user experience, giving new hires the confidence that they have joined an organization that is people-centric and pays attention to detail.

That is the kind of first impression that employees never forget.