Understanding the What, Why, When, and How of Employee Onboarding Automation

employee onboarding

Welcoming employees on their first day involves a lot more than just handling paperwork and introducing them to their team. When employee onboarding is done right, the new employee experience can be greatly improved and retention rates can be reduced. Onboarding automation is an effective way to improve the effectiveness of the onboarding process. An automated onboarding process streamlines the process and positively impacts the first impression new talents have of your organization.

Read on to understand employee onboarding automation further, why is it important, and how to automate the onboarding process. 

What is Employee Onboarding?

Organizations get the chance to make a great first impression with new employees through the onboarding process. The employee onboarding process is a brief window the HR gets to build a mutually positive relationship. For large organizations, those with thousands of front-line workers, the employee onboarding process entails coordination and collaboration between multiple departments. Any disconnect in the onboarding process results in a botched-up onboarding. 

Employee onboarding refers to the processes by which new hires are integrated into the organization. It includes all activities that allow new employees to complete an initial new-hire orientation process, as well as learn about the organization and its structure, culture, vision, mission, and values. In some organizations, the onboarding process spans 1-2 days, for other organizations it may involve activities spanning a month or more. 

Onboarding is often confused with orientation, the latter is limited to the paperwork and other routine tasks, while the former is a comprehensive process that involves management and other employees and can last up to 12 months. All new employees are onboarded, but the quality of onboarding makes a difference.

When onboarding is done well, it lays a foundation for long-term success for the employee and employer. A well-executed employee onboarding can improve productivity, build loyalty, and engagement, and help employees become successful early in their careers with the new organization. 

Having an engaged workforce is important for the success of the business, the happiness of the employees, and overall well-being. It all starts with the onboarding experience. Recent statistics reveal that an effective onboarding process ensures that 33% more employees feel engaged compared to those with ineffective onboarding.

Developing an effective employee onboarding automation strategy can provide a more positive experience for both employees and companies. By transforming the traditional onboarding process into an automated onboarding process, new hires can be mentored and guided through the ins and outs of their new jobs without the hindrance of paperwork or face-to-face meetings.

Challenges in Employee Onboarding

Employee onboarding may seem like an easy and straightforward process at the outset, but there are several components to the process that need to be executed in a proper manner and at the proper times for seamless onboarding. There are several challenges that crop up in a manual onboarding process, these challenges bring down the employee experience. 

Employee onboarding feels impersonal

If the HR manager and his team go about employee onboarding as a rote process that is considered a mere formality, then the new hires also get the feeling that they are unwelcome and do not bond well with the organization. Your employees need to start engaging with new hires as soon as possible so that they become productive in their roles. 

When the HR team is performing individual onboarding tasks manually, it becomes nearly impossible to give a personal touch to these tasks. Tasks like introducing new hires to colleagues, scheduling one-on-one discussions, organizing offsites, etc., require the HR to think over and execute, but tasks like verifying documents, allocating workstations and devices etc. can be automated. This way HR get more time to give their personal touch to tasks that involve interaction with new hires.

Unresolved employee queries

As the new hire settles into his/her role at the organization, they are bound to have several queries about work and org culture, etc. They are likely to go to HR for clarification of their doubts, and there will be many occasions when they have to wait for their clarifications because HR is already burdened with other tasks. As a result, new hires are left in the dark for quite a long period of time or spend too much time searching for answers from other sources. 

Another scenario is when they ask the same question to colleagues (especially those in the IT dept) the same set of questions repeatedly. This not only takes up the time of the IT folks but also frustrates the new hires in not receiving timely responses to their queries. Without an easy and automated means of providing them with answers to their queries, you are going to have a bunch of new hires who are dissatisfied with their work environment. 

Errors and overlaps in Admin HR tasks

Provisioning new hires access to facilities, apps, and work equipment can be time- and labour-intensive. When the HR team is held up with other work, these admin tasks may have to wait until they are free to attend to them.

Meanwhile, the new hire is waiting for the provisioning of equipment so he can start his/her work! Not only does it affect productivity, but also makes them feel less valued. It is not just the delay in completing these tasks, there are also instances when wrong allocations are done due to rushed onboarding.

In either case, the results are disastrous for the organization and frustrating for the newly hired employee. New hires inadvertently getting access to confidential data is an example of a botched-up employee onboarding process. 

The above challenges faced by the HR department by following a manual onboarding process can lead to disastrous consequences like legal or compliance troubles for the organization. With this context in mind let us compare manual onboarding versus automated employee onboarding. 

Manual versus Automated Onboarding

Several organizations are still using manual employee onboarding processes. Apart from being tedious, these processes are document-heavy and error-prone. Automated employee onboarding on the other hand brings intelligence into the onboarding process. Here is a comparison of manual versus automated onboarding processes – 

Manual employee onboarding Automated employee onboarding
Document and labour-intensive process that entails heavy paperwork and manual effort Involves minimum use of paperwork and manual effort from the HR team
Result in high employee turnover due to lost time, work, and productivity Automates and streamlines onboarding for better efficiency and speed
Requires manual data entry due to unrecognized processes  Online form submission and centralized data handling for inter-department review and approvals
Higher cost to the company due to manual paperwork and tasks involved A streamlined process that reduces costs and productivity
Missed deadlines due to incomplete/rushed processes Workflow automation that improves collaboration for timely review and approvals
Higher error margins Lesser/nil error margins due to the automation of tasks
Fragmented onboarding program  A unified and centralized onboarding program
Poor control and visibility over hiring and onboarding Better control over hiring, recruiting, onboarding 
Confusion in inter-departmental and intra-departmental communication Clear communication and collaboration within and outside the HR department
Lack of standardization in process execution Onboarding templates for standardizing the process

Employee onboarding automation is armed with intelligence that fosters self-serve support. It provides faster resolution to newly hired employees, which makes them feel welcome and valued. The time spent on inquiries is drastically reduced by automating the onboarding process. You can also save time and manual work when you automate the onboarding process.

Automating the onboarding process paves the way for establishing strong human connections within the organization. Automated onboarding accelerates the process and also makes it more effective, which in turn reduces the attrition rates in the organization. 

When should you Automate Employee Onboarding?

So, when is the right time to automate the employee onboarding process?

How do you decide the right time to automate the employee onboarding process?

Here are some telltale signs that indicate the need for automating the onboarding process –

1. Ineffective onboarding

The main aim of employee onboarding is to absorb the newly hired employee into the organization and enable the new hire to imbibe the work culture and values of the organization. When you go about onboarding manually, you are likely to face a number of challenges like dissatisfied new hires or unavailability of HR for clarifications or errors in admin tasks. If your onboarding process shows any of these signs, then it is time you automate the onboarding process.

2. Repeated data errors

How many times have the workstations and work devices been assigned to the wrong employee? Or do the new hires wait for a long time for their induction and training? Manual onboarding operates in silos where data is not centralized, leading to data errors or overlapping assignments. Data overlaps or errors occurring way too frequently is a clear indication that you need to automate data handling tasks in the onboarding process. 

3. Overburdened HR staff

The entire responsibility of settling the new hire into his/her role lies with the HR team. Moreover, the onboarding process isn’t a short-term affair, it usually spans 1 year or more. Imagine the number of tasks that HR has to take care of during this period. A report from Career Builder reveals that 2 out of 5 HR managers spend at least 3 hours collecting onboarding data manually.

Onboarding tasks are in addition to the other HR activities that they need to carry out. When your HR staff is bogged down by onboarding activities, it is a good time to automate the labor- and data-intensive tasks of the process. 

4. High attrition rates

According to Onboarding Experience Statistics by SHRM, as much as 20% of employee turnover happens during the first 45 days of employment, owing to poor onboarding experience. It is highly important that organizations provide a great onboarding experience that eases the doubts, fears, concerns, and uncertainties that new employees are likely to have during the first few months of their employment. If you see rising attrition rates of new hires, then it is time to redefine the onboarding process by automating repetitive tasks. 

Why Should You Automate Employee Onboarding?

Do you wish to provide an employee-centric HR user experience for all your new hires? You certainly won’t be able to achieve that with archaic onboarding processes. The inefficiency of manual onboarding is evident from the above discussions around the challenges in manual processes and the reasons that entail automation of the onboarding activities. Automated onboarding helps the HR staff go beyond archaic processes and empowers employees with a personalized, modern, and intuitive onboarding experience. 

Here are some reasons why automated onboarding is a must if you want to provide an exceptional employee onboarding experience. 

For starters, it improves the overall onboarding experience by streamlining the workflow and automating rote, data-intensive processes. Onboarding is all about investing time and effort in settling new hires into their roles comfortably.

For that, HR staff needs to actively interact with newly hired employees and be available to address any queries, concerns, or fears that they might have. Automation does the heavy lifting for HR personnel so that they spend less time on low-value administrative tasks and focus more on engaging and interacting with new hires. 

Fewer errors

By taking repetitive, labour-intensive tasks off the HR team’s plate, you decrease the chances of anyone making a mistake, missing deadlines, or leaving a new hire behind on their onboarding. The automation platform helps set up the onboarding process checklists that let your team take care of the employees, and not get entangled in bureaucracy. 

The benefits of employee onboarding automation can be considered as an extension of the reasons why you should automate the onboarding process. Some of the key benefits of automating the onboarding process are listed below –

Processes documentation faster 

Documentation and paperwork dominate the onboarding process. From gathering the joining information to collecting educational and work experience-related documentation – the HR team needs to constantly be in touch with the new hire so that they have all the necessary documents in place and the information is verified and validated promptly.

When the documentation is automated, it lifts the workload from HR personnel and gives them more time to spend on providing a personalized onboarding experience for the new hire. There are several tools like DocuSign, Box, Cflow, etc that can be used to automate the documentation process during onboarding. Such software enables the HR team to review and verify all the documents well ahead of time and clarify any doubts before the resource starts working.

Maintains employee data

An automated onboarding process enables you to collect new employee data and update it in the respective systems like payroll, leave planners, asset allocation, etc. Automatic updation of employee information to any of the systems eliminates human error. You can also generate accurate employee reports on their demographics, headcount, and job history, as and when required.

Increases new hire engagement

When HR teams are too busy managing paperwork and redundant admin tasks, they tend to take more time to respond to queries from newly hired employees. Automating such admin tasks gives them more time to interact and engage with new hires. Faster response to queries and efficient resolution of their concerns improves the onboarding experience for the new employee. 

Automates benefits enrollment

One of the most effective ways to attract and retain new talent for your organization is to offer generous benefits packages. In an automated onboarding process, emails explaining the benefits package are automatically sent to the new employee.

The email includes complete instructions on how to avail of corporate discounts, commuter benefits, health, and dental plans, etc. Although these programs have different management systems, a workflow automation platform can integrate everything, which makes employee onboarding easier. 

Provides valuable feedback

Gathering employee feedback is important for improving or streamlining the onboarding process. Feedback can be gathered with the help of employee surveys. Automating the process of gathering feedback by sending surveys to new hires when they complete one month, 6 months, and one year, is useful in aligning the onboarding process according to employee expectations. 

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How to go about Onboarding Automation?

The manner in which onboarding automation is carried out depends on the nature and size of the organization and the HR operations. When you decide to automate the onboarding process, bear in mind the following points – 

  • Identify the specific processes that are manually executed and need to be streamlined.
  • Prioritize the process that you want to automate based on the potential impact on the new hire, the rest of the team, and the organization.
  • Choose a workflow automation software that will get the job done for you. 

We have put together a list of common ways in which you can automate the employee onboarding process, you can choose the one that applies to the HR operations specific to your organization. 

Use templates and reminders – Templates and reminders/alerts can be used to send pre-hire paperwork before the first day of the new hire to ensure compliance. 

Formalize the onboarding plan – For setting up an automated system, you need a formalized onboarding plan that guides you through automation. A formalized onboarding plan has been shown to be more effective both qualitatively and quantitatively. 

Issue alerts to buddies/mentors – Automatic reminders and template messages can be set to be sent to assigned buddies or mentors. The new hires are assigned to respective buddies in their team during the first week of their job. Using technology to automate that actions are complete is a good way to manage the mentoring of new hires. 

Track key milestones – Tracking key milestones is important for new employees. Automation helps track these key milestones with check-ins at 30, 60, 90, and 120 days through the full year. 

Personalized onboarding – The new hire onboarding can be personalized with forms, activities, to-do lists, maps, and photos of team members. Automating the onboarding process enables the HR team to conveniently store and access employee data. 

Streamline pre-boarding workflows – Once an employee is marked as “hired” in the applicant tracking system, the automated onboarding process commences. All the actions that need to be carried out for onboarding the new employee are automatically triggered. The usual sequence of actions is as follows – the creation of a profile in the human resource information system (HRIS), the creation of a user account, sending the welcome email, and setting up accounts in IT service management and payroll. 

Manage new hire queries – Arranging an orientation meeting for new hires is usually done on the first day at the organization. During the orientation meeting, the new employees introduce themselves and connect with their colleagues.  Creation of user accounts, official emails, salary accounts, etc happens automatically. Once the business communications platform is set, it becomes easy for HR to manage the queries and concerns of new employees. 

What should you Automate in HR Onboarding?

Not all of the tasks in the HR onboarding process are fit for automation. Some of the tasks can be executed only by HR personnel. Tasks that are repetitive, predictive, and do not require human intelligence to be executed are ideal for automation. What can you automate in employee onboarding? 

  • Creation of new employee profiles
  • Issuing alerts and reminders to departments involved in employee onboarding
  • Giving automated access to specific apps
  • Sending and collecting onboarding information
  • Tracking employee information
  • Welcoming new employees


The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reveals that a great onboarding experience ensures that 69% of employees stick with a company for 3 years. A proper onboarding experience takes closer to a year, and new hires who stay that long are more loyal and committed to an organization. 

A well-laid-out onboarding plan needs to be supported by the right onboarding automation software. Cflow is a workflow automation software that enables quick and effective automation of key business workflows. From HR onboarding to procurement to accounts payable – Cflow automates key tasks in the business workflows.

A great onboarding experience starts with Cflow. Explore employee onboarding automation features in Cflow by signing up for the free trial. 

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