Updated: Sep 19, 2021
Like many facets of business, the onboarding process has changed dramatically in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced organizations to shift to a remote work model. While the transition to remote work has been abrupt, the move has brought some much-needed change to the onboarding process, which had often been considered ineffective by many.
Before the pandemic, the onboarding process was disorganized and unproductive, an undertaking beset by mountains of paperwork and confusing procedures. For many companies, onboarding was a formality, at best, and a waste of time, at worst. In a 2018 survey conducted by Nintex, workers named onboarding as the number one broken system, second only to IT, with 58% of respondents reporting that their companies suffered futile onboarding processes.
During the past year, companies have learned valuable lessons about digitization, automation, and efficiency that could have a lasting positive impact on how they onboard employees.
Remote work has shown businesses that there are many ways to streamline onboarding, from digitizing forms to automating tasks. Businesses have learned to optimize onboarding, a useful upgrade for the time when they return to operating in person.
Why Is Onboarding Harder Than Other Business Processes?
Onboarding has historically been one of the most difficult processes for organizations to resolve because the requirements for onboarding can vary tremendously from role to role and from department to department. For example, product teams implement different systems and best practices than do marketing teams. While finance teams may have implemented new tools, support teams abandoned tools that weren’t working.
Not to mention, onboarding isn’t overseen by a single department. HR and IT teams are often jointly responsible for coordinating onboarding logistics. If there’s a disconnect between the two teams, businesses risk disrupting the entire flow. For example, if new hires can’t access the appropriate technical resources, they will experience challenges getting up to speed in their new roles.
The shift to remote work has been a net positive for onboarding. Because remote work prompted teams to digitize their processes, most of the onboarding procedure is now completed online, replacing paperwork with digital documents and workflows.
The Era of Remote Work and Onboarding
The last 12 to 18 months taught businesses that they can be productive while operating virtually. Onboarding new employees can be efficient when companies adopt and leverage digital processes. New hires can complete their forms online independent of human intervention, kicking off an automated process that shuttles them through the remainder of their onboarding steps. A lot of what used to be manual - requesting approvals, creating accounts, granting permissions, entering data, and so forth - can now be either partly or totally automated.
One outstanding issue to onboarding is the communication component. As hybrid workplaces are poised to become the new standard, many employees may not want to return to the office or cannot return, potentially creating a communication gap. While technology can’t fix all of the onboarding challenges, investing in the right technology tools can help onboarding leaders prioritize employee communication, collaboration, and inclusivity, even when team members are distributed across the country or around the world.
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