Want happy employees? 4 Proven ways to improve onboarding

There’s been a lot of discussion around how HR technology can improve the experience at work.

Now new digital tools have the power to deliver a seamless onboarding process.

You may be wary of HR tech.

Implementing the latest trend just for the sake of it – without consideration of your company’s existing process – will do little to streamline your systems.

The key is finding technologies that work together with your procedures to create a happier, more productive and fulfilled workforce.

That’s where onboarding technologies come in.

The Cost of Poor Onboarding

Most HR professionals can attest to one fact: an employee’s success at your company can turn on the strength (or weakness) of your onboarding process.

And the research backs up the importance of getting onboarding right:

  • The organisational cost of employee turnover can be as much as double the employee’s annual salary.
  • It can take around eight months for a new employee to reach full productivity, according to this study
  • More than 30% of new hires leave within the first six months.
  • Research found an effective onboarding programme means new hires are 69% more likely to stay with a company for three years or longer.
  • Around 80% of companies admit their approach to onboarding doesn’t deliver the best results for new hires.

As an HR professional, you don’t have total control over an employee’s future at your company, but you can play an important role in getting them off to a good start.

In this post, we look at some of the practical ways HR teams are integrating tech to support new hires (and company growth).

1.  Put a Formal Onboarding Plan in Place

A tech tool is only as good as the system behind it.

In the case of onboarding this means devoting time to defining your process.

Despite the potential consequences of an ineffective onboarding program, a study found only 28% of companies had a successful formal process, while 22% of companies surveyed had no formal orientation processes in place.

As statistics reveal the link between on-onboarding and longer tenures, companies can’t afford to skip over this step.

Consider including a set of criteria as the foundation for your onboarding program. 

The Society of Human Resource Management identifies the Four Cs that make up a successful onboarding process:

  • Compliance – Make sure new employees know their legal rights and responsibilities as they are relevant to your company and industry.
  • Clarification – Ensuring new hires understand their new role, and what is expected of them
  • Culture – The set of values and behaviors that govern how your company operates.
  • Connections –The interpersonal networks new employees must nurture.

In addition to getting the basics right, experts suggest that a solid onboarding process is deeply connected to the employer’s brand.  If you’re advocating efficient customer service, make sure your new employees get the same treatment.

Trello, the productivity app based on the Kanban scheduling system, uses an onboarding checklist.

Trello’s steps start before the new hire arrives.

They share these with the employee to give them a better idea of the work that’s gone into their arrival. It’s a gesture intended to illustrate the company’s excitement for new employee.

The rest of the checklist (Trello uses a visual representation) is for the employee to check off as they work through the items.

Asana, another productivity tool, suggests adding dates and actions to your checklist to make the process as seamless as possible.

2.  The Future of Onboarding: A Paperless Process

New hires often dread the admin associated with starting a new job.

Most new employees spend the first day holed up in a conference room: reams of paperwork to read and sign. In some instances, there’s a back and forth with HR sending back incomplete forms.

The process is tiring, inefficient and a drain on company resources.

Despite this, a study found less than 12% of new hires can access onboarding HR forms from their mobile devices.

Industry leaders note that digital onboarding will become more important as younger, more tech orientated hires enter the workforce.

Secured Signing, a cloud-based digital signature firm, is helping companies shave hours off their onboarding process.

The platform lets users fill in and sign onboarding paperwork from any device, and the use of cryptography offers a reliable means of verification.

Case studies from Secured Signing customers show the concrete way digital signatures improve the way businesses operate.

Peoplebank Australia, a digital recruitment agency, needed to automate the onboarding process for new contractors. Contractors would receive paper contracts in the post, or travel to Peoplebank offices.

Secured Signing’s solution allowed the Peoplebank team to load a contractor onboarding starter pack containing all the relevant documentation. The package comes with a due date, and the contractor can sign at any time, from any device. At the end, the team managed to save 1.5 hours per contractor placement.

Here’s how digital signatures improve onboarding:

  1. HR teams create fully-branded electronic registration forms
  2. Candidates receive the invitation to access the form on the Secured Signing platform
  3. All mandatory fields must be completed before the candidate can sign the form (fields are customizable and differ depending on the industry)
  4. If fields are incomplete, the employee is taken back to that section of the form
  5. Blue stickers are displayed throughout the document – denoting where the new hire must sign
  6. The employee can select from a type of signatures, including a predefined signature
  7. Once the registration information is entered, the employee can enter their banking details and choose their retirement annuity
  8. All signatures are date-stamped and encrypted, and the completed form is sent back to issuer for finalisation.

Doing business this way is not only simpler, it’s in line with the highest professional standard.

Completing HR paperwork before the first day is viewed as industry best practice, according to the Aberdeen market intelligence company.

3.  Showcase Your Company Culture

Studies show a strong – and positive – company culture is becoming an increasingly important factor for the workforce of the future.

You have a unique opportunity to share this culture with employees before their first day on the job.

Companies are called on to use online portals to accomplish this. HubSpot, the CRM solution, uses its blog to communicate exactly this, publishing its culture manifesto and excerpts from company board meetings.

Warby Parker, a US retailer of glasses, sends all new employees an electronic welcome packet filled with:

  • Company history
  • Core values
  • Press clippings
  • Expectations for the first few days

Software developers, ADP, has features for text and video introductions to let new employees meet their colleagues before they’ve even entered workplace, easing some of the nerves that come along with a new job. There’s even an integration with Google Maps to make sure new hires can find their way.

4.  Track and Measure

There’s a popular quote in modern business management: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

Once you’ve started running your formal onboarding process, you can start tracking the impact it has on things like productivity and retention.

As a start, industry experts advise using digital tools to better focus on tracking and improving the following indicators:

  • Skills and knowledge specific to the employee’s role
  • Core job competencies
  • Team integration

Yoi is one such application that follows the progress of new hires. The app helps employees by identifying useful documents such as common resources and training options. If a new employee has a question or concern, it offers guidance by suggesting a colleague who could help.

The benefits for HR include easing the burden by taking care of the most routine onboarding tasks. New hires can flag when they need support, giving the HR team the signal to provide the necessary intervention.

Ultimately Yoi hopes to get employees settled in quickly, and suggests the tool helps improve productivity.

Xpand is another application designed to connect employees to relevant training opportunities

The apps can help:

  • Flag the most time-consuming tasks and creating training content to resolve the blockage.
  • Examine which training aides are requested the most, perhaps signalling a bigger issue in the on-boarding process.

These solutions monitor the new hire’s progress, with a particular focus on the time it takes to reach proficiency. By comparing this against the company average, HR can determine the programmes with the highest return on investment.

Applications and processes like these also encourage employees to consider their own professional goals, and how these align with corporate strategy.


The competition for top talent has never been tougher. An efficient onboarding process makes new employees feel supported even before the first day on the job.

It removes the grunt work from the process, transforming it into an opportunity to add value to the new hire, and your firm. 

Written by Gal Thompson – CEO, Secured Signing