Bulletproof Your Employee Onboarding Process Using No-Code Workflow Automation

Luke Walker
April 5, 2023
8
minutes

Introduction

A warm welcome for new hires is crucial for creating a positive work experience and setting the stage for an employee’s long-term success within the business. 

Let’s start off with a universal truth: first impressions matter. Case in point, over 33%  of new hires will look for a new job within their first six months of employment, a figure that only increases with millennial and Gen Z employees. However, when employees report having a positive onboarding experience, around 69% will stay in their company for at least three years.

Which brings us to the real problem at hand: most employee onboarding experiences are really bad. According to a recent poll, only 12% of employees think that their organizations excel at onboarding.  

It’s not easy to nail the employee onboarding process. What on the surface seems to be a “necessary evil” of doing business, is often in reality a time-consuming and complex process, with many tasks, deadlines, technical and non-technical stakeholders involved. 

There are also many, many deliverables: forms, signatures, licenses and accounts, training sessions, equipment, and much more. It’s more than one or two HR managers can handle without adequate process, team, and technological support.

That's where workflow automation comes in. In this article, we'll discuss workflow automation for employee onboarding, its benefits, key components, best practices, and everything you need to get started.

What is Workflow Automation?

Workflow automation refers to the use of rules-based workflow or process technology to automate recurring business processes (like employee onboarding), making them more efficient and error-free. 

Automated workflows eliminate the need for manual intervention in routine tasks, for “guess work” where work instructions are clearly prescribed, for manual coordination amongst process stakeholders and collaborators, and for manual status updates in order to keep managers informed of progress. 

In the case of an employee onboarding process, an automated workflow can be best described as the “thread” that runs through the various stages of the onboarding process – connecting the teams, systems, stakeholders, and the new hire, simultaneously prescribing the steps of the process,  and facilitating and documenting their completion. We’ll illustrate this in greater detail below.

Benefits of Workflow Automation in Employee Onboarding

Improved Efficiency

Automating the onboarding process can significantly reduce the time and effort required to complete both individual tasks and the onboarding itself. This is a multidimensional benefit.

By streamlining and automating repetitive tasks, such as form filling and document management, the HR team can focus on more meaningful activities like providing personalized support to new hires. And by automatically prescribing and assigning tasks to other process stakeholders (hiring managers, IT team, procurement, etc), it removes the guesswork and simplifies their portion of the process, as well as removing the coordination and communication requirement. 

In the same way, new employees are presented with clear instructions and expectations, with a shared timeline that is transparent, so there’s no confusion around “who is supposed to do what and when”. 

Reduced Errors

Manual processes are prone to errors, which can lead to costly mistakes and compliance issues. Workflow automation reduces the risk of errors by ensuring that tasks are completed accurately and consistently.

Enhanced Employee Experience

A smooth and efficient onboarding process is a proven contributor to heightened employee satisfaction and engagement. Workflow automation can also help create a more personalized experience for new hires by providing relevant information and comprehensive support, ultimately improving retention rates. Rather than relying on HR managers to “be there” for each and every step of the process, you can invest heavily into refining your automated onboarding workflow, in order to be more and more comprehensive.

Compliance and Standardization

Automation can help ensure that the onboarding process complies with relevant labor laws, tax laws, and other regulations by consistently following the established protocols. It also promotes standardization across the organization, ensuring that every new employee receives the same high-quality onboarding experience. Finally, a workflow automation system will automatically provide documentation for all your employee onboardings, and a single source of truth to refer back to. 

Analytics and Insights

By automating the onboarding process, you’ll gain valuable data points that provide insights into the effectiveness of your onboarding process. These insights can be used to make decisions about how you onboard employees and how to continuously improve your onboarding process.

Key Components of an Automated Onboarding Workflow

Form Management

Managing forms and paperwork is a critical aspect of onboarding. Automation tools can simplify the process by providing pre-built templates, electronic signatures, and centralized storage for all relevant forms. These custom forms can also be built to include conditionals, deadlines, and granular visibility permissions, and do not require coding to set up and configure

Forms can be built, customized, and styled without code. (Shown here: a Next Matter form in an Employee Onboarding confidentiality training step).

Task Assignment

Task assignment ensures that each stakeholder is aware of their responsibilities and deadlines, without requiring a manual “nudge”. Workflow automation will automatically assign tasks to team members and send reminders to keep everyone on track. Notifications are customizable and can be limited to “in app” notifications, or, expanded to include Slack/Teams messages, emails, and even SMS.

Steps and tasks can be assigned to internal or external people, teams, systems, or "dynamic" assignees. (Shown here: a Next Matter onboarding workflow)

Document Management

Automating document management can help HR teams keep track of employee records and ensure that new hires receive all the necessary information. Digital storage and retrieval of documents also make it easier to maintain compliance and quickly access relevant information when needed.

Required documents can be uploaded and accessed directly from within the workflow instance for a given employee. Additionally (or alternatively), integration can be configured directly to the company’s file storage system, and documents can be saved there automatically. 

Documents can be captured and saved directly in the workflow. (Shown here: an NDA capture step)

Communication and Collaboration

Effective communication is essential during the onboarding process. Workflow automation can facilitate communication between new hires, HR, and other team members by providing a structured format for collaborating. 

This type of process-based collaboration has two main benefits: 1) all parties have access to the same pertinent information, and can communicate faster and with specific reference to the task or issue at hand, and 2) there’s no need to open another application to communicate, and the full trail of conversation around a given process is retained within the workflow instance. 

Conversations can be held directly within a process instance and are saved with the process record. (Shown here: an internal conversation as part of an onboarding).

Integration with HR Systems

Seamless integration with existing HR systems is a crucial aspect of workflow automation. By connecting your onboarding process with other HR tools, such as payroll, file storage, benefits administration, and performance management systems, you can streamline the entire employee lifecycle and ensure data consistency across the organization.

Best Practices for Implementing Workflow Automation in Employee Onboarding

Define Clear Goals and Objectives

Before implementing workflow automation, it's important to set clear goals and objectives for your onboarding process. This includes defining the desired outcomes, such as improving employee satisfaction, reducing time to productivity, or increasing retention rates. By establishing clear goals, you can ensure that your automated onboarding process is designed to achieve them effectively.

Map Out the Onboarding Process

A well-defined onboarding process is the foundation of successful workflow automation. Start by mapping out the current process, identifying key tasks, stakeholders, and potential bottlenecks. This will help you determine which aspects can benefit most from automation and how to prioritize your efforts.

For many, the easiest way to map the process is jump into the automation tool and just start building. What matters most here is that you make a conscious effort of defining and documenting your process, whether on paper or in your chosen automation app directly. 

Choose the Right Automation Tools

Selecting the appropriate automation tools for your organization is crucial. Look for solutions that offer flexibility, scalability, and customization to meet your unique needs. Additionally, consider the ease of use and the level of support provided by the vendor to ensure a smooth implementation.

Ready to automate employee onboarding today? Click here to get started building in Next Matter.

Train and Engage Stakeholders

Involve all relevant stakeholders in the automation process, including HR, IT, and hiring managers. Provide training and support to ensure that everyone is comfortable using the new tools and understands their roles in the automated onboarding process. This will help promote buy-in and ensure successful adoption.

Measure and Improve

Regularly evaluate the effectiveness of your automated onboarding process by tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) and gathering feedback from new hires and stakeholders. Use this data to identify areas for improvement and continuously refine your process to better meet the needs of your organization and employees. 

Maintaining an Empathetic Approach to Workflow Automation

As you implement workflow automation in your employee onboarding process, it's essential to maintain an empathetic approach. This means understanding the needs, feelings, and perspectives of new employees and ensuring that the automated process is designed to support them in their journey.

Here are some tips for maintaining an empathetic approach to workflow automation:

  • Personalize the experience: Use automation to create a personalized onboarding experience for each new hire, tailoring communications, training, and resources based on their role, skills, and preferences.
  • Human touch: While automation can streamline many tasks, it's essential to retain a human touch in the onboarding process. Ensure that new employees have the opportunity to interact with HR, managers, and teammates through scheduled meetings, mentoring sessions, or virtual events.
  • Support and guidance: Make sure new hires have access to the support and guidance they need, both through automated resources and direct contact with team members. Provide clear instructions for using the automated system and ensure that new employees know who to contact if they have questions or concerns.
  • Continuous feedback: Regularly solicit feedback from new hires about their onboarding experience and use this information to improve the process. This shows employees that their opinions matter and that the organization is committed to their success.
  • Emphasize the benefits: Clearly communicate the benefits of workflow automation to new employees, such as increased efficiency, reduced errors, and a more seamless onboarding experience. This helps them understand the value of the automated process and encourages their engagement.

By maintaining an empathetic approach to workflow automation, you can create a more positive onboarding experience for new employees, setting the stage for their long-term success and satisfaction within the organization.

Conclusion

Workflow automation for employee onboarding can significantly enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the process, leading to improved employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention. By implementing best practices and choosing the right tools, you can create a seamless onboarding experience that sets your new hires up for success from the start.

FAQs

What is the main purpose of workflow automation in employee onboarding?

The main purpose of workflow automation in employee onboarding is to streamline the process, reduce manual tasks, improve efficiency, and enhance the overall employee experience.

How does workflow automation benefit new employees?

Workflow automation benefits new employees by providing a more seamless and efficient onboarding experience, ensuring that they have access to the necessary information, support, and resources to succeed in their roles.

What should I look for when choosing an automation tool for employee onboarding?

When choosing an automation tool for employee onboarding, consider factors such as flexibility, scalability, customization options, ease of use, integration with existing systems, and vendor support.

How can I measure the success of my automated onboarding process?

Measure the success of your automated onboarding process by tracking KPIs, such as employee satisfaction, time to productivity, and retention rates. Also, gather feedback from new hires and stakeholders to identify areas for improvement.

Can workflow automation help with compliance and standardization in the onboarding process?

Yes, workflow automation can help with compliance and standardization in the onboarding process by consistently following established protocols, reducing the risk of errors, and ensuring that every new employee receives the same high-quality onboarding experience. Additionally, automation can help maintain digital records of all relevant documents, making it easier to demonstrate compliance with relevant laws and regulations.

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About the author
Luke Walker is the Product Marketing Manager at Next Matter. He is a longtime process hacker, and writes about marketing, business digitization, leadership, and work-life balance. When he's not at work, you can find him listening to records or climbing rocks.

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