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Onboarding software a weak link, according to HCI-Kronos survey

Onboarding software is a pillar of talent management systems, but many firms are neglecting the technology. First impressions count, and bad onboarding may drive a new hire away.

Onboarding software may help reduce turnover, but many firms are neglecting this technology, according to a new...

study. A bad onboarding experience may prompt a new employee to quit.

Most firms today have invested in recruiting management systems. They want to speed hiring and find the best candidates. IDC said it expects spending in 2018 on applicant tracking systems to reach double digits.

Like recruiting, onboarding software is a pillar of talent management systems. But it's "neglected," said Jenna Filipkowski, the head of research at the Human Capital Institute (HCI), based in Cincinnati. That's a mistake, she argued.

HCI and workforce management software vendor Kronos Inc., in a survey of 350 firms, found 36% have "insufficient technology" to automate or organize the onboarding process. Overall, this research found 75% reported "that onboarding practices are underutilized." In a tight labor market, this may be a mistake.

Bad onboarding experience may hurt retention

A good onboarding program can make a difference in whether people leave work on that first day wondering what they have gotten themselves into and whether they made a huge mistake.
Howard Kleinprofessor of management of human resources at Ohio State University

Getting a job seeker excited about taking a job may be undercut by underused onboarding tech. Disorganized, incomplete, paper-based and inefficient onboarding can sour a new hire. It also hurts productivity if it takes longer to become proficient. The new employee may well believe they "were sold a bill of goods," Filipkowski said.

"When they do have a more positive [onboarding] experience, studies have shown that they tend to want to stay longer," Filipkowski said.

Other studies support this, according to management professors who have examined this issue.

"A good onboarding program can make a difference in whether people leave work on that first day wondering what they have gotten themselves into and whether they made a huge mistake," said Howard Klein, a professor of management of human resources at Ohio State University and editor in chief of the Human Resource Management Review, a professional journal.

First impressions really do matter

"First impressions matter," Klein said in an email. "If you ask people about their worst job, chances are you'll hear about a horrible first day or week in which they were not made to feel welcome, appreciated or important," he said.

New employees are impressionable, and an organization "does not want to miss that opportunity to instill values, vision and desired behaviors," Klein said.

Onboarding software systems are intended to make onboarding more efficient. These platforms include online training, electronic paperwork processing, incorporating audio and video onboarding materials, automatic updates of employee records, set reminders and appointments.

Onboarding software use is inconsistent

The HCI and Kronos survey suggests adoption of onboarding software will increase. About 60% of the firms surveyed were using some type of onboarding technology, either web-based or developed in-house. Of the balance, 24% said they didn't use it, but plan on doing so in the next three years. The remaining 15% said they had no plan to use onboarding technology in the next three years.

Talya Bauer, a professor of management at Portland State University, said organizations have come a long way in terms of thinking of onboarding as a yearlong process and not just new employee orientation, "but there's great variance in how much time and attention onboarding gets across organizations."

Keeping new hires will be important if a just-released survey by staffing firm Accountemps, a Robert Half company, proves to be accurate. It found 29% of professionals intend to look for a new position in the next year. The highest percentage of workers considering leaving their present employers is in Los Angeles, at 40%, followed closely by Austin and Dallas, Texas.

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