On Wednesday I had the great pleasure and privilege of being a panelist on HRchitect’s onboarding vendor panel at their HR Show 2009.  I loved the event, and I hope everyone attending found it valuable.  I just wanted to write a quick blog with some semi-random notes and observations I made during the panel discussion; they’re not really in a particular order, but considering I’m reviewing my scribbles from during the panel questions, they’re roughly in an order matching the questions posed.

  • All vendors agreed on the main drivers behind adoption of onboarding technology, and all (seemingly) agreed on the principle driver being ROI, though a couple of vendors indicated that they’re seeing some other principle drivers, like “improving the candidate experience” during onboarding.  I think this is actually a benefit, more of a side-effect really, but not so much a driver.  When it comes down to it, nowadays extreme value and ROI is the driver for any decision to spend money; it might be nice to improve the experience of the candidate and there’s likely some retention benefits there, but customers today demand pretty clear cut ROI before they will invest.
  • Several vendors pointed out aspects of a “generation gap” in the workforce, i.e. younger workers entering the workforce expecting certain technologies, certain business practices and expectations.  While I believe it’s important to recognize these generational differences, they must be put into the context of the organization’s requirements and policies.  If nothing else, I think these issues stress the need for flexibility in the onboarding process.
  • We (at Emerald Software) draw a pretty clear distinction between transactional onboarding and acculturation onboarding, and I thought it was very interesting that the other vendors didn’t; yet they definitely seemed to frame their products with the value propositions drawn from one area or the other, rarely both.
  • Only a couple of us vendors seemed to stress the flexibility aspect of the onboarding process, the objective that the technology must adapt to customer’s unique business processes; do most vendors have a prescribed “best practices” onboarding process of their own, and their customers adapt to their technology?
  • All vendors provide “field level validation”, but we seem to be the only vendor that takes a multi-layer business rules and policy enforcement approach.
  • A lot of time was spent on one particular question about how our products incorporate our customer’s unique talent branding into our products.  With web technologies as they are today, I’m surprised this was a major issue; doesn’t everyone allow styling and branding of their onboarding processes?
  • I was unclear on how the other vendors allow their end user customers to maintain the content of their onboarding systems once delivered; once implemented, do their customers have to go back to them to tweak the process?  To add a form?  To change some content?
  • On the topic of material requisitioning (other vendors call it provisioning), we have a pretty unique stand: this is a lifecycle process, this is not a feature of onboarding.  Managers should be allowed to request materials for their new employees as early as the position being created, through onboarding, and for the life of the employee.  I had some agreement on this, but none of the other vendors confirmed that this is their approach also.
  • Our requisitioning (provisioning) configuration is done – basically – by drawing workflows in a process designer.  Nobody else really talked about how their workflows are designed.  Or who designs them.
  • On the topic of M&A onboarding, all the other vendors talked about the unique content that has to be delivered to acquired employees, which I don’t disagree with, but the basic, universal hiring process is the same.  What’s really different is that you have to onboarding many (perhaps thousands) of employees in one shot, in a specific timeframe (usually a tight timeframe), and almost all the time you’re doing it with data that you’ve never seen before.  This is the real challenge with M&A onboarding.
  • A final observation that I had was that all of the other vendors provide their system as SaaS only.  We’re unique here too: we do offer SaaS, and it definitely seems to have become our standard means of delivery, but we also offer conventional licensing, and even an appliance-based approach we call “managed services” that has the pricing and capital investment benefits of SaaS but with equipment that clients maintain in their own data center.

If you were in the audience of the panel, I’d love to hear your feedback on the event: post a comment or shoot me an email at chuck.ros@emeraldsoftwaregroup.com  Of course, feel free to visit our website to learn more about our approach to onboarding: http://www.emeraldsoftwaregroup.com/onboarding

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