The Biggest Expectation of An Onboarding System

I continue to be amazed at how many different definitions of onboarding there are running around out there.  A few days go I came across a background and drug testing vendor who–you guessed it–defines onboarding as the process of ordering background and drug tests.  All the federal and state tax and benefits forms, all those policy forms, all that socialization and provisioning stuff, well you’ve probably already automated that nonsense; what’s really important when it comes to onboarding is buying my stuff.  This doesn’t seem like a good way to define a system.

This led me to wonder, what is the single bigges expectation of an onboarding system?  If there were any single feature that is universal to an onboarding system, what would it be?  Well in my unofficial verbal survey–executed using less than scientific means, mind you–over the last few days, the overwhelming single objective and expectation I am hearing is–drum roll, please–eliminating the paper in the new hire process. 

Now I pretty much expected this, but not necesarily as the #1 objective; I would have thought that ensuring compliance and automating data would have been 2 objectives which might have ranked higher.  I’ll continue to gather data, unscientifically of course, but if you have thoughts on what the #1 objective of an onboarding system should be, let me know!

3 thoughts on “The Biggest Expectation of An Onboarding System

  1. Onboarding is the process of acquiring, accommodating, assimilating and accelerating new team members, whether they come from outside or inside the organization.

    The definition has broadened over time. When we first started talking about onboarding in 2002, if you Googled the word, all you got was information about kennels and boarding schools. Then, it came to mean orientation (a part of assimilation). Then, organizations like yours started using the word to talk about paperwork and forms (part of accommodation).

    What really matters is helping new employees deliver better results faster. Certainly a part of that is orienting them and making the paperwork and forms easier to deal with. But the biggest impact is made by organizations that take the broadest view of onboarding. These organizations realize it starts before the first contact with a candidate, runs through acquisition, accommodation and assimilation, all the way through accelerating their progress.

    George Bradt
    PrimeGenesis Executive Onboarding –
    Author of “The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan” and
    “Onboarding – How To Get Your New Employees Up To Speed In Half The Time”

    1. George, I appreciate your comprehensive definition of the onboarding process, but I was just looking for the single most commonly expected feature of an onboarding system. So someone sells the organization on automating (all or parts of) the onboarding process and they start to make a wish list of functionality: what has surprised me–the point of my blog–is that almost always, “eliminate new hire paperwork” is #1 on the list.

      You said something else that I found curious: “when we first started talking about onboarding in 2002..” While we hadn’t yet applied the term “onboarding” we (our company) were creating systems for some of our clients in the fast food business as early as 1994 that automated the flow of data for new employees into the back office HRMS system. These apps eliminated the need to key new employees from scratch. It wasn’t until the Electronic Signature Act was passed that we were able to sign forms and that’s about when the term “onboarding” showed up; but wouldn’t the systems we created in the mid 90’s be characterized as “onboarding” systems?

      1. Of course the systems you created in the mid 90s would be characterized as onboarding systems, even though people weren’t using that word then. People have been acquiring, accommodating, assimilating and accelerating talent for a very long time. What’s new is the structure and process being brought to those efforts. Certainly the work you do to automate paperwork and data makes that part of onboarding more efficient and effective. We’ve been working to do that with all aspects of onboarding.

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