HR Be Warned: The Days of Administrative Onboarding Are Numbered

Kyle's blog 10-30The days of the administrative onboarding process, through which new hire onboarding and orientation are limited to HR to-dos, are numbered. Don’t get me wrong – benefits enrollment and new hire paperwork aren’t going away any time soon. But as hiring priorities have changed (and talent acquisitions measures have evolved beyond efficiency metrics), it’s become increasingly apparent that administrative onboarding alone isn’t enough to meet today’s talent needs.

It’s no secret that traditional onboarding has been dying a slow death. In fact, many companies are still doing things the way they always have – and missing out on an incredible opportunity to improve key performance metrics. Meanwhile, the most effective hiring organizations have been bolstering onboarding in order to propel new talent into successful careers, improve time-to-proficiency, and reduce turnover.

“It is hard to teach old dogs new tricks,” says Dr. Jason Taylor, Chief Science Officer at PeopleAnswers. “At the company level, change will not occur until there is a true need then there will be a true focus on changing the view of onboarding.”

Laggard organizations are slowly but surely catching on, and the need for information on key practices is steadily increasing. To that end, I’ll be researching this topic more deeply in the coming months. For now, let’s talk about the how and why of this trend.

The Trend You Probably Saw Coming

If you’ve spent any time in the HCM blogosphere in the last five years, the end of administrative onboarding should come as no surprise. The trend has become one of the more popular topics of conversation in HR circles. And while the specific reasons cited by bloggers and industry pundits vary, there are a few primary drivers leading us to the inevitable.

The first is simple: Advancements in technology are enabling companies small and large to manage HR processes more efficiently through automation of administrative workflows. Beyond efficiency, however, this has allowed us to evaluate the efficacy of traditional process – which, as it turns out, has been long overdue.

The second driver is tied closely to the first: Talent acquisition measures are evolving beyond time-to-hire and cost-per-hire metrics. Today’s business leaders are more concerned with quality of hire and time to proficiency. They’re looking for better ways to get new talent up to speed, aligned with company culture, and in touch with key business goals.

The simple solution – and the action many organizations have taken – includes the addition of more robust new hire orientation and/or formalized new-hire training curriculum. However, there’s another method that’s increasingly popular. 

The Practice That’s Gaining Traction

The depth, scalability, affordability of assessment technology has improved rapidly over the last five years.  As a result, more organizations are utilizing candidate assessments in talent acquisition than ever before (80% according to a recent survey conducted by Brandon Hall Group). While that’s good news for candidate assessment solution providers, what’s more interesting is that more than half are assessing candidate behavior (60%). Why is that interesting? I thought you’d never ask.

Although the most common use case for candidate behavior data is gauging culture fit, it can also be used to identify work habits, management preferences, and feedback needs. This is, essentially, what we’re trying to gauge when interviewing candidates. But there are a growing number of organizations that have found a more sophisticated use for candidate behavior data – something called behavioral onboarding.

These organizations are leveraging behavioral assessment data to provide HR and hiring managers with information about what makes each new employee tick and how he or she works best. This information can then be used to tailor onboarding efforts to each employee (to varying degrees). HR will know who doesn’t do well in classroom environments, who will be more likely to need more on-the-job training – and hiring managers will know which of their current employees would be a good mentor for incoming hires.

“This allows managers to see firsthand the value of knowing new employees and speaking their language during the ramp-up period,” explains Taylor. “Additionally, this approach focuses the skill development by understanding why people do what they do, and leveraging other methods to ensure efficiency and high quality in the training.”

In short, behavioral onboarding is enabling companies to integrate new talent into organization more effectively – getting them to be more productive more quickly and stay with the company longer … or so we’re told. “When properly analyzed, implementing behavioral onboarding techniques result in better development programs and better employee retention. However, it is difficult to quantify just as 10 years ago it was difficult to quantify selection success,” explains Taylor.

There’s some early research on the actual business impact of behavioral onboarding – including some from PeopleAnswers – but none I’m willing to cite until I’ve done more research of my own.

The end of administrative onboarding is definitely long overdue, but my gut tells me we have a few years before that happens. For now, I’d say this is a trend worth watching closely. What do you think? As always, I welcome comments and questions: [email protected]

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