Shortened Onboarding Times See Mixed Results

Technology helps keep onboarding speedy, but it should only do so to make room for additional training and culture building.
Onboarding speed technology

To get a sense of how company onboarding should be handled in 2018, you might consider studying Belatrix Software.

Belatrix Software’s 12 percent attrition has remained steady, in part, due to the software development service company’s formal onboarding process. According to Alex Robbio, the Redwood City, California company’s co-founder and president, after finding that the biggest risk of attrition is in a new hire’s first year, Belatrix grew its people care team, increased training times and improved customization of the process.

Robbio said about 95 percent of the company’s hires are technical staff, for which there is global competition. Therefore, software companies have to make sure the people they hire are able to assimilate into the culture, feel accepted and successfully able to navigate the company. Otherwise, that first year faces a high risk of attrition. “You have to play a world-class game, or you’re out of the game,” Robbio said.

At Belatrix, onboarding means expanding the relationship with a new hire before they even apply. Through social media contact with the targeted community, such as technical staff, the company improves its brand to potential employees. The people care team and recruiters also create a more customized experience for the hires, sharing value propositions, technology used and more. “It’s a lot of selling, basically,” Robbio said.

When the hire comes onto the team, they have frequent lunches with the founders, meet with mentors for about six months and meet with the people care team. All of this provides new hires opportunities to ask questions, share if they feel promises from the acquisition process were kept and also have assistance navigating the company’s culture. Additionally, each employee receives an average of 120 hours of training per year, helping the team to keep up with the fast-changing technology world, Robbio said.

All of this is in an effort to make employees feel valued and developmentally cared for by the company. “Otherwise, people feel like they’re just numbers and attrition goes through the roof,” Robbio said.

Belatrix Software does onboarding well, but they aren’t the norm.

According to the Human Capital Institute and SumTotal 2016 talent acquisition research, “Onboarding Outcomes: Fulfill New Hire Expectations,” most onboarding ends after a new employee’s first week on the job. About half of companies responding to the survey indicated that their onboarding lasts 90 days, 16 to 25 percent last a year and 12 to 18 percent continuously onboard their workers.

Onboarding influences the amount of time it takes a worker to reach full productivity. The “2012 Allied Workforce Mobility Survey: Onboarding and Retention,” found that on average, it takes eight months for an employee to be fully productive. However, this varies. Twenty-seven percent of companies in the survey found it takes at least a year, while 25 percent of companies said it takes three months or less.

RELATED: The Pros and Cons of Hiring for ‘Cultural Fit’

Aside from profitability, if onboarding times are too short, it could also affect the company culture, said Stan Triepels, founder of ChiefOnboarding, a Netherlands-based company that created an online employee onboarding system. If the company culture and values aren’t explained well, it could impact how a hire interacts with their colleagues, leading to insecurity for the new hire.

Technology for Talent

Digitized onboarding platforms emerged in the talent management space a few years ago, which Triepels said help get new hires through the process smoothly. “What’s more, it also helps to keep the quality of onboarding consistent,” he said, adding that while it’s great that many companies have mentors for the same type of hire, it can put stress on keeping the quality the same. “With onboarding platforms, you are absolutely sure that every new hire gets exactly the same information,” he said.

Additionally, without technology, paper trails can get messy. Belatrix Software’s Robbio said his team built a talent management system internally, which keeps track of who’s worked on certain projects, what projects they hope to tackle, skills they need to develop and more. “Keeping all of that and managing that by hand is a nightmare,” he said.

Onboarding has benefited from technology in that it improves the speed with which new hires can be productive, said Cristina Goldt, vice president of HCM products at Workday Inc., an enterprise cloud applications company based in Pleasanton, California. The added expediency frees up time for employees to focus on other things, and the technology allows them to get more out of the onboarding process even though they’re getting through it much more quickly, she said.

Technology’s ability to speed up the compliance portion of the onboarding process allows more time for a personal, human touch. Goldt said visibility of the company is an aspect of onboarding today that the practice in the past lacked. Now, people can more easily find out who they should know at the company, allowing them to network quickly and become increasingly confident in the process. “People want to feel like they’re contributing and making an impact quickly.” Technology allows for more of that human touch, which then also helps with assimilation at the company, Goldt said.

Part of that human touch in onboarding is sharing the surroundings. “Changing jobs isn’t just about starting the job,” said Jennifer Cambern, chief product owner and vice president of product management at HR technology firm ADP. While onboarding certainly includes meeting a new team and learning to work with them, there are many things not associated with changing jobs. Familiar services, such as the closest dry cleaner, local restaurants and more should be shared with the new employee to help them feel comfortable.

When looking to invest in onboarding technology, ADP’s product team shared some best practices for app development:

  1. The onboarding process should be consumerized. “Gone are the days that people will accept applying for a job that doesn’t feel like the same experience that they would have interacting with a consumer-grade app,” Cambern said.
  2. When developing an onboarding process, have people test it. Stephanie Bergman, principal product manager for ADP, said when ADP designed its onboarding software, the company put people in front of it to be sure the process made sense.
  3. Design for mobile-first experience. Bergman said that onboarding software should be optimized for use on a smartphone.

Lauren Dixon is an associate editor at Talent Economy. To comment, email