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Your Onboarding Partner

Onboarding is not simply the latest business jargon for orientation — here is the bathroom, here is the break room, sign these forms — and it’s not a static activity done for a day or a week. It is the process of welcoming, training and acculturating a new hire. Onboarding can be ongoing, for a month or a year or as long as the position or person requires. Showing new hires the ropes can be a formalized and structured process, with milestones and accountability, or a casual and occasional check-in with the boss.

Whatever an organization’s onboarding process looks like, it can have a profound and lasting effect. A 2010 Aberdeen Group research report, Onboarding: The First Line of Engagement, found that organizations with a formal onboarding process had a 60 percent greater year-over-year improvement in revenue per full-time employee, and 63 percent experienced improvements in employee performance within the first year. For companies Aberdeen identified as best-in-class regarding onboarding, 87 percent of new hires achieve their first agreed-upon performance milestone on time; 89 percent of new hires identified themselves as “highly engaged” in their last engagement survey.

First impressions are important and become lodged in an employee’s mind, so anything an organization can do to enhance the “first day” experience will serve it and the employee long-term. Some talent management systems today offer employee-friendly functionality, such as online forms signing and automatic e-mail reminders, notifications and appointment scheduling. In fact, 65 percent of Aberdeen’s best-in-class organizations said their onboarding process is at least partially automated. Such functionality can streamline compliance and ensure that nothing gets overlooked. Employees can be directed via automated notices to an onboarding portal where they can access online orientation videos and policy manuals, receive benefits information, see profiles of their future co-workers and more. All of these automated processes work together to make the first day a pleasant experience instead of a lonely, hand-cramping chore.

Welcome to the 21st Century

St. Mary’s Medical Center in Huntington, W. Va., is one of the largest medical facilities in the tristate region of West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky, with more than 2,400 employees. The medical center is also a teaching facility and home to a regional heart institute, cancer center and neuroscience center.

Prior to automating its talent acquisition process, St. Mary’s Medical Center required all applicants to fill out paper applications and either mail them in or apply in person. Applications were frequently lost, and sometimes qualified candidates wouldn’t hear from St. Mary’s. The medical center found it difficult to recruit beyond the local area and risked losing integrity among its applicants due to poor communication.

Dan Weaver, St. Mary’s HR director, knew the hospital would benefit from an upgrade — a talent management system. Most of the systems Weaver examined were focused on medical positions (doctors, nurses) and didn’t allow for flexibility with nonmedical personnel (sanitation and administrative workers). St. Mary’s didn’t need a different hiring process, it needed a way to update and streamline its existing methods. St. Mary’s also needed to automate its background check process and potentially automate its new hire onboarding activities — something that many talent management system (TMS) vendors have trouble delivering. Weaver ultimately chose a system that could be configured around St. Mary’s current workflow process.

Prospects now fill out job applications directly at the career site and can attach a résumé if they desire. The application is configured so that internal candidates have to answer fewer questions, as managers can review their work files. All prospects also complete an online assessment that tests for substance abuse, emotional maturity, long-term job commitment and other factors that measure integrity and professionalism. From this pool of applicants, suitable candidates are chosen and interviewed by peers.

The new paperless hiring process increased time-to-hire, overall efficiency and the onboarding process. Before, new hires would occasionally show up for the first day of work, but no trace of them could be found in the HRIS; the paperwork had not been submitted correctly. Since the implementation of the talent management system, no one slips through the cracks. New hires are seamlessly processed in the system and automatically uploaded into the HRIS. Managers are prepared to welcome and onboard them from day one.

Efficiency is the Mother of Invention

Pep Boys is an automotive aftermarket retail and service chain. The company had left its all-paper application process behind in 2003 in favor of a Web-based talent management system. Even though the applicant process had been streamlined, that didn’t eliminate the physical signatures required by law on many documents in the application process. Forms completed online had to be printed out, signed and mailed to the corporate office, where they were scanned into the system. In addition to the time spent going from computer to paper to computer again, soft costs of paper, postage and administrative time accrued.

Karen Bryson, assistant vice president of organizational development for Pep Boys, worked with a vendor to create a customized talent management system that integrated all of their processes into a single solution with multiple recruitment processes and user workflows. Based on that success, she approached her vendor with the idea of digitally capturing the physical signatures of applicants in a way that would meet legal requirements and further streamline the application process.

The vendor developed a digital signature capture pad that integrates with the company’s existing TMS for a completely paperless process. Applicants’ signatures are captured, then vaulted and stored on secure servers. The vendor uses ongoing monitoring of all firewalls and Web servers, hardware and software intrusion detection, restricted access to management functions on production servers, and 24/7 monitoring of the entire network by an IT security management company to ensure the safety of the stored signatures.

Bryson quickly realized that this technology had value beyond the application process: New hires used to get an inch-thick binder with all the necessary forms, depending on their position and state requirements. Now the signature technology is used in place of hardcopy new hire documentation.

The tool is currently deployed at all Pep Boys Auto store locations in the United States and Puerto Rico, the corporate headquarters, service bays and distribution centers. Bryson anticipates using the technology for other business functions, such as the yearly employee reviews that must be signed.

The technology has also provided financial benefits. Hard-cost savings include the elimination of mailing, storage, imaging, paper and printing costs for all applicants and new hires. Soft costs include the reduction of administrative work by store managers.

The ROI of Good Onboarding

Onboarding is a complex, multilayered process. Employees need to fill out all the forms and learn about the organization’s policies, but they also need to feel welcomed and valued. It’s critical to get onboarding right. Done well, onboarding creates a positive first impression and increases time-to-productivity while ensuring compliance with local, state and federal laws. Using a talent-management system that works can not only save costs and streamline processes, it may also foster such goodwill among employees that retention and engagement levels increase.

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