How Outdated Tech is Holding back Employee Onboarding (Survey Results)

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How Outdated Tech is Holding back Employee Onboarding (Survey Results)

It’s the hybrid nature of employee onboarding that makes it such a difficult aspect of the hiring cycle to manage effectively.

It exists in the administrative gap between HR and recruitment – covering all of the HR tasks that are required to turn successful applicants into productive new hires.

This covers everything from contracts and offer letters to welcome packs and all the administrative arrangements needed to properly prepare a new starter.

And for the majority of hiring organizations, employee onboarding is something that’s managed using a traditional approach – relying on an unwieldy mix of posted paperwork, emails, and phone calls.

It’s an approach that simply isn’t working.

This was the main finding of the recent ‘Welcome Aboard’ study which looked at the current state of employee onboarding and included a survey of more than 2,000 office-based workers in the UK.

The results reveal the day-to-day struggles hiring teams are having to face with outdated ways of working and the negative impact of inefficiency on the recruitment – and onboarding – experience.

But the findings also provide some valuable insights into exactly what’s required to tackle these problems and to benefit from a more streamlined and effective way of managing new hires.

Incomplete onboarding ‘paperwork’

The main problem highlighted was the sheer slowness and inefficiency of the typical administrative process. More than two-thirds of respondents said that paperwork, such as contracts and compliance policies, had not been completed by the time they started work.

For more than a quarter (27 percent), it took up to a month before everything was completed and for one-in-ten (11 percent), this process had taken up to three months. With an efficient onboarding process, the majority of this administration should be done prior to job start.

The failure to complete paperwork poses a particular challenge for UK based hiring organizations as employment laws change in April 2020 to remove the current two month period that employers have to provide new hires with written employment particulars.

It also creates the general legal risks of having workers with unresolved and incomplete information relating to their contracts, employment rights, and responsibilities.

Outdated processes

Linked to slowness and inefficiency was the fact that two-thirds (66 percent) of HR departments are still using traditional paper-based and manual methods of onboarding management. This means hiring teams are still posting contracts and offer letters to successful candidates.

The time it takes to send and receive documents via the post creates a process that can often take weeks to complete. It also helps to explain why so few organizations are managing to fully complete documentation prior to a new hire starting.

This often leads to the situation where a new starter is greeted on their first day with a pile of paperwork and administrative tasks to be completed – not the best of introductions to a new workplace.

Negative first impressions

Administrative inefficiency has a direct impact on the experiences of the new hire as they enter an organization. Just under half (46 percent) of the respondents said they had endured negative onboarding experiences and for one-in-ten (11 percent) this resulted in them rejecting the job.

These kinds of dropouts come at a significant cost, owing to the time and HR resources that are required to find replacements and the organizational disruption caused by key roles remaining unfilled for extended periods.

When respondents were asked what they considered to be a positive onboarding experience, the main response was clear communications, receiving information early and generally being ‘kept in the loop’ throughout the onboarding process.

Onboarding new hiresAvoiding typical onboarding pitfalls will decrease your (early) turnover.

A smarter approach to onboarding

What the study helps to highlight is the connection between the efficiency of an onboarding process and the quality of the experience that’s delivered. If onboarding takes weeks to complete and there’s minimal communication with a candidate – it heightens the risks of candidates dropping out.

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It also helps to show the clear benefits of having an efficient process which allows much greater engagement with prospective new hires – creating a positive experience that helps to reduce dropout rates and improve productivity.

To achieve this, more HR managers are turning away from the traditional paper-based methods of handling onboarding and are exploring the benefits of technological solutions. A particular game changer is the digital signing of documents.

Employment contracts can be signed via a digital signing process; this removes the need to physically print and post paper documents – allowing for a completely paperless and automated process.

A cloud-based system allows a hiring team to provide successful candidates with access to everything they need via an online portal. As communications are handled digitally, this can be anything from welcome videos and PDFs to web resources that help with relocation.

This is a much more efficient and flexible onboarding approach which matches the expectations of people who are now so used to managing their lives through digital systems and cloud-based processes.


The challenge facing HR teams is to move away from the limitations imposed by a traditional approach to onboarding. The availability of more effective digital alternatives provides the tools needed to transform the way new hires are managed.

The potential benefits go beyond simple speed and efficiency, allowing the focus to shift from an administrative process to creating a positive and engaging new starter experience.

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