Labor markets in the U.S. continue to be dynamic. Some industries struggle to find enough people for open roles. Some industries are downsizing their workforces. And some industries are doing both. All companies recognize the importance of engaging their existing employees. According to a Gallup poll, employee engagement in the U.S. is declining and active disengagement increased by two percentage points from 2021 and four points from 2020.

Amidst these dynamics, companies also recognize the need to fuel their mission with people who align with their values. It starts with recruiting and clearly conveying what the company stands for, offers and values. This employee value proposition (EVP) helps frame the new-hire experience from the very first interactions someone has with a potential new employer. And technology can help automate many of the routine tasks associated with onboarding new hires while personalizing the experience. It may sound counterintuitive but in this article, we’ll review how automation can help personalize the onboarding experience.

Automated, Yet Personalized

With a human-centered mindset, you can leverage technology to deliver a better experience. Artificial intelligence (AI) can automate routine tasks like filing onboarding paperwork, scheduling training and meetings and data entry. Automating routine tasks frees up time to take on more human-centric tasks to create an engaging and personalized onboarding. For example, a mentorship program can offer hands-on training while fostering social connections.

Creating a personalized onboarding experience is key to retaining new hires. The interview process may offer new hires a glimpse into a new organization, but onboarding represents their first real taste of how the company operates. It’s a critical first glimpse and first impression. Research conducted by Brandon Hall Group found that a strong onboarding process improved retention of new hires by 82% and productivity by over 70%.

Beyond Paperwork

Too many companies consider onboarding as a paperwork exercise. And while that’s certainly part of what automating onboarding can include — electronically reviewing and signing contracts, providing digital right to work documentation and completing benefit paperwork in one centralized place — that’s just the beginning.

An automated onboarding process can connect people to their new teams, not just their new manager, before they even start their new jobs. Imagine being a newly hired technician for a manufacturing company and getting personalized welcome messages from teammates even before you’ve received credentials to log into the new company’s network. This can go a long way in engaging new employees.

New employees often want to know as much about their new company, their new department and their new role as quickly as possible. Enriching the information shared in recruiting with key documents and knowledge resources allow new people to peruse at their leisure and avoid the “drinking from the firehouse” scenario that can feel so overwhelming — and is so ineffective — when you’re new. A personalized welcome note from the CEO with links to company vision, mission, values, history and goals (departmental and team based) provide valuable context to the new hire.

Done well, onboarding processes can also automate checklists for both the employer and employee. Managers can see where a new employee may be stuck and proactively reach out to offer help. It can be difficult to juggle and keep track of all the “things.” An electronic journey map personalized for each unique individual can provide a level of engagement that shuffling through human resources (HR) sessions and new hire orientations alone cannot.

While orientation is important and serves a valuable purpose, they can be tedious to schedule manually. With onboarding software, scheduling them for each new person becomes a standard automated step in the process. And touches, such as a personalized invitation to welcome the new hire, make a positive difference in how a new employee feels about their new organization.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Each individual within an organization is unique. And while the steps on their new-hire-to-new-employee journey may be very similar to those of other new employees there are likely to be differences, too. Automating onboarding and centering it on the individual simplifies the process of differentiating the experience while standardizing the EVP so employees have a shared understanding.

A unified automated onboarding approach has another key benefit for organizations: data. Software has become adept at gathering and synthesizing data to create insights and to inform decisions around products, sales and services. Powerful tools for aggregating data across previously incompatible systems are moving HR and learning and development (L&D) beyond limited, single-dimension talent acquisition analytics to unified views across the employee journey. The new insights from these unified systems are game-changing for leaders looking to make data-driven workforce decisions and to continuously improve their people processes.

Engaged and Retained Employees

When budgets tighten, employers prioritize workers who have both hard skills and a cultural fit. Even if they’re facing the prospect of layoffs, leaders will seek to transfer these employees — and retrain them, if needed — rather than trying to hire replacements. Ideally, these employees will also have demonstrated flexibility and self-motivation, because when the going gets tough, they’re the ones who can help lead companies to safety.

When thinking about how to create a personalized onboarding experience, consider these key questions in respect to current processes:

  • How are you engaging with them from the very beginning of their career journey?
  • How are you engaging them in your company culture?
  • How are you ensuring they will become engaged and productive contributors to your company for the long term?

And then imagine how you welcome each new person so that they feel truly connected to what your organization is all about from day one.