The steady economic growth of 2019 across industry sectors has presented unique challenges for human resources (HR) and learning and development (L&D) professionals in attracting and retaining a highly qualified and skilled workforce. The strength of the economy over the last several years has reduced the unemployment rate to a 50-year low, resulting in 1.1 million more jobs than available workers. This talent crunch has changed the dynamic of the recruiting environment, creating a candidate-driven market.

Additionally, organizations must address new regulatory and compliance requirements — many of them unexpected or taking effect after long delays. These regulatory and compliance requirements can create a variety of digitization challenges for employers, including the need to integrate talent systems into a single platform.

The convergence of these new regulations and increasing economic pressures are compelling many organizations toward the conclusion that continuing to manage all — or even the majority — of HR and L&D processes manually is no longer possible. In fact, the lack of an agile strategy in these departments may begin to hurt businesses in a visible, measurable way.

One Step at a Time

In an era of what may feel like nonstop change, organizations can no longer afford to be reactive. They must be proactive by streamlining operations and digitizing processes, thereby helping the company keep pace with its workforce, mitigate risk and avoid costly penalties. Unfortunately, HR and L&D professionals confronting a mountain of manual or disconnected processes have often postponed their plans to automate them due to a lack of time and resources.

Rather than digitizing everything at once, it’s better to decide which processes would most benefit from digitization. For organizations seeking to lead their digitization with a strategic effort, the onboarding process is the best place to start. The onboarding checklist is virtually limitless — policy acknowledgments, benefits plan education and enrollment, establishing initial performance goals, rolling out online training to achieve those goals, and provisioning tasks such as corporate credit cards. All of these processes can be streamlined through digitization. The sky is the limit, and every task that’s digitized and accomplished during the preboarding process is valuable time saved during the first few days of employment.

Making the Right First Impression

As they begin to digitize processes, it’s important for organizations to keep in mind that by 2020, roughly 50% of their workforce will be millennials. Employees from this generation, as well as Generation Z, are referred to as digital natives, because they grew up using digital technology. Many of them don’t just hope but expect to complete tedious paperwork online or using an app. Filling out their name and address more than once during the onboarding process is unthinkable, as is the use of traditional mail or fax.

Employers must also bear in mind that there are many social media platforms, such as Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, waiting for new hires to share what a company’s hiring and onboarding process looks like — for better or worse.

While fully digitizing the onboarding process has been a top priority to cut hiring costs and increase efficiencies for HR and learning program administrators, today’s talent inversion and influx of millennial and Gen Z candidates has surfaced a new urgency to reduce paperwork, increase data accuracy, and accelerate the bridge between recruiting and human resources systems. A completely digital onboarding process can mean the difference between successfully securing the best candidates for an organization and quickly losing them to the competition.