Article published in Forbes – Recommended Read
By Sophia Xepoleas
June 8, 2022
It’s your first day at the new job. You open your laptop to an email with a massive to-do list from your manager: get access to software, enroll in benefits, request a work credit card, and a hundred other tasks.
The only problem? There’s zero indication of how to actually do any of it. You have no clue how to contact IT. The HR person in charge of benefits is out sick. Your finance department is busy with quarterly earnings reports. And to top it off, you have a virtual meeting with your manager in 15 minutes, but you don’t even have a Zoom license.
Unfortunately, this is the onboarding experience for many employees today — and it comes at a cost. But whether you're in IT, HR, or finance, fixing the onboarding process has the potential to be your biggest professional win yet.
Onboarding sets the tone for the entire employee experience.
A strong onboarding process can increase retention by as much as 82%, yet 9 out of 10 employees believe their organization handles it poorly. Businesses are quickly realizing that people alone can’t handle the enormous burden of onboarding thousands of employees around the world.
The root of the problem is that individual teams can’t handle onboarding on their own. Helping new hires isn't just a job for IT, HR, or finance — it requires everyone to work together. This kind of cross-functional collaboration is a recipe for chaos.
And, as if onboarding wasn’t challenging enough when everyone was physically in the office, the rise of flexible work has made it even trickier. Once, we could walk over to someone’s desk to ask for help, but now we’re stuck picking from a list of names on a screen to get what we need. The result: Employees are left with a slew of unanswered questions, with little insight into who can actually help them.
Why you should help change the status quo
We've established that onboarding is a daunting challenge — one that people alone can't solve. That's exactly why you should take it on.
By arming employees with the right information and support from the very start, you can increase retention across every department, speed up employees’ time to create impact, ensure compliance from day one, and ultimately avoid unnecessary pain down the road.
Successfully achieving this means businesses must provide employees with a single place to resolve all of their requests during the onboarding process — regardless of department. This is where AI comes in: It has the ability to completely transform the onboarding experience in everyone’s favor.
The role of AI in employee onboarding
Successful onboarding can only be done with the help of AI. It eliminates the need for a single owner, cuts the backlog of requests for every relevant department, and ultimately streamlines the employee experience from day one.
Let's rewind your first day at the new job.
You open your laptop to an email from your manager with a list of everything you need to get started. Except for this time, you’re directed to an AI-powered virtual agent that can help you with everything you need.
You apprehensively ask the bot for each item on the list. Within seconds, you’re automatically added to the appropriate distribution lists, you’ve requested a Zoom license, and you’re shown an org chart of the entire company. Within minutes, you’re connected to the VPN, you’ve registered for benefits, and you’ve inquired about your 401K options. And, when you decide to go into the office for your 2 pm 1:1, you’re shown a map of the building with each conference room location — all from the same interface.
This level of speed and personalization is already our everyday experience as consumers — like when we open the weather app, and it already knows our location, or we use Google Maps to find the quickest route to work. And now that the employee experience is deeply reliant on the digital experience, it’s no surprise we’re seeing this same degree of technological sophistication appearing in the workplace.
How you can make this your reality
To implement this type of AI solution, you will need to work with your IT team to understand how each department plugs into the onboarding process. For example, IT needs to confirm every employee can successfully connect to the VPN, finance needs to ensure it’s getting the right information to send out payroll, and HR needs to correctly document employees’ tax information. They then need to locate or produce resources that can help employees along the way, whether it’s an FAQ, a knowledge article, a map of each office, or a step-by-step instruction guide.
Once those are plugged into the AI system, employees simply ask a question regardless of department, and they've given the most appropriate answer or asset based on their specific request.
But that doesn’t mean AI should handle every element of the process. Because onboarding is an inherently people-centered activity, there will always be a need for human involvement in more complex tasks. That’s why the AI needs to know its limits and route these issues to the right experts at the right time.
Ultimately, no individual person or technology can fix onboarding altogether. But collectively, businesses can solve onboarding with the help of AI. And, with nearly 33% of
new hires looking for another job within the first six months of their current position, and the cost of employee turnover is now estimated between 100% and 300% of the employee’s salary; there’s no better time to perfect this process than now.
This article was originally published in Forbes.
Sophia Xepoleas is a B2B Tech Strategist and esteemed writer.