BLOG | How can chatbots improve the onboarding process of new hires?

Jacob joined a new company in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. So far, he hasn’t gotten the chance to meet co-workers beyond a few direct colleagues via video chat. He had negotiated a salary raise that would take effect once he relocated from Rotterdam to Amsterdam. Now, he’s unsure whether the agreements he made during the negotiation process still hold. He’s afraid to ask, and he’s also unsure of who to ask. The one time he went into the office, he was viewed with suspicion, not feeling particularly welcome. He wonders how he will integrate into the culture of his new company.

This anecdote shows the missed opportunity for setting Jacob up for success at his new organization. Even as both organizations and employees find new ways to work effectively, remote work will likely endure at least partially as we transition into new patterns. Similarly, hiring and onboarding processes will increasingly shift online. As a new hire, how will it feel to join a company 100% remotely from day one? For HR and managers, how can new employees be set up for success in the company and get immersed in the culture and context in the new “digital” business as usual?

Employee Onboarding — a key journey to retain talent

Even without the new context imposed by COVID-19, hiring and onboarding processes are already exciting and stressful processes for new employees, with many highs and lows. Along with the steady gains in customer experiences, employees are beginning to expect the same seamless experiences whether they are shopping or at work. Employees expect organizations to practice what they preach and to be as employee-centric and tech-savvy when it comes to HR or IT as they are on the front end of customer experiences. A good or bad employee experience increasingly affects the “brand” of organizations.

The onboarding process plays a key role in the retention of employees in the first 90 days and beyond. The first three months set the scene and have implications for the motivation, performance, and tenure of employees. Employers stand to lose up to 17% of new hires within the first 90 days, and up to 50% of new hires within the first 18 months (ref). According to the Wynhurst Group, employees who are provided a structured onboarding program are 58% more likely to remain after three years (ref).

Despite these numbers, a Gallup study found that only 12% of employees strongly agree that their organization is great at onboarding new hires (ref). That means that most organizations still have much to improve on. Having a solid onboarding process is a chance to set new hires and organizations up for success.

The potential of chatbots to improve onboarding journey

Chatbot technology has the potential to be a key touchpoint to deliver on the promise of a great employee experience in an emotionally charged time. Here are four types of chatbot functionality that can be leveraged in the onboarding process.

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Four functionalities of chatbots based on their information role versus action role and passive versus proactive functionality
  • Provide information: in the onboarding process, chatbots can be used to deliver or provide key information on demand. Chatbots can act as a powerful search tool for questions such as, “how do I book my vacation days?” or “where is my laptop?”. This helps connect employees to the right information on demand instead of having to dig through unwieldy Employee Portals and Wikis.
  • Support action initiation: chatbots can help with initiating actions such as room booking, “Please book me a room for [X] persons on [Y] date”. The win is that these actions can be completed via the chat interface instead of navigating complex ERP systems or Employee Portals.
  • Advance process accomplishment: chatbots can also help move new hires through long multi-step processes such as getting permission for booking travel or ordering a laptop and peripherals. This allows for efficiency gains, e.g. by automating follow-up reminders for employees to complete key process steps.
  • Push or elicit information: Finally, they can proactively educate and immerse new hires in their roles, responsibilities, and the culture of their new organizations or help collect feedback such as rich and unbiased qualitative feedback on new hires’ experience at the company so far, 360 feedback on colleagues, etc. This kind of feedback would normally be collected in a tedious way, think surveys, or not at all due to the expense. 

These four types of chatbots have different implications for the design and implementation of the chatbot technology. Creating a chatbot that is excellent at even one type, takes effort. Where does your organization want to excel?

*Thanks to Mahmood Shafeie Zargar for his insights and framing of chatbot functionality. This piece was originally published on Medium written for KIN Research.

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