Paperless Onboarding: 5 Reasons to Go Digital

Paperless onboarding has been found to simplify record keeping, save time, improve accuracy, and boost compliance and employee engagement.

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As busy HR professionals and hiring managers know, the onboarding process for new employees can be time-consuming and tedious. Paperless onboarding can eliminate many of the challenges associated with processing paperwork.

On average, it takes roughly 90 days to onboard new hires, but can take about 12 months for employees to achieve full performance potential. Using a paperless onboarding system with digital tools can make onboarding faster and simpler for both in-person and virtual employees. This can help employees focus on their real work as soon as possible.

In this article, we’ll define and describe paperless onboarding. We also will review 5 reasons why HR managers find it worthwhile, especially as employees are increasingly working remotely or on a hybrid status.

What is paperless onboarding?

Paperless onboarding is just what you might expect: The use of software to replace paper documents when adding new employees. This eliminates challenges and hassles associated with sending papers back and forth during the recruitment and hiring process. Everything is done digitally, possibly with the software and data stored in the cloud, and often through an onboarding portal. The paperless onboarding process offers most businesses numerous benefits.

Why use paperless onboarding?

Many employers find that it’s more efficient to electronically process new hire paperwork, confidentiality agreements, and other important documents. Furthermore, it’s versatile. Employers can leverage paperless onboarding software for the entire process from A to Z.

For instance, you can use an applicant tracking system during the recruitment process, distribute employee handbooks, lead employee orientations, hold virtual meetings, and perform every aspect associated with onboarding workflows.

Let’s take a look at the 5 top reasons you should consider going digital when it comes to employee onboarding.

1. Simplifies record keeping

By using paperless forms for new hire paperwork, you can keep everything stored in one place. No more searching through new hire folders for documents or worrying about misplacing critical papers. Everything is stored in one place and access is right at the tip of your fingertips. No more collecting, printing, scanning, and manually filing documents.

A potential drawback to this is that many people prefer paper because the information is right in front of them in a tangible form. Another disadvantage is you’ll need to obtain buy-in from your staff to use and understand the system. Good training should take care of this, however.

2. Improves accuracy and consistency

Electronic documents help to improve accuracy and keep things consistent. Pen and paper are more accepting of human error, while software requires that data be correctly entered). For instance, consider these common mistakes that onboarding software eliminates.

  • Words are written or typed into the wrong field. (With software, the person keying in information will get an error message).
  • Letters are entered in numerical areas on forms. (Again, this will trigger an alert.)
  • Handwriting that’s illegible or difficult to read forces HR personnel to make guesses. (Digital forms eliminate guesswork.)
  • Fields on paper are left blank. (A digital form won’t close unless all the required fields have been filled.)

While accuracy increases dramatically with electronic HR documents, both staff and new hires might find the process overwhelming or frustrating.

3. Improved employee engagement

Many businesses find it’s easier to engage with new employees during the onboarding process through electronic means. HR or hiring managers can provide new hires with an onboarding checklist, send automated reminders, have video calls, provide notes for extra help in filling out documents, or set up easy ways for employees to send questions. It’s a timesaver for all parties.

The biggest disadvantage is that some people may be attached to traditional ways of onboarding and would prefer to come into the office or speak on the phone. And some people simply shy away from electronic documents. To them, paper methods feel more personal than electronic communications.

4. Saves time

A paperless onboarding system saves time for both employer and employee. All involved parties can log into the portal at any time and complete tasks as they come due. It makes for a great user experience and reduces barriers to getting up to speed.

This method of onboarding can eliminate faxes, “snail mail,” and trips to the employer’s office. For HR staff, it frees up time spent on scheduling appointments and processing, storing, revising, and managing paperwork. Meetings and chats can be done with virtual meetings.

A downside to this occurs when a new employee finds it hard to navigate an online portal due to a slow internet connection or a lack of computer literacy. Others may prefer not to read documents online (especially lengthy ones like employer handbooks) or attend online meetings.

5. Compliant and secure

Paperless onboarding easily satisfies compliance issues by generating tax and other legal documents that are accurate, complete and stored securely. Software controls access the information, unlike storing papers in desk drawers and filing cabinets.

A disadvantage is that everything online can be subject to a data breach. Risks can be mitigated significantly, but the possibility always remains. Businesses just need to be proactive about protecting their systems, and there are many safeguards they can use.

The paperless onboarding solution

With the uptick in remote employees, many organizations find that switching to a paperless onboarding experience is a rewarding solution. However, like any other major business decision, you should always weigh the pros and cons before making the investment.

Looking for more intuitive advice or steps you can take to improve onboarding new team members? Check out our employee onboarding guide.

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