Can Bots Solve Companies’ Billion-Dollar Onboarding Problem?

The first year at a new job is usually reserved for learning the ropes. We’ve all been through the expected bumps and growing pains. It’s exciting, nerve-wracking, humbling, and uncomfortable. Unfamiliar names and faces. Unknown office and conference room locations. Different technology and applications. New policies and processes. Unspoken acronyms and cultural dynamics. But what many don’t realize is that the first year—or the onboarding period—typically makes or breaks not only your success but also the company’s bottom line.

From June 2015 to June 2016, U.S companies onboarded 62.3 million new hires. Unfortunately, history and statistics show that about 25 percent of new hires, or 15.5 million people, won’t make it beyond their first year. When an employee fails to stick, companies not only lose a human resource but also money. Lots of it. Rehiring costs $3,000 to $18,000 per person, costing U.S. businesses between $46.7 billion and $280 billion every year.
Not surprisingly, many of the Fortune 1000 companies view onboarding as a top priority. But there is no silver bullet. The best onboarding programs strike the balance of talent, training, tools, and technology. And a few innovators plan to introduce a chatbot-based “workplace ally” to welcome and prepare employees more quickly and aid them throughout the challenging first year on a job. Chatbots can come to the rescue in a few ways:

  • A bot is a 24/7 extension of HR that can send friendly reminders, gather info, answer questions, and complete tasks that otherwise require a new employee to navigate through several people, steps, and systems.
  • Employees can easily “talk” with a bot however they prefer, via text, e-mail, and internal tools like Skype or Slack, making it useful for everyone from part-timers and executives to Millennials and Baby Boomers.
  • Bots standardize alerts, tasks, and workflows to create consistency across departments and functions and to reduce “depends on the manager” practices.
  • The risk of appearing ill-prepared disappears, partly because talking to a bot feels less formal and partly anonymous. Employees can get quick answers to questions they’d otherwise be afraid to ask HR or a manager—especially after months on the job.
  • Bots can take on the personality of the company, subtly reinforcing the credo that makes your company special.

This all that sounds nice in theory, but what about in practice? A well-known pharmaceutical company—with more than 100,000 employees—and a few other enterprise innovators have big plans that provide a roadmap for bringing bots into the HR mix:
Two Weeks Before First Day: The bot texts the new hire to help him or her prep for the first day. The bot would:

  • Guide and complete prior paperwork to minimize day-one housekeeping.
  • Send directions and reminders for the office street address, orientation time, location, and more.
  • Schedule drug screenings or other prehire background checks to make the process less invasive.
  • Gather computer, monitor, and other technology preferences to ensure equipment is ready to go upon arrival.

Day One: The bot warmly greets the new employee and provides a succinct list of tasks that it will help complete before day end. This frees HR, management, and colleagues to focus on making the new employee feel welcome. The bot would:

  • Provide a new-hire quick start guide or answer general questions regarding company policies.
  • Organize building badge access and gather necessary approvals.
  • Help complete HR related tasks, including I-9 forms, payroll information, 401(k) contributions, and other benefit elections.
  • Ensure IT set-up gets completed, including getting log-in credentials for enterprise systems, access to the company portal, Service Desk information, remote access tools, and more.

Tomorrow we will continue to look at how a bot might assist onboarding at the 30-days-and-beyond mark.
Lindsay Sanchez, Chief Marketing Officer, Kore. Lindsay’s unique and deep tech background, coupled with her marketing hat and management of a growing team at Kore, allow her to help both B2B and B2C customers as well as the Kore team integrate bot and messaging technology to improve an array of business processes.