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Those who have been entrenched in the world of on-boarding know there are two vastly distinct sides to the practice. There is the tactical, systematic side — the act of processing new-hire tax forms, security information, payroll, etc. — and then there is the cultural, need-to-know-to-be-successful-in-my-job and organizational culture side.
I had the chance to sit in on a side education session at the IHRIM HRMS Strategies Conference & Expo, which was in Chicago for much of last week.
The session, “Emory University’s Onboarding 2.0: A Step Beyond I-9s, Tax Forms and Checklists,” dealt largely with the tactical side of new-hire on-boarding — namely the benefits that automating Emory’s on-boarding process had on the university from a cost savings and efficiency perspective.
For an organization like Emory — large, paired with multiple businesses and sub-organizations, like hospitals and other research groups — having a comprehensive, paperless on-boarding system, where both students and new faculty members and HR managers are able to log in to complete the necessary tasks to orient prior to day one, is a must. I imagine most large organizations employ something similar.
While I think boasting an automated system is great for the housekeeping stuff — processing and storing loads of new-hire tax forms, security information and benefits enrollment and education – I think it falls short on some of the cultural aspects that many would argue are equally as important when on-boarding a new hire.
On the cultural side, Emory’s system has a segment that took both students and new faculty through the institution’s history, tobacco-free policy and many other cultural elements. The modules were crisp and well presented, but I couldn’t help but wonder if teaching culture through technology is always the best route to take.
At larger organizations, giving new hires a glimpse into the basic tenets of organizational culture is important. But I would have to imagine that, from that point on, there needs to be more — there needs to be some type of human element to orienting new employees to culture.
I take nothing away from what Emory has done with its automated system; for a large organization of its size and scope, I have no doubt that automation is the way to go (for instance, it saved the school $60,000 in printing costs alone when they decided to switch to the system in 2007, according to the presentation).
With tactical on-boarding, in an age when organizations are getting larger and more complex — and more HR processing is needed, with less resources — technology and automation are a must have.
But with culture — that is, the process of ensuring that the depth and breath of the little details are properly conveyed — automation, in my view, falls short. Human interaction is needed.
You can use a vendor to build a technology to process a tax form or enable vast employee groups to properly sign up for security clearance, network identification or email. But can you automate in a system the lessons and experiences that will fully acclimate a new hire to align and understand the intricacies of organizational culture?
Frank Kalman is an associate editor of Talent Management magazine. He is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, where he earned his master’s of science degree in Dec. 2010. He is also a graduate of Indiana University Bloomington, earning a degree in American history in May 2009. Prior to joining MediaTec, Frank served as an editorial intern for Crain’s Chicago Business, covering commercial and residential real estate for Crain’s real estate spinoff, ChicagoRealEstateDaily. He also covered public finance and commercial banking while a reporter at Medill. Frank can be reached at fkalman@TalentMGT.com.