Cracking the onboarding nut

Published on the 12/05/2017 | Written by Donovan Jackson


ServiceNow enterprise onboarding

New software could have positive unintended consequence…

Want 10,000 ‘likes’ on LinkedIn? Just post a picture of a neatly folded Polo shirt, a new MacBook and matching iPhone, on a desk. ‘Welcomed new employee today. Has everything she needs’. Boom, let the good times roll.

Now, setting aside the question of just how Facebooky such trite nonsense on LinkedIn really is, what this possibly confirms is that the onboarding process experienced by most people is so abominably bad that when they see what, on the face of it, looks like a simple task executed well, they feel the need to abandon their dignity and click on a bit of viral fluff. Some even go as far as adding a banal comment! Replete with exclamation mark, of which there does seem to be a preponderance on LinkedIn comments.

That’s why most of the keynote on the second day of ServiceNow’s giant conference in Orlando was spent mulling over the horrors of onboarding or transitioning people within organisations. The bigger the company, likely the bigger the horrors. We’re talking Amityville-levels here.

The keynotes ran for over an hour, with at least four different spokespeople tackling the topic of onboarding, and even a team of talented footballers juggling a pigskin on stage (with each wearing a labelled T-shirt to drive home the analogy: the ball passed from IT guy, to Facilities dude, to HR lady, to Finance, back to IT, again to HR; Facilities had another crack. You get the idea).

So, among the raft of product announcements, a slew of which ServiceNow has made through its conference, is one specifically targeted at the process of onboarding and transitioning people. Its name: Enterprise Onboarding and Transitions for Human Resources.

On stage, Deepak Rammohan Bharadwaj, GM of the company’s HR products, made the point that onboarding is an opportunity to provide a positive first impression, but that most companies completely blow it. Transitions or changes can be just as bad: for example, he said, a name change can take up to 78 steps, 54 of which must be completed by the employee. If ever there were a reason to avoid marriage, this could be it.

The product, said ServiceNow, breaks down complex processes into individual activities such as getting a workspace, credit card, security access, computer, and phones – and then distributes them to different departments for approvals and action.  It tracks the status of each activity, and reminds people automatically if they are behind schedule, while also automating some aspects of the process.

Asked by iStart why HR onboarding, a problem seemingly so obvious, has taken so long to be meaningfully addressed (assuming, of course, that ServiceNow has achieved that in practice, rather than in the neat theory of a keynote presentation) ANZ MD David Oakley said people have been trying to solve it in various ways, but have lacked the right tool for definitive success. “A lot of things have been happening, for example, with replacing back end HR systems, as many organisations have underinvested in that space. Those investments are in core HR and typically are intended to improve the user experience, but don’t tend to resolve cross-functional activities.”

Indeed, HR is the natural territory of vendors like Oracle, SAP, Workday and Microsoft Dynamics. But that’s not what ServiceNow is muscling in on: “We like to talk about a system of action, which is what we do, rather than the system of record [which is what the SAPs, Oracles, etc. are]. We support the original business case that they were brought in for, by reducing case volume, automating things and playing that team sport to improve the experience,” Oakley added.

Let’s collectively hope that ServiceNow has cracked this particular nut. We could all benefit from fewer spurious LinkedIn posts.

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