The Battle for Talent: Winning the Employee Hire-to-Retire Lifecycle

The employee experience will never be the same. In just a few short years, work as we know it has turned on its head and new trends are starting to emerge.

Top talent is swapping ping-pong tables and lunch buffets for a sense of purpose and more work-life balance. As employee priorities shift, employers have to follow their lead.

It won’t be easy. According to a State of the Workplace Study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) a couple years ago, companies already struggle to recruit and retain staff. At the same time, 72% of HR professionals are spread too thin to undertake new initiatives.

To rise to the occasion and win the war for talent, HR teams will have to find ways of becoming more efficient, automating processes and delivering exceptional employee experiences.

Focus on employee moments that matter

The biggest moments in an employee’s career are powered by paperwork and digital forms. There’s an agreement to sign every time an employee starts a new role, gets promoted, receives a raise or moves on to a new opportunity. The way you set up and manage paperwork greatly impacts the employee experience. If workers feel bogged down by admin at these key moments, they won’t remember the company in a positive light.

HR teams set themselves up for success when they make these moments easy for the employee to navigate and straightforward to manage. In the hire-to-retire lifecycle, the agreements that bookend every stage are a challenge and an opportunity for you to deliver a great employee experience. 

1. Employee recruitment

The employee lifecycle begins at recruitment. HR professionals report that hiring is among their top three priorities, yet only 30% of HR professionals in last year’s SHRM study said their organization is effective at finding and recruiting talent with the necessary skills.

Focusing on recruitment pays big dividends. Companies that acquire and retain the right talent are the ones that will win—making this a crucial moment to get right.

To attract top talent in an unsettled labor market, your recruitment process needs to meet the expectations of modern workers. This means using technology and automation to make this stage of the journey easy and convenient.

Here are a few things you can do to increase your odds of success:

Speed up the offer process

In many industries, competition to fill open roles is challenging. One way to stand out is to provide a faster, more seamless recruitment experience than your competitors.

Use technology to speed up the recruitment step by:

  • Digitizing documents in advance
  • Routing and signing agreements with e-signature technology 
  • Providing support for mobile signing
  • Digitally storing signed documents for easy access in the future

With smarter systems, HR professionals spend more time using their people skills to attract new talent—and less time worrying whether they’ve ticked the right boxes on the right forms.

“I don't think it can be overstated how big a deal contract digitization is,” said Andrea Otis, director of people systems and operations at Docusign. “Providing a way to electronically sign offer letters and policy documents simplifies the offer. It saves us money, it saves trees, and it’s more secure.”

Build flexibility into the process

Companies are changing their expectations about where their employees need to be during the workday. McKinsey research found that 90% of organizations are comfortable with some form of remote work and that almost 75% of employees want to be at least partly remote.

For HR leaders, remote models of work bring new recruitment opportunities. In the State of the Workplace Study SHRM released right after the pandemic, 72% of HR employees say their recruitment challenges are tied to a “lack of well-qualified candidates.” Meanwhile, fully remote organizations report less trouble with labor shortages.

New ways of working supported by the right technology can help recruiters find people with the necessary skillsets. Instead of being limited to a local pool of candidates, remote-friendly recruiters have way more options. The right technology can support a more flexible approach to recruitment that works across time zones.

2. Employee onboarding

Once your candidate has accepted an offer, it’s time to get them up to speed and ready to work. Investing in the onboarding process is worth it. Organizations that do onboarding well are 82% more likely to retain employees and have 70% higher productivity than companies that don’t.

Despite this, only 12% of employees say their company does a good job onboarding. If you want to elevate the onboarding experience for new employees, here are a few things to consider.

Make a good first impression

The onboarding experience is the first opportunity for new hires to see how your company operates and treats employees. For employers, it’s the best opportunity to show professionalism and respect for the employee’s time.

20% of employee turnover happens in the first 45 days. When new hires don’t work out, you can often trace it back to poor onboarding.

The first rule of onboarding is to keep things simple. The average onboarding process may take up to a year to fully complete. Finding ways to make the process easier and faster can significantly impact how new employees feel about their first months on the team.

Speed up your processes by:

  • Giving new employees a list of tasks and forms to complete before their start date
  • Digitizing as much paperwork as possible
  • Automating and scheduling onboarding check-in messages in advance

Use modern technology

No one loves being greeted by a big stack of paperwork on their first day at a new job. Yet, 58% of organizations surveyed by Docusign say that their onboarding is built around paperwork and manual processes.

Moving to a digital workflow reduces the time new employees spend overcoming administrative hurdles—an immediate benefit to your onboarding program.

Asking hybrid or remote workers to print, sign and scan documents creates a lot of friction. Younger employees entering the workforce expect a more digital, seamless experience in all aspects of life, including at work.

Integrating tools like Workday with e-signature capabilities streamlines (and digitizes) onboarding in a big way. For example, you can set up automations so a new employee is automatically sent the appropriate onboarding forms as soon as they sign an offer letter, and IT is notified to set up or ship their provisioned equipment. That’s not all, though. You can:

  • Implement e-signature for additional important documents
  • Send and receive payroll, benefits and tax forms
  • Order role-specific equipment
  • Share the employee handbook
  • Manage app passwords and logins

With digital tools, you can ask new employees to electronically sign compliance documents like W-2 and I-9 forms before their first day. This cuts down on day-one paperwork and lets your HR team focus on experiences that make employees feel welcome: learning about the company’s mission and values, meeting other coworkers and getting set up in their roles.

Perfect the process

Technology can potentially transform onboarding when it’s used with clear and intuitive processes. But right now, only 9% of HR teams say they’re getting the most out of their existing tech stack.

There’s a big gap here because, according to Gallup research, many employees say the most valuable part of an onboarding experience is its structure and delivery. Employees love accessible, digital experiences—but HR pros struggle to integrate their tech seamlessly for those key onboarding motions. This is a solvable problem.

When reviewing your onboarding process, look for areas where technology contributes to a friction-full experience, and see where you could make it more frictionless for new hires. If digital automation saves new employees time on app training or document uploading, that’s a win. But if you’re adding a complicated new login or a book-sized PDF of information, you’re not using technology to solve the right problems.

Review analytics or conduct employee interviews to determine where you need new processes or technologies.

3. Employee engagement

Your best employees come on board with a hunger for improvement and the motivation to succeed. But if you don’t feed their aspirations over time, they won’t feel connected to your company’s goals.

Since employees give companies their time and talent, it’s up to employers to return the favor if they want to keep employees engaged long-term. According to McKinsey, employees who report having a positive experience are 16 times more engaged and eight times more likely to want to stay at a company. 

Support hybrid work environments

PwC found that 55% of workers want to work from home at least once a week. As more employees choose the one-minute commute, companies must adapt to engage remote and in-office workers.

When employees are working from different locations or time zones, software acts as the invisible thread that keeps everyone accountable and on the same page.

Make every employee moment count

HR can add value to the employee experience during big career moments and smaller daily connections. With the right tools, your team can make a positive impact with every communication. 

“Think about how employees are interacting with HR,” said Otis. “How we're asking them to give us the information that we need, how we're asking them to engage with our systems and our platforms. Thoughtfulness and an employee-centered approach go a long way toward building trust and keeping employees engaged.”

  • Goal setting: Motivated employees want to set goals with their managers and work on reaching them. HR can create and standardize templates to encourage and support them.
  • Ongoing policy updates: When your C-suite makes decisions, employees must be aware. With the right tools, HR can send company-wide communications in bulk or make messages more personalized.
  • Performance review documents: Having a centralized repository that contains relevant performance data and integrates with HR platforms makes planning performance reviews simple.
  • Compensation changes: Increasing employees’ salaries or bonus structures makes them feel appreciated and motivated to stay. Ensure the new agreement-signing process is effortless, not cumbersome, for those raise-worthy employees.

4. Employee offboarding

When it comes to employee retention strategies, Otis believes there’s one more piece of the puzzle to consider. Companies spend a lot of time thinking about how they onboard new hires but not enough time on offboarding.

“It's an opportunity to potentially bring back good talent down the road. People leave companies and then change their minds and come back all the time,” Otis said. “Offboarding is an opportunity to tell employees how important your relationship with them is.”

Plan a smooth exit

Paperwork is part of the offboarding process but shouldn’t be the main event. By letting employees digitally review and sign forms, you speed up the administrative part of an exit interview so you can focus on showing your appreciation for their hard work. Asking for feedback on the company’s processes shows you’re open to feedback and how you can improve the experience for others.

Leave the door open

Up to 15% of past employees return after getting more experience or seeing what else is out there. Avoid cutting off access to important information or delaying communication when a former employee contacts you with a question. Instead, be proactive in the offboarding process. To standardize the process, write an exit checklist with all the information an employee needs to know before they say goodbye. Even if they never return, you should still make your employees’ experiences positive. Research shows over 30% of employees are willing to recommend open job positions to their network. 

Key takeaway: Resilient companies invest in people

Working in HR hasn’t been easy over the last few years. But a global pandemic, a Great Resignation and a shift to remote work won’t stop HR professionals from rolling with the punches and delivering great employee experiences.

You need to invest in talent and workplace culture long after employees have given you their autograph. People entering the workforce have new expectations and preferences, and HR has to meet them to retain talent.

  • Find ways to remove friction. Whether your employees work in an office, from home or somewhere in between, everyone benefits from smoother processes.
  • Take care of your employees to build an organization of engaged, motivated people who won’t want to leave you when times get tough.
  • Provide a flexible environment to attract talented employees looking to do their best work. This success will continue the cycle of attracting and retaining other talented employees in an ongoing cycle of resilience.

See how top HR professionals are championing mental health, workforce flexibility, DEIB, and digital transformation in this inspiring whitepaper: 4 Human-Centric Solutions to HR Leaders' Most Pressing Challenges.

Or, if you’re ready, learn how to transform how you manage the hire-to-retire lifecycle with eSignature by trying Docusign for free.

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