How Software Simplifies Onboarding in Higher Education

by Mike Tannian on May 12, 2023

Ready to optimize onboarding in higher education? Virtual onboarding software saves time, maintains compliance, and creates a positive experience for new hires.

Article Highlights: 

The majority of higher education institutes still have full-time, on-campus workforces. But that number has decreased since the pandemic. According to a 2022 HigherEdJobs survey of nearly 4,000 staff and administrators, 37% of respondents reported remote or hybrid work schedules.

An increase in virtual employees necessitates an increase in virtual HR solutions. But even in-person organizations can reap the benefits of these tools.

Cloud-based HR software simplifies and automates operations across the candidate and employee lifecycle – sourcing, recruiting, onboarding, performance management, employee development, etc. In this article, we’ll examine why onboarding software is a necessity in the modern era and the capabilities you need in a solution.

Why Onboarding Software is Necessary

For institutes with remote work options, onboarding software is a necessity. Successful onboarding involves numerous tasks for HR, hiring managers, and new hires.

  • HR has to adhere to new hire reporting requirements, input employee information into HR systems, and define tasks for each employee type and department.
  • Hiring managers have to set goals, conduct training, and help new hires feel welcome. All without seeing the new hire in office every day.
  • New hires have to sign documents, set up equipment, attend training, learn operational systems, and immerse themselves in a new work culture.

For all this and more, email threads, DocuSign, and manual processes are not good enough.

For institutes with an on-campus workforce, onboarding software is still a necessity. After an employee’s first day, on-campus hiring managers can follow up on onboarding progress (orientation, training, etc.) in person. But HR has many new hire tasks to complete prior to day one, before an employee is on campus. So even in-person teams need a cloud-based onboarding program. 

Whether your staff and faculty are in-person or remote, here’s the reality: Manual, paper-based, and non-integrated solutions are not sufficient for all the HR tasks mentioned above.

Fortunately, education HR software can simplify and automate your tasks, making onboarding new employees a breeze. More importantly, it increases time to productivity - one of several new hire onboarding challenges 

According to a research brief by Brandon Hall Group, organizations that invest in their onboarding process improve new hire productivity by over 70% and retention by 82%.

What else does onboarding software do? It standardizes your onboarding process so tasks are consistently assigned and completed on time. It provides a self-service portal where new hires can access everything they need to be productive prior to day one. With the right tool, it may even integrate with other HR systems to save you time. Discover more best practices for optimizing your onboarding operations.

Top 5 Capabilities for Your Virtual Onboarding Software

If you’ve already started your search for an onboarding solution, this section is for you. If you’re simply interested in learning more about onboarding technology, this section is for you. Let’s explore the features and functionality that make a good onboarding solution in higher ed.

1. Onboard Portal

Feeling welcomed and connected are common new hire onboarding challenges. Your onboarding solution should help with these, providing a self-service onboarding portal that welcomes employees and manages their tasks.

Onboarding portals act as a central hub where new hires should be able to access…

  • Onboarding resources
  • Organizational goals
  • Job expectations
  • Team structure
  • Assigned training

The portal is a place to connect with supervisors and teammates. It increases new employee productivity and immerses them in department culture prior to day one.

When you invest in onboarding software, remember to keep the self-service portal updated. Information needs to be accurate, engaging, and complete for a new hire to start a successful career. NEOGOV data shows that employers with an up-to-date portal (i.e. updated within six months of an employee’s start date) have a 16% higher retention rate.

2. Ease of Use

The software should have an intuitive interface that's easy for new hires and admins to navigate and use.

  • Does the tool include an onboarding checklist for new hires?
  • Is the tool easy to navigate for less tech-savvy employees?
  • Can HR track progress of new hire paperwork?
  • Can HR ensure paperwork has been processed by the hiring manager, IT, finance, etc.?

HR and department leaders should preview the solution together and assess user friendliness. Not just for admins, but for new hires as well. Software that’s easy to use for admins but difficult for new employees will create a poor experience. 

Your goal should be to create the best onboarding experience for new hires. Mobile apps helps accomplish this.

Mobile App

Does the solution have a mobile app? Making the software accessible on mobile devices lets new hires complete onboarding tasks at their convenience. Anytime, anywhere.

Some IT departments may have security concerns with this. The right solution will provide security settings for mobile devices.

3. Customizable

Many out-of-the-box onboarding solutions have little-to-no customization available. This is especially true if the product was designed for general enterprise use, not education specifically.

Higher education onboarding has different needs and requirements than the private sector. Your virtual onboarding software should reflect those differences. It should be configurable.

Can you customize the onboarding process by employee type (staff, faculty, student employees, etc.), department type, or campus location? Can you personalize the onboarding portal?

With tools like NEOGOV, you can completely customize the user interface of the self-service portal. It’s easy to align portal pages, like the welcome page, to your employer brand by:

  • Adding custom text, images, and video (like a welcome video)
  • Listing the core values that your organization champions
  • Showcasing your agency logo or a banner image
  • Using a custom color scheme, font style, or layout to align with your brand

Lastly, HR administrators should be able to configure unique workflows so employees across your institute can contribute to the onboarding process as needed (and do so without interfering with employer branding efforts).

4. Automation

Onboarding in higher education involves time-consuming tasks and paperwork, as well as collaboration with hiring managers and other departments. If you rely on manual processes, it becomes all the more cumbersome.

Here are several automations that your virtual onboarding software should include:

  • Form builder for custom HR forms
  • Form templates for federal forms like the I9 and W4
  • Auto-fill of employee information across forms (name, address, etc.)
  • Scheduling paperwork according to the employee’s process flow chart
  • E-signature capture on paperwork
  • Auto reminders and overdue notices
  • Routing of paperwork to key stakeholders once signed
  • Tracking and reporting on a new hire’s onboarding progress

By moving away from paper or manual processes, you create a central hub for all onboarding paperwork and processes…a place anyone with the correct permissions can access. It protects documents from being misplaced or damaged. It keeps tasks from slipping through the cracks. Learn more about the benefits of an automated onboarding system.

5. Integration with HR Systems

Ideally, the onboarding tool will integrate with your other HR systems. Systems that don't talk to one another will create more work for you and the new hire.

For example, if it integrates with your employee learning software, you can easily assign and track training across systems. If it integrates with your core HR system, you won’t have to manually reenter data.

E-Verify Integration

Make sure your solution integrates with E-Verify so you can verify employment eligibility using an employee’s I-9 form. This lets you quickly open and close cases within the same platform. It also prevents you from having to re-enter information, thereby decreasing data entry errors.

Other Important Capabilities

Security & Privacy: The software should have strong security measures in place to protect sensitive employee data and ensure privacy.

Feedback: The software should have built-in feedback mechanisms so new hires can provide feedback on the onboarding process. This helps HR identify any gaps.

Scalability: The software should be scalable to meet the needs of your institution as it grows.

Tracking & Reporting: The software should provide tracking and reporting capabilities, so you can monitor the progress of new hires and identify areas for improvement.

Get Started

Technology is the best way to optimize onboarding in higher education. But make sure your virtual onboarding software has the capabilities listed in this article, like NEOED’s Onboard solution.

Learn more about NEOED's Onboard today, and how it was built for the unique needs of education HR. Or use this list of 33 questions to supplement the questions  above in your search for a solution.

Mike Tannian

Mike Tannian is the Director of Content Marketing at NEOGOV. With a talented team of writers by his side, he aims to produce content that delivers real value to public sector HR professionals at every stage in the buying journey.