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Buyer's Guide

by Brian Westfall,
Market Research Associate
Last Updated: March 28, 2017

Congratulations—that highly qualified candidate has finally accepted your organization’s job offer! Now what? Enter onboarding software, which helps companies transition new hires to become full-fledged employees. Using this helpful guide, you can learn more about the onboarding software market and make a more informed buying decision.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

What Is Onboarding Software?
Common Functionality of Onboarding Software
Best-of-Breed or Integrated Suite?
Market Trends to Understand
Onboarding Software Pricing

What Is Onboarding Software?

In a perfect world, new hires would be productive employees on day one. Unfortunately, that’s not the reality. Work eligibility and tax documents need to be filled out and filed, employee handbooks need to be walked through, payroll accounts need to be set up and more. Historically considered a paper-based process, onboarding can be a time-sucking nightmare for human resources (HR) departments, especially during a hiring boom.

Onboarding software offers a digital solution to automate all of the above-listed tasks, and more. Customized workflows can be set up for new employees, at which point the software takes over—walking employees through necessary paperwork, checking for errors, filing to the appropriate regulatory agencies and, finally, storing digital copies for safekeeping. All the while, HR departments can track progress to ensure the onboarding process is quick and painless for both managers and employees.

Common Functionality of Onboarding Software

While this can vary by system, here are some typical capabilities you’ll find in onboarding software:

Electronic forms I-9s, W-4s, new employee forms and more—all are digitized for easy replication, transferring, signing and storage.
Online document storage Keeps completed, signed forms in a secure online library to be accessed as needed.
Automated workflows Allows users to set up custom workflows, after which point the software walks new hires through the onboarding process automatically—no human intervention required.
Background checks Many products integrate with major background check providers so users can order drug screenings, skills assessments and more, straight from the platform.
New hire task management Includes progress metrics, task assignment and automated notifications to ensure all parties are on track with onboarding.

Best-of-Breed or Integrated Suite?

Onboarding software can be bought as a best-of-breed product or as part of a more comprehensive integrated suite. In fact, because the onboarding process represents a transition phase and doesn’t fall squarely into the realm of either recruiting or core HR functions (such as personnel tracking and payroll), onboarding functionality can often be found in a variety of different HR software platforms.

For example, applicant tracking systems (ATSs) may have onboarding functionality; human resources information systems (HRISs) and human resources management systems (HRMSs) can have it as well. Some software suites even cover the entire employee life cycle, including recruitment, onboarding and core HR capabilities.

ATS Software Functionality


What kind of onboarding software you choose will depend on your organization’s budget and functionality needs. However, even best-of-breed solutions can be integrated with many other platforms to create a seamless experience for employees and HR departments alike.

Onboarding Software Pricing

Onboarding software is typically priced one of two ways: either as a monthly subscription or as a perpetual license, with pricing generally based on the size of the organization or the average number of employees an organization onboards in a given month.

Perpetual license. The organization pays for the software up front, effectively owning it in perpetuity. With a perpetual license, the software is typically deployed on the organization’s computers and servers. Though organizations pay an upfront fee, they may have to pay annual fees for support, maintenance and/or upgrades.

Subscription. The organizations pays a monthly subscription fee to use the software, which is typically cloud-hosted and accessed through a web browser. Typically the fees for support, maintenance and upgrades are wrapped into the final subscription price, so organizations often have a better idea of what their long-term expenditure on the software will be.

Market Trends to Understand

Keep the following market trends in mind during your search for new onboarding software:

An increased focus on the new-hire experience. As employee engagement becomes an increasingly important concern, more onboarding platforms are now focused on making the process more enjoyable for new workers. Not only do these platforms take care of worker compliance needs, some also have built-in new-hire orientation functionality. Another popular capability allows new hires to message their manager before their first day to get a better idea of expectations. This allows workers to get up to speed quicker, benefiting everyone involved.

Cloud-based deployment. Cloud-based onboarding software is becoming a popular option, as opposed to more traditional on-premise deployment. Cloud-based deployment allows recruiters, HR managers and new hires to access the system from anywhere that has an Internet connection.

Training and performance management integration. In order to make new employees productive as soon as possible, many platforms have functionality to train workers and track goals (or can integrate with other platforms that do). With a clear development plan in place, organizations can better set expectations, and workers can better understand what their progress should look like.

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