The Uncomfortable Truth: Why Most Onboarding Software Projects Fail



We all know it’s important.


20% of staff turnover occurs during the first 45 days of employment. Months have been spent looking for the right candidate, interviewing, negotiating, you finally get them in the door and so much hinges on that initial experience.


So why is it that even with very expensive onboarding software, highly capable and motivated HR teams new joiners are often still wandering around aimlessly, filling out confusing forms twice (one for payroll, once for HR), unsure of who they’re supposed to meet or where they’re supposed to go. 


So many onboarding software projects end up in the graveyard of failed initiatives. Let’s dive into the uncomfortable truths behind these failures.


Why Onboarding Software Projects Fail:


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1. Lack of Alignment Between HR and IT:

One of the primary reasons behind the failure of onboarding software projects is the lack of alignment between HR and IT departments.


In many organizations, there’s a glaring absence of a shared vision between these two crucial stakeholders.


HR is focused on the journey for the employee and isn’t tuned into the limitations of the software they’re using, while IT focuses on technical aspect implementation.


Without a unified understanding of goals and requirements, and pulling in two quite opposite directions the project is doomed from the start.


2. Not Properly Planning or Being Realistic About Resource Needs:

Another common pitfall is underestimating the manpower it’s going to take to get your new onboarding software implemented, looking slick and offering a seamless user experience to your new joiners.


Onboarding product imageYes you might have an IT team that are technically capable of operating the software, but where does this fit in their list of priorities? Who else is vying for their time? 


Do you have UX capabilities in-house?

if not you might get your solution to a place where operationally it’s working but it looks like a mess and it’s extremely hard to navigate. Then guess what, adoption suffers, employees give it a thumbs down and the whole thing looks like a waste of time/money. 


Companies often underestimate the complexity of implementing onboarding software, leading to unrealistic expectations and insufficient resources. Whether it’s budget constraints, time limitations, or manpower, failure to adequately plan and allocate resources sets the project up for failure.


3. Lack of user-centric design

Ironically, one of the biggest oversights in onboarding software projects is forgetting to learn from the very people it's supposed to benefit: new joiners.


With 55% of companies failing to measure the effectiveness of their onboarding experience at all. Companies often fail to gather feedback from employees who have recently gone through the onboarding process. 


Onboarding is a vulnerable time for everyone. New joiners often describe feeling lost - both literally and figuratively. They have to navigate a new environment, as well as meeting new coworkers and on top of this, there are specific onboarding tasks that need to be completed in order for important things to happen like getting paid or being compliant to work. 


More often than not, employees don’t know what those tasks are or they arrive in a barrage in their email inbox. Understanding what needs to be submitted, to who, in which channel and by when is such a basic requirement and yet it’s overlooked in so many onboarding software implementations. 


Without resolving this key emotional pain point, the software remains disconnected from the real needs of its users.


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4. Siloed Projects That Aren't Well Integrated into the Existing HR Landscape:

Lastly, many onboarding software projects fail because they operate in isolation from the broader HR ecosystem.


When onboarding software isn’t seamlessly integrated with other HR systems like HR portals, performance management and payroll, it creates silos that hinder efficiency and effectiveness.


A disjointed approach to HR technology not only frustrates employees but also undermines the organization’s overall HR strategy.


What happens after a bad onboarding experience?

A poor onboarding experience doesn’t just cost business the initial recruitment fees and the internal time/resource poured into interviewing. If a candidate who has had a bad onboarding experience decides to stay, they are more likely to be disengaged (according to Business News Daily) and disengaged employees cost businesses on average 18% of their salary.


How onboarding technology can improve talent retention

We’ve looked at some of the ways that onboarding software can let you down. But what happens when it’s done right?


Case study

Journeys product imagery ApplaudA leading retail conglomerate with over 14,000 employees and ever expanding hiring needs was struggling with a disjointed onboarding journey that left candidates perplexed and asking the same questions of HR over and over again. Often turning up on the wrong start date, without the right documentation and missing the first month's payroll.

After implementing Applaud’s Journey product, the onboarding experience started long before the candidate joined.

By providing one place for new joiners to go to upload their identity documents, sign contracts, review the employee handbook and work through their onboarding tasks not only was confusion eliminated for the candidate but HR was able to easily track the joining process for each candidate.

Coupled with powerful workflow engines sending automatic prompts to the correct departments or other HR technology systems and triggering the correct communication at the right time a lot of the manual processes for HR were removed and the margin for human error was greatly reduced.

The client:
- Experienced an 88% improvement in onboarding satisfaction rate.
- Was able to digitise over 122 manual tasks.


Despite the obvious benefits of a decent onboarding experience, Gallup found that 88% of organizations still haven’t got it right.


To truly revolutionize the onboarding experience and avoid the pitfalls that have plagued so many projects, organizations must confront these uncomfortable truths head-on.


Achieving success in onboarding software requires alignment between HR and IT, realistic planning and resource allocation, active learning from new joiners, and integration into the broader HR landscape.


Only by addressing these issues can companies break free from the cycle of failure and create onboarding experiences that set both employees and the organization up for long-term success.


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1663744884120About the Author linkedin_logo

Rachel James is the Chief Marketing Officer at Applaud, responsible for elevating the brand and creating market demand. With international experience spanning Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, she brings a global perspective to our product offering and an acute awareness of widespread market trends.


Published May 10, 2024 / by Rachel James