10 HR & Onboarding Trends for 2024

Appical Team
Khrystyna Fedoruk
January 9, 2024
min read
Table of Contents
As we look at the year ahead, it's time to anticipate what's next in HR onboarding trends for 2024. Businesses are always changing, and keeping up with new techniques and tools in onboarding is important for companies to bring in, and hold onto, good employees, especially in the current labor market. In this blog, we'll talk about the onboarding trends likely to be big in 2024 and suggest ways your company can use these trends to make the process easier and better for you and your new hires.

1. Prioritizing the potential of preboarding

In 2024, an emerging trend ties into addressing a crucial period that many employees have felt is overlooked - the phase between signing the contract and initiating the onboarding process - preboarding. Most of us are aware of the existence of this phase, but it still needs prioritization. 64% of employees did not have pre-boarding at all (Vlerick Talmundo studies) and many have voiced the need for better engagement during this period, which is often unutilized.  

Proactive companies are now recognizing this gap and turning it into an opportunity to set the stage for a positive employee experience. It’s slowly becoming an integral part of the hiring process, serving as a bridge from recruitment to onboarding. It can include orientations and early introductions to teams and core values. Additionally, it may feature mentorship programs, effectively aiding new hires to hit the ground running on their first day at work.

2. Unveiling the role of AI in the future of onboarding

In 2023 AI became a huge trend capturing a lot of industries and business processes. It has been found that 35% of companies are using AI and 42% of companies are exploring AI for its implementation in the future (ExplodingTopics).

Onboarding is not an exception.  68% of organizations in the USA are already using AI in their hiring and onboarding processes and 90% of HR managers say that they recognize AI’s importance in the future of onboarding. In the sea of information, it is important not to lose the main focus (LeenaAI). So here are 3 AI trends in onboarding for 2024:

Using AI for personalisation and engagement 

A personalized onboarding experience, tailored to each employee's needs and roles, is essential for success. It helps new hires feel valued and reduces any initial workplace anxieties.

It also boosts early productivity by equipping employees with the relevant tools and information they need. In short, personalized onboarding fosters an inclusive work culture and lays the groundwork for a long-term employee relationship. 

In 2024, the trend is predicted to incline toward incorporating AI-driven technologies and data analytics into onboarding programs. This integration will empower companies to collect, analyze, and interpret extensive sets of data, enabling a precise understanding of each individual's needs and potential. 

Consequently, AI will enable a higher level of personalization by tailoring onboarding procedures to suit each employee's unique profile. This includes their previous experience, learning pace, skill set, and personal growth plan. In this way, AI's potential to refine and enhance the personalization of the onboarding process becomes a key focus for future workplace integration strategies.

Automation and streamline 

Working smarter, not harder, is the name of the game when it comes to AI-driven automation in the onboarding process. Employers are looking to automate repetitive tasks, such as paperwork, and streamline workflows, significantly reducing the administrative burden on HR personnel. This means more time spent on crafting a memorable and personalized onboarding experience for new hires.

This year - expect to see more companies adopting AI-enabled tools that simplify and streamline onboarding tasks, leading to a more efficient and effective process that sets new employees up for success from the start. 

AI experiments

As AI technology keeps growing, businesses are finding new ways to use it in their onboarding processes. This could mean using AI to predict future training needs, applying virtual reality for realistic job training, or even having an AI buddy or app to guide new employees. The possibilities are expanding as we continue to explore this exciting tech frontier. 

For example Appical is currently researching these 3 exciting possibilities:

  • AI Buddy: Connect a chatbot to all the content of the onboarding app to answer every question.
  • AI App Builder: A content wizard for helping customers set up a digital onboarding program in minutes instead of weeks.
  • Interactive Analytics: lets HR managers ask questions to AI instead of looking at static graphs.

It is predicted that this year, adventurous employers will deploy experimental AI applications in their onboarding, further enriching the learning experience and making onboarding more interactive and engaging. The goal is to keep pushing boundaries to create the most meaningful onboarding endeavors that leave a lasting impression on new hires.

[.callout-small] Learn 7 tips for writing onboarding content with AI in our blog.[.callout-small]

3. Gamification of onboarding

Why can't onboarding be fun? Gamification has been around for a while, but due to the increasing diversity in age groups among employees, we expect gamification to play a bigger role in the onboarding process. And this is not without reason. Research shows that 83% of people who undergo gamified training feel motivated, while 61% of people who undergo traditional training feel bored and unproductive (TalentLMS).

It is a fun and effective way to introduce new employees to their role, company culture, and expectations. With the rise of AI and new learning trends, gamification can also be further customized and easily implemented from day one.

4. Including the human touch in digital onboarding

Even with the boom of technology and AI in the HR space, the human side of things continues to hold significant value - after all, people make the heart of any organization. Let's not underestimate the power of in-person interactions in the onboarding process.

2024 will bring more in-person activities are expected to make a strong comeback, offering a much-needed supplement to the digital onboarding process. This is because face-to-face interactions help foster key connections and a sense of belonging for new hires.

Therefore, a balanced onboarding experience that combines both digital efficiency and the warmth of human contact could be the ultimate sweet spot. Onboarding might take the shape of hybrid processes - online modules complemented by in-person team-building activities, training, or meetups.

It's all about meeting the need for connection, which is key to making new employees feel truly part of the team.

5. Embracing flexibility in onboarding 

The shift towards hybrid and remote work in the past few years has underlined what employees truly value—flexibility. It was found by LiveCareer that 76% of Millennials, 69% of Gen Z and 64% of Gen X expressed their expectation for more flexibility. This means the ability to arrange their schedules to meet both personal and professional needs and being able to set their own working hours deciding their work locations. 

As we look to onboarding trends for 2024, flexibility will become even more paramount. A one-size-fits-all approach to onboarding doesn't cut it anymore. Instead, businesses will need to offer more personalized onboarding experiences that take into account employees' unique circumstances and preferences. 

Instead of overwhelming new hires, consider offering smaller learning modules for self-paced understanding. Use flexible schedules to let them choose the order of their training sessions. Start them off with a low-stakes introductory project that gives them a true sense of their role. Equip them with a repository of on-demand resources like policies and tutorials. 

These steps, creating a customizable and adaptive onboarding process, show respect for employees' unique learning styles and time, potentially improving job satisfaction and retention.

6. Embracing a holistic approach to mental and physical well-being

Mental and physical health are fundamental aspects of workplace culture. In 2024, these key aspects are anticipated to become even more deeply embedded within the onboarding process. It is important to cultivate an environment where new hires feel valued, safe, and comfortable to discuss mental health issues right from the outset.

This means open discussions on mental health from day one, effectively breaking down the stigmas that are often associated with such sensitive topics.

As we strive to prioritize overall well-being during the onboarding process, a variety of beneficial programs come into play. Fitness initiatives, such as discounted gym memberships, walking challenges with colleagues or in-office fitness classes, are great methods for encouraging physical well-being.

Meanwhile, providing resources that support mental health is equally essential. This can be in the form of access to counseling services or stress management resources. Incorporating wellness activities and mindful breaks within the onboarding schedule could further contribute to a holistic well-being approach.

7. Promoting digital upskilling: bridging the skills gap through continuous learning

With technology advancing at a rapid rate and job roles constantly evolving, upskilling and skills development are vital for a future-ready workforce. As an HR professional, you play a key role in ensuring that employees have the necessary skills to keep up with the changes. Especially now that the shelf life of skills is continuously decreasing.

To bridge skills gaps, HR teams need to proactively identify areas for improvement and implement tailored training programs. Think of implementing a culture of continuous learning, offering mentorship programs, and promoting career development opportunities. By investing in your workforce, you can reduce staff turnover and create a skilled and motivated team.

In summary, upgrading skills through continuous learning and development is of great importance for HR professionals as it ensures an adaptable workforce and paves the way for a successful future.

8. Adapting new ways of learning

New ways of learning will significantly shape the onboarding process. Traditional, one-directional learning methods are being replaced with more interactive and learner-centric methods. E-learning, 'microlearning' snippets, immersive VR experiences (read more about this in the following trend), and social learning platforms are some examples. Learning is no longer just about absorbing information; it's an active process geared towards creating engaging and memorable experiences. 

The main benefit of this shift is that it not only accommodates various learning styles but also caters to the digital expectations of the tech-savvy workforce. Embracing new ways of learning during the onboarding process can make new hires feel more empowered, connected, and ready to contribute from day one. Employers adopting these transformative learning methods in their onboarding are setting the stage for a more dynamic, inclusive, and innovative workplace.

9. Revolutionizing onboarding with virtual reality (VR)

Virtual reality (VR) is rapidly becoming a key trend in onboarding processes. This powerful technology offers new hires an immersive, interactive, and highly engaging experience, taking the learning beyond handbooks and presentations. 

With VR, employees are transported into realistic scenarios, allowing them to gain a first-hand understanding of their roles and responsibilities. This can significantly increase knowledge retention and make the onboarding process much more effective.

The capabilities of VR go far beyond traditional learning methods. It can perfectly simulate situations such as office tours or job scenarios, making onboarding an unforgettable experience. While creating a fun learning atmosphere, VR also seeks to build important soft skills in the process. 

[.callout-small] Are you excited to leverage the power of VR in your onboarding program? Check out our blog to learn about 5 ways you can enhance your onboarding program with VR[.callout-small]

10. Optimizing offboarding 

The tech world was shaken in 2023. With the huge jumps forward in artificial intelligence (AI), the tech industry was under stress, seeing a 50% increase in layoffs - that's over 240,000 people losing their jobs worldwide (Techopedia). The combination of technological development and job loss is unfortunately expected to continue in 2024, so it's important to pay attention to offboarding.

Offboarding is more than just saying goodbye. It's an important way to show respect and appreciation for the people who've given their time and talents to an organization. When it's done right, it can help maintain good relationships and boost a company's reputation, as employees who were offboarded were nearly 2x more likely to leave a positive company review (Capitalize). So, it's time to pay attention to the farewell process as well!

[.callout-small] Check out our e-book to learn how to create an effective offboarding process[.callout-small]

That concludes our predictions for 2024. The main trend we anticipate is the continued evolution of the HR landscape with a greater reliance on AI and technology, making the human connection paramount. The key challenge will be to combine the integration of  AI advancements while enhancing human interaction and prioritizing well-being.

Let's look forward to 2024 as a year full of better and more inclusive onboarding experiences!

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