Client & Customer Onboarding

Implementing a Paperless Onboarding System: Advantages & Disadvantages

Organizations looking to improve employee and customer experience should consider implementing a paperless onboarding system. Here are the pros and cons.


The global all-industry shift towards digital transformation that began during the COVID-19 pandemic has yet to show any sign of abating. Looking forward, businesses should expect more paper-based, manual processes to be replaced by digital, internet-based technologies. Most organizations can find a prime candidate for paperless transformation in the traditionally lengthy and costly employee and client onboarding processes.

Studies show that smooth onboarding processes drive employee retention, with 69% of employees staying with new companies for at least three years if the process goes well. As switching to paperless digital onboarding can improve process efficiency by 85%, organizations – who haven’t already done so – should evaluate the potential benefits of paperless onboarding. 

What Is Paperless Onboarding?

Companies expect new hires to complete an average of 54 separate tasks in the onboarding process. For a majority of organizations (58%), these tasks are almost entirely paper forms to be filled out, signed and returned to various offices and departments. Making these forms available online to new hires and clients on a single platform greatly reduces both the hassle of mailing or handing over paper documents and the risk of further delays due to mishandling or mistakes. 

Thinking about the importance of onboarding processes, it’s important to remember that onboarding extends beyond your own employees. In many scenarios and organizations new clients must complete onboarding processes as well. While companies can handle these tasks separately, it makes sense to standardize, improve the efficiencies of both onboarding applications when investing in new digital tools.

Depending on your industry, your company’s onboarding process may include compliance forms going to government offices, insurance forms, or various types of legal documentation. In some cases, your own organization may not be able to digitize documentation for all third parties. Nevertheless, you can still go paperless for in-house tasks. 

What Are the Benefits of a Paperless Onboarding System?

Paperless onboarding affords at least three kinds of advantages to organizations, regardless of their industry.

1. Aligns Processes With Distributed & Remote Workforces

Although many temporary remote workers have gone back to the office this year, remote work appears to be here to stay and its presence will likely increase over the next few years. Studies show that by Q4 of 2023, 25% of white-collar office jobs will be fully remote. Continuing paper processes in an increasingly distributed workforce compounds the inefficiencies already present. 

With the option to expand remote roles, companies do not need to hire locally or convince new talent to move to their location. For highly specialized roles that have no need for office presence, such as many IT positions, the ability to hire globally puts better prospects within the reach of most small to midsized organizations. 

However, in this context, paper onboarding processes are practically impossible. The time it would take to process dozens of documents by mail – potentially over international distances – would become a major bottleneck and likely drive away new hires anxious to get in the system and start earning.

2. Improves Employee and Customer Experience

Despite its proven value for employee and client retention, very few companies make a significant investment in designing their onboarding experiences. Unsurprisingly, only 12% of employees report that employers provide clear and comprehensive onboarding experiences.

Going paperless and giving new hires and clients access to their own files in one place can clarify the process for them, allowing them to see exactly what is complete and what is still pending. Additionally, companies can configure online forms to include validations for all necessary fields and automated formatting to prevent incomplete or improperly formatted documentation from being submitted.

3. Saves Time on Both Ends

Cutting out transit times for paper documentation by switching to digital saves time for both HR staff and new hires and clients. As many employees and client onboarding data eventually end up digitized through data entry, digital onboarding also reduces time lost to manual reentry throughout your organization. 

Disadvantages of Paperless Onboarding Systems

As with the adoption of any new technology, there are a few potential obstacles to consider before implementing new digital onboarding processes.

1. Adapting to New Technologies

Employees and clients long accustomed to performing certain processes may resist changes that require them to learn new technologies – even if the new process ultimately saves them time and hassle.

2. May Draw Attention to Less Internet-Connected Senior Employees

Although it is easy to assume that on-hand 24/7 internet access is universally available to everyone, there are certain demographics where this may not reliably be the case. For example, companies that work primarily with the elderly may not be able to implement digital solutions for all clients and may achieve better results by making digital channels optional, rather than compulsory. 

3. Information Security

Keeping sensitive information in paper documents introduces risks of data breach through mishandling. Nevertheless, digital alternatives only improve information security when companies are willing to invest in practices and technologies that secure their systems from employee error and external cyberattacks

Is a Paperless Onboarding System Right for You?

As with any operational change in an organization, there are both pros and cons. When it comes to implementing a paperless onboarding system, however, many of the cons are not so much disadvantages as they are potential points of friction. The good news? These points of friction can often be eliminated with an effective and proactive training program.

FileInvite’s SOC 2 Type 2 compliant document and data collection platform simplifies and enhances the digital onboarding processes. Offering employees and clients a single, secure repository for all documentation with configurable automated reminders, FileInvite can radically improve the onboarding experience for all parties involved. 

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