a) Actual conversation:

Manager to HR Manager: “It must be coming up for Smith’s three-month probation soon”

HR Manager: “Let me check”

A while later, HR Manager: “Actually the date passed 10 days ago. For some reason it didn’t get picked up in the diary”

Manager: “ Well, not to bother. I’ve been very busy lately and haven’t had a chance to assess him. Let’s extend the probation period by a month”

Hard to believe, but I have heard various versions of this over the years. And I have personally experienced something very similar to the following more than a few times.

b) The Marketing Manager who had to use one of the meeting rooms as an office, because no one had advised the Facilities people that she was coming.

c) The Credit Controller who couldn’t access the accounts payable system because the computer department hadn’t set up a system ID for him.

All of the above have two very important issues in common; first, that diary and other informal “reminder” systems are very prone to letting things fall down between the cracks, and secondly, the initial experiences of the new recruits can be described as nothing short of dire. After going through the hoops and expense of identifying and selecting these future stars, the employer has now totally given out the wrong welcoming message.

The simple solution to all these headaches is to be found in your HR system, in the form of what are known as Automatic Trigger or Notifications. This feature can generate an email, system message or SMS in response to changes in data.

A typical example would be when a new employee is entered on the HR database prior to their start date, the configured notification would generate a series of alerts to:

• Advise Security & Switchboard of the arriving newcomer, name, position and department;
• Advise the computer department to create an ID and login;
• Advise the Office Manager of the establishment requirement, as well as provision of car, mobile phone, laptop, where appropriate;
• Later on, at a specified time, e.g. 2 weeks before probation end, advise both starter and hiring manager that there needs to be an assessment on the due date.

We can see that this small adjustment can mean a world of difference to someone in their first days with the organisation, or The Employee Experience as it is now termed. You can go even further with your notifications if you wish: advising your pension providers, medical insurers, and the payroll department if your system is not integrated.

I am a great fan of Notifications, and count them among my Big Five benefits of HR systems* (see below), as not only do they streamline administration but also go a long way towards suppressing errors and oversights. Look again at your onboarding processes from a new starter point of view, and use your technology to make those important first Impressions favourable and lasting.

*The Big Five
• Self Service
• Work Flow
• Report writer
• Automatic Triggers / Notifications
• Organisation Charts


David Barnard

Denis Barnard is acknowledged to be a leading expert in the selection of HR & payroll systems, and other HRIS, both inside and outside the UK.

He has been instrumental in leading successful selection and implementation projects in a wide range of sectors, including local government, Higher Education, publishing, music industry and manufacturing.

His recently-published book “Selecting and implementing HR & payroll software has been acclaimed by leading HR practitioners.