How to Choose Onboarding Software for a Small Business [+6 Frontrunners]

An excellent new employee onboarding process is an essential part of smooth business operations. In fact, 70% of employees who have positive onboarding experiences are highly satisfied with their workplace, so they’re more engaged and far less likely to quit their jobs.* That means you could retain seven out of ten employees if you provide top-notch onboarding.

Think about it this way: your onboarding experience is the first impression you make to a new team member — and you know what they say about first impressions. They matter.

Onboarding software can help set you and your new employees up for success by automating the process, reducing unnecessary costs, and minimizing mistakes. But picking the right solution to help you do so can be time-consuming and confusing.

That’s why in this article, you’ll read more about:

  1. Why your small business needs onboarding software
  2. What to look for in onboarding software
  3. The six best onboarding software solutions for small businesses

* Gallup, 2021

Why your small business needs onboarding software

Successful onboarding is crucial for small businesses because tighter profit margins don’t allow owners and managers to repeat the hiring process frequently. That’s where onboarding software can help ensure you’re hiring the right candidates and helping them thrive from the get-go. The right tools will let you:

  1. Automate HR processes
  2. Ensure onboarding compliance
  3. Reduce mistakes
  4. Streamline new employee training

Let’s take a look at each of these benefits in more detail.

Automate HR processes

Administrative and human resources (HR) processes can be time-consuming and difficult to manage for small businesses, especially when they don’t have HR departments to help them out. In short, managers end up having to wear many hats.

Hiring and onboarding software automate HR processes like scheduling, payroll, training, time tracking, and recruiting. This saves you time and money and allows you to create scalable, error-free workflows. And with your administrative tasks taken care of, you can focus on high-priority matters like growing your business and creating a positive company culture.

Ensure onboarding compliance

Before your new employee can start work, they’ll need to fill out information forms and onboarding documents so your business stays compliant with federal, state, and local labor laws. And not collecting and securely storing vital data and forms comes with risks like fines and government penalties.

Onboarding software can help you stay compliant by automatically sending essential paperwork to your freshly hired team members and safely gathering and storing it in its database. That way, there’s little chance of anything getting misplaced.

These tools also create electronic trails that bring visibility to every stage of the onboarding process. So it’s easy to track which materials have been sent, seen, reviewed, accepted, and signed.

Reduce mistakes

It’s easy to make mistakes when you’re overwhelmed by all the steps involved in hiring and integrating your new employees into your business. Onboarding software takes that burden away from you by automating time-consuming tasks — like sending and collecting documents — and allowing new hires to self-onboard.

For example, Homebase automatically emails new hire packets that include all the necessary federal and state forms to new team members. Then, the employee can e-sign the documents before starting their new job and know their personal details will be securely stored in the cloud.

Streamline new employee training

Onboarding software helps you streamline your employee training processes by letting you organize all your training materials in one place and track their completion. That means you won’t have to waste time chasing employees to see if they’ve completed their training or not. Instead, you can build training workflows and monitor how well your new hires are following them from a unified dashboard. This also helps avoid miscommunications and mistakes.

Homebase’s hiring and onboarding tools also let you assign new team members required reading, videos, and training manuals. So, your new employees will always feel up to speed on what steps they need to take before their first day.

What to look for in onboarding software

A prolonged search for the right onboarding software is a drain on resources — especially for small businesses. So it’s essential to nail down your criteria and know what functionalities are must-haves before you start looking. Here are some key features to watch out for:

  • Applicant tracking: To ease the hiring experience, you’ll need to be able to track candidates throughout the entire process, especially if you’re recruiting for more than one position. An applicant tracking function speeds up hiring, elevates the candidate experience, and lowers costs.
  • Electronic documents and forms management: Being able to easily share, e-sign, retrieve, and store internal documents, onboarding forms, training materials, and employee handbooks is a crucial aspect of running a business.
  • Compliance: Software that helps you stay compliant with local, state, and federal labor laws can save you from potential frustrations, fines, and even lawsuits down the road.
  • Mobile application: If your onboarding software of choice comes with a user-friendly mobile app, you and your employees will be able to work from anywhere and access important information on the go.
  • Pricing: Make sure the tool’s pricing plan matches your budget and requirements and doesn’t have any hidden fees.
  • Integration options: The software you choose should integrate seamlessly with your organization’s existing and future technology so you can easily transfer data between platforms and keep your workflows moving along.
  • Customizability: Each business is unique, so your software of choice should adapt to your specific needs and processes. For example, it should have the option to customize your training and employee handbooks.

The six best onboarding software solutions for small businesses

Ideal onboarding software is user-friendly, matches your budget, provides various integration options, and offers onboarding features that are designed specifically with small businesses in mind. We’ve looked at some of the best tools out there and organized our recommendations based on each platform’s pricing and top features.

Our picks for the six best onboarding software for small businesses are:

  1. Homebase
  2. BambooHR
  3. WorkBright
  4. ClearCompany
  5. Gusto
  6. Zenefits

1. Homebase: Start for free

Homebase’s onboarding software sets employees up for success from day one.

Homebase is an all-in-one HR and team management tool that helps small business owners and managers with hiring, onboarding, scheduling, time tracking, payroll, HR and compliance, employee happiness, and team communication. This intuitive platform was designed specifically for small businesses and hourly teams and will support both you and your staff members throughout the entire employee lifecycle.

Top features

Homebase’s Applicant Tracking System (ATS) lets you easily create job descriptions, post ads to popular job boards — like Facebook, Indeed, and Glassdoor — and screen applicants all in one place. You can also schedule interviews and review applications and resumes directly on the platform.

No more manually sending out documents to new hires and chasing after their signatures. Our software makes onboarding a breeze by automatically sending out documents like W-4, W-9, I-9, and direct deposit forms for new hires to e-sign. Then, we store their documentation safely in our cloud storage system.

Once all the necessary paperwork is done, your new hires will be added to our free messaging tool automatically so you can introduce them to their peers and get them started with additional training.

Finally, you can easily build and publish the perfect work schedule for your team, use our time tracking software to monitor everyone’s hours, and automatically convert your timesheets into hours and wages using our payroll software.

2. BambooHR: Quote-based pricing

BambooHR’s modular design and various HR tools are built to support your business from onboarding to performance management.

BambooHR is a comprehensive HR software that offers hiring and onboarding programs as well as people data and analytics, compensation, performance management, and employee well-being modules.

The platform has a straightforward and interactive interface and is accessible from any device, making it a simple tool for both you and your team members to use.

Top features

BambooHR comes equipped with the features you need to get your employees onboarded smoothly, like applicant tracking, e-signatures, employee databases, and performance management. The app also includes welcome emails and IT checklists so your new employees will have everything they need on the first day.

You can choose between two different packages: Essentials and Advantage. You’ll need to opt for the Advantage package to access their robust onboarding program.

3. WorkBright: Starts at $100/month

WorkBright’s mobile-first onboarding solution helps business owners and employees accomplish tasks on the go.

WorkBright is a mobile-first onboarding tool that simplifies the hiring and onboarding process by making it completely paper-free. Built for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), this platform has an intuitive interface and vows to make form collection eight times faster.

This tool mainly serves the following industries and businesses:

  • Camp organizations
  • In-home care
  • Staffing agencies
  • Construction
  • Manufacturing

Top features

This platform allows new hires to upload photos of assets like licenses and certifications and fill out any necessary onboarding documents before they even show up for their first day of work. And if employees are a little slow checking items off the onboarding list, reminder emails and notifications are automatically sent out with increasing urgency.

The app also helps you stay compliant when it comes to I-9s with a tool that makes the complicated form easy to follow with field validation. Then, managers can approve, reject, and countersign I-9s from their mobile devices, and users can use fingertip e-signature technology to take away the liability of using generic, typed “signatures.”

4. ClearCompany: Quote-based pricing

Clear Company provides a unified platform for a paperless hiring, onboarding, recognition, and engagement experience.

Established in 2004, ClearCompany is a talent management system that helps business owners and HR professionals recruit, engage, and retain employees. This tool serves various industries, from education and government to skilled labor and retail.

Top features

ClearCompany streamlines onboarding best practices and does a great job of making the whole process an easy one for all parties involved. Employees can engage with the app through their very own personalized portal, where they’ll find all the information they may need before their first shift.

Managers also get their own dashboard and can use it to manage employee life cycles, and everyone can check their portals from whatever device they desire.

Like WorkBright, ClearCompany works to ensure compliance with automated I-9s, W-4s, state tax forms, and other essentials, which are all securely stored on the platform.

5. Gusto: Starts at $6/month per person + $39/month base price

Gusto combines payroll with features like hiring and onboarding to simplify HR for small and large businesses alike.

Gusto is a US-based payroll and HR software that automates and simplifies hiring and onboarding tasks, from posting job openings to creating onboarding checklists. This popular tool has an aesthetically pleasing and modern user interface (UI) and even gives customers access to HR experts in their Premium plan.

Top features

According to the folks at Gusto, the software will shave two hours off of the typical onboarding process and based on their features, they might be onto something.

Once you send a job offer to your new employee through the app, Gusto handles the rest and shows your new hires the ropes in terms of tax documents and direct deposit forms. Employees can even start communicating with their new team with the app messaging tool so they can lay the groundwork for solid colleague relationships.

6. Zenefits: Starts at $8/month per person

Zenefits is great for small and medium-sized businesses that need to reduce paperwork and stay compliant.

Zenefits is a cloud-based HR platform that helps small and medium-sized businesses with onboarding, compensation, payroll, people enablement, time tracking, and scheduling. From making job offers to onboarding new hires and understanding your workforce, this tool can save you unnecessary busywork throughout the entire employee lifecycle.

Top features

App users can view their pay stubs, complete documents, and select insurance benefits from a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform that can be used on any device. Zenefits integrates with Google Workspace, Salesforce, Slack, and Office 365 to ensure everyone has a positive onboarding flow no matter where they work.

Finally, Zenefits’ award-winning mobile app allows employees to clock in and out, request personal time off (PTO), and access insurance cards from anywhere.

Upgrade the employee experience from day one with Homebase

The right onboarding software increases the efficiency of your business and upgrades the employee experience by automating HR processes, ensuring compliance, reducing mistakes, and improving training workflows. But finding the solution that’s best for you can take some time investment and trial and error.

That’s why we reviewed six of the top onboarding tools out there (including Homebase, of course!) and shared their pricing and top features in this article. Because you deserve a break from manual hiring and onboarding processes — and the perfect tool is just a few clicks away.

FAQs about the best onboarding software for small businesses

homebase customer photo homebase customer photo

What is employee onboarding software?

Employee onboarding software simplifies your hiring and onboarding processes so you can save time and money, reduce mistakes, and elevate your employee experience from the get-go. 

For example, with Homebase’s onboarding solution, you can use pre-made templates to easily create job descriptions, automatically post job ads to popular job boards like Glassdoor and ZipRecruiter, track applicant progress throughout the hiring process, and send required documents to new hires to collect e-signatures and stay compliant.

How much does onboarding software cost?

The cost of onboarding software varies depending on the solution you choose. While some platforms like WorkBright have a starting price of $100 per month, Homebase’s Basic plan — which includes time clocks, scheduling, messaging, and hiring — is free with zero hidden costs. And once you’re ready to upgrade to more advanced features, the Essentials plan is only $20 per month per location.

What is the best free employee onboarding software?

The best employee onboarding software is one that works in tandem with your hiring solution and other HR functions like payroll, time clocks, scheduling, and employee engagement. Because Homebase is designed as an all-in-one software, all our tools work together seamlessly. Other alternative employee onboarding software include:

  • BambooHR
  • WorkBright 
  • ClearCompany 
  • Gusto
  • Zenefits 

What is paperless onboarding?

Paperless onboarding is a process where the entire employee onboarding experience is cloud-based. That means new employees can complete all their onboarding tasks — including signing relevant documents and receiving training materials — through an online portal.

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