While serving as an undeniably flexible tool, Google Sheets have become the default ‘chaos manager’ for a number of organizational functions, including People Operations and HR teams.

One Google Sheet we see over and over again at Sapling is the ‘Onboarding Tracker’ — a manual and time-consuming onboarding sheet used by People Operations adjacent to the core HR functionalities of their HRIS.

The Onboarding Google Sheet

A Google Sheet 'Onboarding Tracker' is not an Employee Onboarding program.

While not the height of onboarding program sophistication, the 'Google Sheet' can quickly be set up as a handy tool for companies starting to bring on new team members.

The typical structure we see for Sapling customers is rows are employees, and columns are checklists of items that need to be completed, such as paperwork being sent through Docusign, the Office Manager ordering Welcome baskets (when remembered), and scheduling meetings with company leadership.

Oftentimes we find that onboarding program success is determined by a weekly meeting to review this Google Sheet.

Though the ‘Onboarding Tracker’ can be an effective solution for smaller companies onboarding 1 - 2 hires per month, these typically reach breaking point at 5 hires per month as the onboarding activities you’re tracking take you to column “AN” of the Google Sheet.

Here are the top three reasons we see these onboarding trackers fail:

1. They are prone to error and continued fixing

Hardcodes create big problems in these spreadsheets, so someone who is proficient in Excel is usually required to build in some ‘SUM’ formulas and provide better visibility. But these quickly find breaking point, requiring constant involvement to get them fixed.

In People Operations, you should be focusing on the People, not the process.

Designing and managing a custom-built onboarding solution in a Google Sheet is a recipe to get stuck repeatedly updating the sheet versus leveraging purpose-built software and focusing on helping your team be more effective.

Employee onboarding sheet errors and fixing

2. They lack alignment to make actions happen

We can see that there are 40 onboarding tasks for “Nick the New-Hire”, but who is responsible for each? And I think Peter from IT is on leave, but I’m not sure if he remembered to order the laptop, as nothing’s updated in the Google Sheet?

Building these custom solutions gets even more painful as your onboarding activities naturally swell with the complexity of your company.

When it gets to about 10 rows, we typically see an introduction of the greens, yellows and reds — color-coded with red for ‘urgent’, yellow for ‘in progress’ or green for ‘complete’.

But how are all these activities maintained and actioned? Emails, Slack pings, shoulder taps — the endless administration of reminders and follow-ups to ensure people complete their onboarding activities can be a huge time sink.

People Operations teams can often end up being the gophers running between managers and departments, trying to get everything sorted.

Employee onboarding program alignment

3. They don’t scale as the complexity of your organization grows

We see an average of 80 activities per onboarding — when managing 5 - 10 new employees every month, this quickly escalates to 400 - 800 activities in your Google Sheet!

At this volume, how can your team be expected to maintain and drive the right actions to ensure new hires are set up for success?

If you have the wrong process, everyone is suffering. The manager, IT team, the department — you are failing the people in your organization.

Employee onboarding and company growth

4. Lack reporting and insights

The inability to report on your onboarding program or illuminate important insights means that you cannot continually improve your processes.

Determining what is getting completed, what tasks. are taking the longest or when exactly things were actioned can be difficult in Google Sheets, but without this important feedback loop - people teams are often left patching holes versus refining their workflows.

When it comes to compliance, audits for many certifications (including SOC2) require the ability to prove that the appropriate security measures are being taken.

So who is responsible? People Operations!

The onus is on the People Operations team to ensure a streamlined program. Amazing people can go a long way, but process beats talent. It’s on you to invest in the right scalable systems.

The top onboarding programs are well-run machines that support new hires to be fully engaged and contributing as soon as possible.

It might sound emotional, but the first 6 months is critical to new hire confidence, productivity, happiness and success.

Don’t get caught with big hiring plans with a Google Sheet that is going to leave you overwhelmed and constantly putting out fires.

Sapling helps companies build structured onboarding programs with best-in-class technology. Get Demo


See how it works

Learn how Sapling can help you automate your workflows and connect your people data across your existing systems.

Request A Demo
A Google Sheet is not an Employee Onboarding Program