Onboarding is a critical part of the employment life cycle, an opportunity to immediately and effectively introduce the employee to the culture of the organization and set them up for future success. Today’s HR professionals and hiring managers have a wide range of communication tools and practices they can use during onboarding with digital tools becoming more prevalent and popular. It’s important, though, to ensure that these tools are used effectively and integrated in alignment with other communication channels.
When does the onboarding process begin? On the candidate’s first day on the job? Once the offer is accepted? During the final interview? Arguably, employers that are focused on building strong employer brands recognize that the onboarding process starts from the moment an applicant submits a resume or an application. One or more of those applicants will eventually join the company. Every experience and touch point they have on the road to getting to that point will leave an indelible impression. In this article, we’ll focus on the things that happen once a job candidate agrees to accept a job.
How Digital Tools Help Your Onboarding
Traditionally, the onboarding process has involved face-to-face interactions that might take place between a manager and a newly hired employee, or group sessions bringing together several newly hired employees to go through a formal onboarding process. The process might involve educational sessions, the completion of paperwork of various types and interactions with organizational leaders and key players.
Those traditional processes, though, are not only time-consuming, they’re subject to significant variation in the methods and messages conveyed to new job holders. Information attained also is likely to be quickly lost amid the myriad of messages that new job holders will be subject to.
Digital onboarding leverages the availability of digital tools and technology to make the onboarding process as cost-effective and efficient as possible. Digital tools also provide new hires with the ability to access information and get answers to questions on a 24/7 basis whenever they need it. In addition, the use of digital onboarding will ensure the consistency and accuracy of information shared with new hires across the organization, whether it’s a local team of 10 or a global team of 1000’s.
Employee onboarding can be done effectively, digitally, by giving employees, as well as managers, the right tools to structure an onboarding program. Effective employee onboarding also helps new employees feel safe and welcome on the job.
The Benefits and Challenges of Effective Employee Onboarding
According to analysts at the Aberdeen Group, companies that offer formal onboarding to employees “have an average employee retention rate of 86 percent—fully 30 points better than those without. Effective onboarding has a bottom-line impact as well. According to Boston Consulting Group, companies that effectively engage in the onboarding of new hires see 2.5 times the revenue growth and 1.9 times the profit margin of companies that don’t.
Onboarding can be both time-consuming and expensive, of course. Traditional onboarding programs require employees to participate in training events for hours, sometimes days. It’s not just their time that’s involved, but time for the trainers and participating managers as well. Beyond formal training effective onboarding also requires education about organizational policies and procedures and the completion of a wide array of paperwork, from documents required by state and federal government agencies to documents related to benefit sign-up or waiver.
One of the biggest challenges and ongoing frustrations for organizations and their HR and Training & Development staff, of course, is how quickly the information attained during onboarding activities is lost—if it was ever attained at all. Many of these issues can be addressed through digital tools that can expedite and strengthen the onboarding process.
Tools, Apps, and Options for Digital Onboarding
A combination of both face-to-face and digital onboarding activities will serve to provide the richest and most rewarding experience for employees. Today’s employers have a wide range of tools and options available to them to aid the employee onboarding process:
- Email is a commonly used digital platform to connect with and engage, employees throughout the hiring and onboarding process
- Digital signatures and electronic document handling to minimize paperwork, provide an electronic repository for critical documents, and streamline approval processes
- Chatbots that can be used as a tool to respond to common employee questions or requests
- Video conferencing – live and asynchronous – making it possible to extend the useful time of a training session and ensure consistency
- Podcasts, webcasts, and videos that can be offered on-demand
- Interactive websites for employees to sign up for benefit coverage, participate in training and in-service activities and communicate with other staff members
- Employee portals that can be customized based on employee needs and allow access to personal information
- Automated polls used as a means of gathering information and opinions from employees throughout their early days, weeks and months with the company—and beyond
The wide array of options available mean that organizations can customize their use of digital—and traditional—communication channels to engage their various audiences.
Best Practices in Digital Onboarding
Not all employees need, or benefit from, the same onboarding experience. Unfortunately, that’s what they usually get. With digital onboarding, process flows and event triggers can help to personalize the experience for each employee depending on their role, past experience and knowledge, and personal preferences.
Digital onboarding isn’t only about providing tools for employees to get and seek information and complete required documentation (although these are critical components). Digital onboarding is also about administration and follow-up from managers, HR, and other departments. The ability to integrate digital onboarding activity with learning management and other systems helps to ensure maximum productivity and risk management.
Want to learn more about how to leverage the use of digital tools throughout your onboarding process? Download our onboarding guide.