During the pandemic, organizations have had no choice but to onboard new hires remotely. This has led to innovative uses of technology, but it’s often been an ad hoc and haphazard process. Nevertheless, remote onboarding has shown that it’s possible, even desirable to use digital technology to onboard new employees no matter where they’re working. It’s time to consider the benefits of fully-fledged digital onboarding and understand what you need to make it happen.
What do we mean by digital onboarding?
Remote onboarding came about out of necessity for those new hires who couldn’t come into the office or a shared workspace. The major concern about remote onboarding is that you lose the vital connections (professional and social) that make onboarding a positive experience.
Digital onboarding, on the other hand, is deliberately designed and planned to cater to all new hires whether they are in an office or working remotely. While retaining many of the features of the remote variant, digital onboarding achieves a more blended approach: keeping the social contacts that create a sense of belonging, while using digitization of resources and the connectivity that ICT allows to automate, streamline, and enhance the admin and training components of onboarding. This can create a more personalized, tailored, self-directed onboarding experience that not only formally inducts employees into the organization but also better prepares them for what happens next.
What difference does digital onboarding make?
Despite the handshakes and warm welcomes from managers, HR, and colleagues, many new hires feel isolated and overwhelmed during the first few weeks of a new job. A poor onboarding experience is one of the reasons a significant number of people quit within the first three to six months of starting a new job. A primary aim of digital onboarding is to deliver a more engaging, relevant experience so that people understand what they’re doing and why right from the outset.
Digital technology facilitates easier access to content and resources. This means new hires can take onboarding at their own pace and gives them flexibility. Rather than onboarding as a one-size-fits-all process, you can allow new hires the freedom to choose what information they need when they need it. Yet, equally digitizing assets and delivering them on various devices and platforms make it easier for HR and managers to check progress and be more aware of when to intervene and assist. Digital onboarding can be mapped out as a journey with distinct milestones and recognition points through establishing an awards system.
Critically digital onboarding also takes the pressure off HR admins allowing the time and space to provide higher value contributions such as counseling, mentoring, and personal interventions. By facilitating onboarding at the employees’ own pace, you also give them the time to start the work they’ve been hired to do. By running onboarding alongside work, simultaneously, you bring it into the workflow and firmly establish the connection between successful onboarding and career progression.
How to use technology to onboard
Digital onboarding is not just about digitizing existing training and admin materials. To work effectively you need to create a fully digital workflow. In the first instance, that means examining your current processes and practices creating digital equivalents. But you can go further and use technology not only to enhance existing workflows but also to produce new, more efficient ones.
There are a number of steps that facilitate a seamless digital onboarding experience:
- Digitizing assets: This means not only producing digital versions of existing paper-based resources but looking for ways of enhancing them too. For example, producing elearning and microlearning for training and introductions to appeal to new hires by providing information in ways we’re used to accessing it today. That is on the go, at point of need, and in easy-to-digest forms. This means of presenting and delivering information and learning places new hires at the center of the onboarding process.
- Unifying, streamlining, and extending access: You need to curate and centralize your digital onboarding training and resources. Employing a digital platform like an LMS helps manage those assets and allows for ease of access across devices including mobile access. This allows new hires to self-serve their onboarding needs at the right place and at the right time.
- Creating pathways: Once you’ve digitized and chunked your onboarding resources, you can create pathways through the onboarding process. Pathways personalize the onboarding process with new employees navigating their own way at their own speed.
- Managing the journey: While digital onboarding gives new hires the opportunity to proceed according to their own needs, you will still need to guide their progress. Using an LMS you can monitor their journey through a series of automatically triggered notifications, alerts, and personalized recommendations. An organization can also record and recognize progress through a digital dashboard that can produce reports and mark milestones with a digital badging or award system.
- Standardizing the process: As you build your digital onboarding experience you end up standardizing the process and creating efficiencies. This means you can be confident that new hires experience a similar onboarding experience that meets their individual needs. It’s also a chance to embed the organization’s culture into onboarding.
The benefits of digital onboarding
Once you’ve implemented a digital onboarding platform, you’ll begin to see the benefits not only for the engagement of new hires but also for the organization in general.
- Increasing engagement and retention: Digital onboarding directly addresses the problem of disengagement and demotivation. The personalization of the process makes onboarding more relevant. Onboarding at their own speed in their time gives new hires a sense of responsibility and ownership. A personalized pathway through onboarding increases relevance and improves satisfaction levels. Heightened engagement and motivation mean new hires are more likely to stay with the organization and progress.
- Better time management: Making onboarding digital saves time. It allows better use of new hires’ time letting them manage onboarding in a way that frees them up to start working quicker. It also frees up time for managers and HR relieving them of the micro-management of onboarding to concentrate on higher-order tasks and add value when they’re called on to intervene.
- Saving costs: Digital onboarding is less time-consuming than the traditional approach to induction with its expensive one-to-one training events. It saves new hires from unproductive hours spent in classrooms or induction meetings. Its relevance and engagement improve the retention rates realizing the benefits of the investment in new staff and saving further hiring costs. Digital onboarding has the potential to be scaled up quickly increasing the rate and the number of hires successfully onboarded.
- Improved productivity: Digital onboarding fast-tracks new hires into work. It moves onboarding into the workflow and allows new hires to get to work quicker and become productive. It also improves employee morale by giving them the opportunity to do what they came to the organization to do sooner. A better start will sustain new hires as they move forward and realize their potential.
- Sustainability: Digitizing onboarding increases flexibility and responsiveness. It allows for more granular, faster progress tracking of progress and more detailed feedback. Digital assets can be easily expanded, updated, and repurposed. By making onboarding digital it becomes a continuous, sustainable process dovetailing with work, rather than a front-loaded, one-off event that soon loses relevance.
Add digital onboarding to the mix
Going digital represents a considered, structured, new way forward for onboarding. It delivers benefits in terms of better engagement and motivation of new hires improving the rates of retention. It frees up time and saves on training and admin costs. It also means new hires move faster into work making them more productive sooner. Digital onboarding has the flexibility to respond to the reality of the modern workplace: ever-changing, more diverse, more remote ways of working.
In making the switch to digital there’s no reason to end the traditional meeting and greeting of new hires that gives them an important sense that they belong. But digital onboarding picks up the slack and sustains the process when the warm glow of the welcome aboard sessions starts to fade. Digital onboarding takes the experience of traditional induction methods and translates them into an onboarding process that is fit for the demands of modern businesses and their new employees. It also makes onboarding more efficient and effective by placing it in the workflow. Digital is the way forward for onboarding.
Effective onboarding has never been more critical. Get in touch to find out how Learning Pool can streamline your onboarding process.
Peter has been part of Learning Pool for 9 years. He’s responsible for making sure our customers get the very best from our service and is renowned for his attention to detail and endless patience!
When not at work, Pete enjoys spending time with his family and is a keen photographer, capturing stunning landscapes from around Ireland and beyond.