Building An Onboarding Plan For The Digital Age

Not long ago, the standard onboarding plan was a week-long event with precisely scheduled time slots for the new hire to fill out requisite paperwork, learn the company history and visit each department to understand their role. Today’s candidates are expected to be up to speed and productive within their first few days, especially for project-specific contract roles. Intranet sites and virtual training have replaced the face-to-face onboarding plans. While the medium is different, the Human Resource team is still responsible for sharing information, setting the tone for company culture and fostering employee engagement.

In the Aberdeen Group’s 2014 report titled “Onboarding in the 21st Century”, research showed that only 32% of companies have a formal onboarding process in place, yet 90% of the businesses surveyed believe their employees make the decision to stay with the firm in the first year. The report made a strong argument for using digital onboarding as a tool to reduce first-year turnover by increasing employee engagement and socialization.

Here are some elements to consider when building a digital onboarding plan:

Back To Basics

Your digital onboarding plan needs to address the traditional onboarding functions. This includes all paperwork and documentation required by the firm, as well as an easy-to-navigate explanation of the company’s policies and procedures. Using technology allows the new hire to submit mandatory forms prior to their first day, which frees up time that formerly monopolized the first few hours on the job.

Opportunities To Customize The Onboarding Experience

Now that we’ve checked off the basics, using technology provides an outstanding opportunity to personalize the onboarding experience. Videos are a great tool to get away from the stagnant power point decks of the past. Find creative ways to show your new hire that they’ve joined a dynamic firm where they’ll be proud to work, such as a welcome message from the CEO or a highlight reel of your company’s achievements. Customize the message for its intended audience, and work with the practice area leaders to make sure you’re addressing their needs and setting their new team members up for success.

Milestones For Tracking Completion

Digital onboarding plans are often self-paced, so it’s important to create a system for tracking the completion of each learning module. The Human Resource team is still responsible for the content shared with new hires, even when the information is shared digitally. Setting milestones in the onboarding process reminds your Human Resource team to follow up with new hires, and nudge them towards completing their training requirements. This also creates a touch point with the new hire to answer any outstanding questions and address any concerns. The Aberdeen Group’s report found that Best-In-Class companies are 2.54 times more likely to track their new hire’s progress in the onboarding process.

Connecting Team Members Company-Wide

Another popular trend in digital onboarding is connecting new team members with their peers company-wide. Firms encourage their staff to create intranet profiles that highlights their education, past work experience and current focus. This builds an internal community of like-minded professionals and allows the new hire feel at home among their peers. Internal team sites also provide a central location for sharing best practices, collaborating across time zones and reviewing active projects. This continuous loop of feedback is invaluable for the firm’ innovation and helps the new hire feel like a valued part of the team.

Onboarding For Offsite And Virtual Teams

Building an onboarding plan for offsite and virtual teams also needs a custom approach. Often these team structures are offered to temporary workers or non-traditional roles, and team members may need individualized attention to get plugged into the firm. This group is also the most likely to ‘go rogue’ and resist internal processes and procedures, so it’s important to set expectations from the start. For multi-national firms, these customizations also need to account for cultural norms such as variable work hours or appropriate work attire.

Using technology in the onboarding process offers a new level of personalization, but also creates the challenge of being disconnected from the new hire during their first impressions within the workplace. Your Human Resource team needs to build customized, impactful materials that reassure your new hire they’ve selected the best firm to devote their time and expertise. The employee retention process starts on the very first day. Use your onboarding time wisely and build plans that address the ever-changing needs of today’s workforce.