digital onboarding

Just a few years ago, work from home (WFH) was used mainly to describe freelancers working from the couch or a coffee shop. Today, it is considered the new normal — even top-tier companies like Twitter and Slack have decided to make WFH a permanent option for their employees.

This paradigm shift, however, brings a whole new set of challenges. Now, people quit their jobs and find new ones from the comfort of their own homes. So, businesses need to recruit, interview, and onboard new hires often without the luxury of office tours and meet-and-greet with co-workers.

Although new to many organizations, online onboarding can be as positive and effective as an in-person process. In this post, we’ll discuss five principles to base your digital onboarding strategy and ensure a stellar employee experience.

Nurture communication

When a new recruit starts working in an office, a manager can frequently check in with them to make sure everything is going smoothly. Then, there are break rooms and coffee areas where a newcomer can socialize.

With virtual onboarding, new employees can often feel vulnerable and anxious. That’s why effective communication — whether via video conferencing, email, phone, or corporate chats — is of paramount importance. Some of the best practices include allocating a work buddy to whom an employee can turn for any work-related or social issues.

We ourselves use a range of tools and approaches to stay connected:

  • A Trello board with a FAQ section and all the information that a newcomer may need during the first couple of weeks. We also add teammate photos so that new employees can put a face to a name right from the start.
  • Daily syncs — via voice or video — to discuss the agenda and ensure everyone is aware of what’s happening.
  • A new hire can call any employee when it’s convenient for both of them to talk about all sorts of things.

Whatever communication cadency you choose, the most important thing is to make newcomers feel welcomed and a part of your tightly-knit team. 

Equip your workforce

Successful onboarding always starts before an employee’s first day. To make sure that a new hire doesn’t waste any time, a workstation needs to be already set up and ready.

But now that employees begin working from home, you need to ensure that a new hire has access to all necessary equipment, like a laptop, a monitor, headsets, or mobile devices. The IT department may need to install all necessary programs and software, including a corporate VPN solution that a remote employee may need. Naturally, these setup activities — whether they are performed remotely or at the IT department — need to be finished before a new employee gets their computer.

Embrace digital

If you haven’t yet switched to electronic documents, it’s high time to do so. A paperless approach not only improves productivity and cuts processing time but also reduces administrative costs.

Handbooks, manuals, and corporate policies can all be delivered to remote employees in digital form. Employee training, too, can be organized remotely — and with the same level of efficiency as in-person learning. You can even use special tools and custom software like Zoho Creator to streamline HR workflows and easily track an applicant’s status.

Put yourself in your employees’ shoes

Whether you are building a new product or improving your internal processes, it’s always a good idea to put yourself into end users’ shoes. And in the case of onboarding, it’s your new employees.

Even if you have already recruited hundreds of employees offline, remote onboarding is still uncharted territory. To make it as smooth as possible, think about what bottlenecks may arise and what problems your remote employees may experience in the process. Since the shift to remote work didn’t happen yesterday, chances are you have already onboarded employees remotely. Then you can learn from your mistakes, if any, to keep improving the remote onboarding experience for new employees.

But even if it’s your first rodeo, don’t worry. The best way to gain an understanding of the employees’ perspective is to build an end-to-end employee experience journey map (in case you want to get a full picture) or just map out the onboarding stage. To make your journey map as effective as possible, you need to base it on solid, high-quality data. So, do your research, collect feedback, and don’t forget to ask newcomers to rate the onboarding process and suggest improvements. You can leverage these insights to continuously enhance your onboarding program and turn it into a powerful retention tool.

Give it time

And finally, what a new employee may need the most is time. Even in the office environment, it takes a while to learn the ropes in a new job. But when it happens remotely, the learning curve can be steeper. Keep that in mind and don’t rush the process. Otherwise, a new hire may miss something important that will later translate into work problems, unnecessary stress, and a higher turnover rate.

Wrapping up

As the global workforce becomes increasingly remote, the need for reliable and effective digital onboarding comes to the front burner. However, what worked in the office settings might not work so well in a digital workplace. 

To make your online onboarding program a success, map out your employee journey, establish clear communication channels, and provide your hires with all the necessary equipment. And remember that change doesn’t happen overnight, and with time you will iron out all the kinks.

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay