Almost everywhere in life, first impressions count. What many applicants certainly recite as a mantra before a job interview is something that companies should also take to heart - and that goes beyond the application process. The Corona pandemic has driven the digital transformation in many companies and thus also promoted the induction of new employees via virtual channels. What was initially seen by many as a stopgap solution has turned out to be a model with future prospects in the past two years - provided that the employer recognises the high value of this process and puts it into practice professionally.
A new Age of Onboarding
Digital onboarding, bringing someone on board who is not physically present, can be a challenge with some stumbling blocks. In the worst-case scenario, the new employees sit at home in front of their PCs, there is radio silence and helplessness. You should avoid this at all costs, because you risk that the team member you have recruited with great effort will leave after only a few weeks. Skilled workers are rare, and recruiting new staff requires a lot of time, money and resources. If you want to keep the freshly recruited talent, you should make sure that they feel comfortable from the start, get to know the company philosophy and are integrated into existing work structures as efficiently as possible.
If this induction takes place digitally, essential prerequisites must be met and routines must be rethought. What initially involves a lot of work opens up undreamt-of opportunities and potential in the long run: employees can theoretically be integrated anywhere in the world, processes become more flexible and the company gains in attractiveness.
How does the Onboarding Process Work?
Onboarding - whether digital or traditional - takes place in three phases: preboarding, orientation and integration. Preboarding usually starts after the contract is signed and before the first day of work. New employees should receive all important information about the company in advance, such as contact persons, access data and the induction plan.
From the first day of work, the orientation phase begins, during which the onboardees arrive at the office in the classic case, are familiarised with the premises, get to know their workplace and are personally introduced to their colleagues. They develop a feeling for the people and processes on site. You're probably already reading this: mapping this phase digitally is probably the biggest challenge in onboarding a new team member.
The orientation phase then gradually leads to integration. The probationary period aims to familiarise the new employees with their work and their colleagues. The workplace is set up, the necessary programmes are explained and the first tasks are worked out step by step.
What Preparations should you make for Digital Onboarding?
Let's start with the obvious: The necessary hardware and software as well as a stable internet connection are essential and should be provided by the company. In addition, you should draw up a clear roadmap that provides you with guidance. This may, for example, already include to-do lists for the first few weeks, which contain tasks for the new team member and also show you which processes or programmes should be explained first. A permanent contact person should always be available and have an open ear.
Note: Digital onboarding may take a little longer than the usual onboarding process due to circumstances. Give the new employee enough time to settle in.
The exchange among the new colleagues is crucial. Therefore, sufficient internal communication structures should be in place. Give newcomers the feeling of being heard and valued. Psychological security in the workplace is a crucial factor in retaining talent.
Three Tips to make Digital Onboarding more Efficient
1. Create Automatisms.
Once you've set the stage for the digital onboarding process, you can start implementing automations. Administrative tasks such as distributing forms and policy clarifications should be completed through automation, giving HR more time to engage with new employees in a meaningful way.
To automate digital onboarding, there are tools and programmes that can be used to create important documents, request information and obtain signatures. This way, you can easily keep new employees in the loop, inform them about further steps, obtain information and then forward it to the appropriate departments. The importance of artificial intelligence in onboarding is also growing. For example, chatbots can facilitate the answering of frequently asked questions, if necessary even in several languages. This allows onboarding to be done at the employee's own pace. Find the right tools and software that fit your company.
But be careful: While automatisms can be helpful, they do not mean that every process is the same. Every new team member is of course an individual and should be treated as such. So link the tools to a roadmap that can be used over and over again, but don't lose sight of the individual needs and the necessary attention.
2. Get Creative.
The biggest opportunity of digital onboarding is to use the almost limitless technical possibilities and combine them with your own ideas and approaches. This can create enormous potential that adds character to the company, creates a stronger bond with new employees and facilitates the professional onboarding process. Virtual onboarding can even be more effective and varied than on-site onboarding, which may have been unchanged for 20 years. Processes and media of the company's everyday life should not only be integrated, but fully utilised. Don't create static, same-old presentations: Use different approaches to communicate the company strategy, philosophy and work tasks.
For example, offer a virtual company tour, an online coffee break, a buddy programme, digital after-work meetings or perhaps onboarding gamification. Gamification is the transfer of game-typical processes and elements into new environments and contexts. The aim is for team members to come into contact, exchange ideas and get to know each other in a playful way.
Be creative and inventive in your search for the right method for your company. A young field of application also means not only relying on tried and tested methods, but developing and trying out your own ways. Only with the help of individual creativity will the digital potential of the onboarding process fully unfold and reflect your corporate philosophy in it.
3. Rely on Feedback and Optimisation.
No matter what measures you take to make your onboarding process more pleasant and efficient: It should be a top priority to regularly ask for criticism and feedback from the onboardee - and to subsequently take this into account. This is the only way to guarantee that the digital onboarding process runs smoothly, that the professional training is effective and that the new employees are satisfied. Always rely on a personal exchange, which can be supplemented by digital questionnaires. Always rely on a personal exchange, which can be supplemented by digital questionnaires. This way, the new team members feel valued and heard once more.
Admittedly: Optimising the onboarding process is a never-ending process and a lot of work. But it pays off quickly. In the form of satisfied employees who quickly settle in, become emotionally attached to your company and therefore perform convincingly.