Gain a competitive advantage with digital onboarding
How companies are using digital technologies to maximize the integration of new employees
Digital onboarding has become an increasingly important topic for personnel development in recent years. With the explosion of remote working, the ever-increasing shortage of skilled workers, and the need to integrate new employees into teams quickly and effectively, digital onboarding is gaining increasing importance. Using digital tools and platforms helps to make the onboarding process more impactful and flexible. This article explains the benefits of digital onboarding, the content that is relevant for each phase of onboarding, and the tools that are needed, and provides examples of best practice.
What does onboarding mean?
Onboarding is basically the process by which new employees are inducted and integrated into your company. A professional onboarding process introduces new hires to their new tasks and responsibilities, familiarizes them with their work environment, and gives them the chance to integrate into their new team and corporate culture. So it’s not just about teaching “new” subject-specific knowledge and explaining the structures of your company, it’s also about building and maintaining interpersonal and social relationships.
Goals of the onboarding process
Maintaining and increasing employee satisfaction
Greater identification with the company
Establishing a bond between employees and the company
Increased motivation on the part of new employees
Increasing new employees’ productivity
Increasing new employees’ effectiveness
A successful onboarding program ensures new employees grow into their roles faster, enhancing their performance and allowing them to contribute to their teams. Of course, this pays off for companies, not least in terms of success and growth. It also means that potential uncertainties and concerns can be identified and eliminated at an early stage, getting new workers off to a faster and smoother start. Targeted joint working with colleagues bolsters trust and team spirit and rapidly creates a friendly atmosphere and a good working environment. New employees quickly develop a positive attitude towards their work and the company, which ultimately leads to higher motivation and better performance.
Digital onboarding is the use of digital technology and tools to support the traditional onboarding process. Onboarding tasks and activities are delivered via digital channels and platforms to make the process more efficient, flexible, and user-friendly. Digital onboarding can be very broad and can encompass a range of activities, including:
- Provision of digital training materials
- Delivery of online training (e.g. compliance issues, software training)
- Setting up electronic access privileges
- Provision of corporate videos and virtual tours
- Sending automated emails to communicate important information
The goal of digital onboarding is to optimize the induction process for new employees, increase employee retention and satisfaction, and boost the effectiveness and productivity of the onboarding process.
Benefits of digital onboarding
(compared with traditional onboarding)
Digital onboarding makes the otherwise time-consuming and labor-intensive onboarding process more efficient, by enabling you to automate a large number of tasks.
Digital onboarding creates freedom! You can go through the onboarding process wherever you are—especially useful if your employees work at different sites or remotely.
Digital onboarding sharply reduces the cost of onboarding, as, once created, an onboarding process or online course on a specific topic can be used again and again.
Digital onboarding is user-friendly and less overwhelming than traditional onboarding, enabling employees to go at their own pace and access materials and resources specifically tailored to their needs.
Tracking & reporting:
Digital onboarding creates transparency. Companies can track the progress of new employees and create certificates in order to provide auditable proof that, for example, compulsory training has been completed.
Risks of digital onboarding
(compared with traditional onboarding)
Lack of personal interaction:
Digital onboarding can result in less face-to-face interaction between new employees and colleagues, which may complicate the integration of new hires into the team. So make sure that your digital onboarding program includes real and relatable interactions, such as face-to-face conversations with other colleagues.
If your technical equipment isn’t working properly or new employees have difficulty accessing the system, this may delay or disrupt the onboarding process. So make sure that all technical obstacles are taken care of from the beginning.
Limitations of training:
Digital onboarding cannot always replace comprehensive training, especially when practical skills and experience are required. Consider introducing a kind of blended learning offer that combines digital and in-person learning.
Limitations of cultural education:
Digital onboarding alone cannot fully convey your corporate culture and values. These must be learned about and experienced before you can embody them yourself. So create opportunities to do just that!
The phases of digital onboarding
Good preparation is absolutely essential. Make sure you have planned and prepared all the necessary steps and tasks for onboarding your new employees. The best thing to do is create a checklist. Check that all training materials are ready, that the technology is up and running, and that other colleagues are on hand to provide support. You should also consider things from your new employees’ perspective: Do they have the skills to use digital tools? Do they need help? Make sure new hires know which digital tools they’ll need during the onboarding process, and how to use them and that they have the necessary login data.
And don’t forget the social side of things! Ensure that new employees are in contact with their future team or colleagues from the outset. This can be achieved by a video call or other digital communication channel. Inform all relevant departments and team members about the hiring process and the digital onboarding plans. Coordinate with everyone involved, so that they are aware of the necessary steps and can play their part.
First up, new employees should be given a warm welcome by the team or team leader. Greet them and start with a general introduction to the company and its departments. The introduction should familiarize new employees with the tools they will be using for their work. This is where you can also deliver the first small training units. You might like to consider chat systems, video conferencing tools, and project management tools. Caution: Don’t bog new employees down with too much detail! Introduce your company’s most important workflows and routines to give them an initial impression of internal processes and how departments work together.
In addition to all the new information, consider the social side of things: Your new employees need to know who their new colleagues are. Of course, the same applies to your existing employees: They’ll need to get to know the new arrivals too. One option is to have your new hires introduce themselves digitally with a short paragraph about themselves, ideally including a picture. Round off the day by introducing your company culture; how the company sees itself, and what its visions and values are.
During the orientation phase
Not all orientation phases are the same, because not all inductions are the same. Content may differ significantly depending on the position in the company. Developers need different information from new account managers; mechanics do not need the same knowledge as sales agents. This may sound complicated, but digital onboarding makes it very easy to map individual learning paths.
Aside: What are digital learning paths?
Digital learning paths are teaching and learning materials arranged in a predetermined order to help learners achieve specific learning objectives. Digital learning paths are created to support or complement the learning process. In contrast to traditional learning materials, digital learning paths can be personalized by being automatically adapted to learners’ individual knowledge levels, or by simply providing the knowledge that is relevant to the learner.
This means, firstly, that onboarding is governed by a specific roadmap, and secondly that content can be integrated into it: content that every new employee must complete, and content that is individually tailored to the job profile in question. For example, compliance training is an integral part of any digital onboarding program. The advantage here is that compliance training must be repeated regularly: Once created, the course can be reused again and again across the company.
In addition to compliance training, new employees have to engage with other educational content and training courses during the orientation phase (i.e. during induction), in order to gain an understanding of their role and responsibilities. This can be done by providing information about the company’s culture and values, and its processes and procedures, and by providing specific training on topics that are relevant to the employees.
In the first few days, new employees should have meetings with key people— executives, colleagues, and mentors. This will give them a better understanding of how the company works and what its goals are. At the same time, these meetings can be used to discuss objectives for new employees and the company’s expectations of them. It is important that employees clearly understand their role, responsibilities, and goals, and the company’s expectations. They should also learn how their success will be measured and evaluated. Ensure that meetings leave space for feedback and exchanges of views. Pay attention to your new employees and give them the chance to get feedback and ask questions.
The new employees have now met their colleagues, and learned about their role, the key tools, and how to use them. They will be aware of their goals and areas of responsibility and understand the company culture, its achievements, and its values. However, the onboarding process should not end there: It should continue to ensure that new employees are productive and fully integrated. Now it’s time to ask for feedback on the induction process. Ask if the new employees were given enough time to get used to their new role and the company. Seek suggestions on how to improve the onboarding process. Set clear goals for the new employees, and timescales for achieving them. This will give them an understanding of what is expected of them and how they can measure their success.
Make sure that new employees have the opportunity to interact with other departments and colleagues. This promotes collaboration and helps foster relationships that will be important for their work. Provide new employees with training and development opportunities relevant to their role and goals. This shows that their professional development is important to you, and that you will help them to continually improve their performance. Schedule regular, short feedback meetings to make sure that new employees are on the right track and can access support when they need it. This shows them that you care about their work and their success in the company.
To create a digital onboarding process, you usually need two eLearning tools:
- A learning content management system, or authoring tool, to manage, create, and publish learning content. This allows you to create training materials in digital form, and to organize and translate them.
- A learning management system to manage, organize, and deliver the content to individuals. It also enables you to manage user accounts, track progress, organize assessments and certificates, and, for example, foster communication between learners and trainers or other participants.
eLearning formats for digital onboarding
Traditional online courses
Onboarding can mostly be covered by traditional online courses—provided your authoring tool has the appropriate features. If it does, you can create appealing, responsive online courses with texts, pictures, video messages, explanatory videos, digital tours, appropriate tests and quizzes, in the blink of an eye.
Enhancing online courses with simple features such as quizzes or digital flashcards is another good option. They make learning not only easier, but also much more fun—a great way to give new employees a warm and friendly welcome.
Integrating an interactive coach provides you with a scenario-based communication trainer that enables you to take a playful approach to training your new employees for specific corporate situations. This is particularly effective for new sales staff and account managers, for example, helping them to optimize their communication skills, get arguments across, and strengthening their empathy.
Some topics are more easily grasped through listening than through reading, and are more effectively explained verbally than by being presented in writing. Your company philosophy, mission, vision, and values could be presented via a podcast, for example, and illustrated with practical examples.
Like podcasts, videos are much more motivating for learners than texts; they also appeal both to auditory and to visual learners. In particular, they make it easier to present complex topics in ways that learners can understand.
Just imagine: Your new employees are able to learn about your company and move freely around it in a virtual space. This allows them to go on their own journeys of discovery, getting to know your departments and employees, and the areas in which you are involved.
Dos and don’ts
Delivering digital onboarding
- Make sure you have all the technology and tools you need for digital onboarding.
- Provide clear guidance and training to help new employees complete digital onboarding programs smoothly.
- Personalize your onboarding process to make sure it’s tailored to the individual needs of each new employee.
- Make sure that the onboarding process is interactive and motivating in order to keep new arrivals interested.
- Provide opportunities for feedback and customization to ensure the onboarding process is continually improved.
- Don’t overestimate the skills and experience of new employees.
- Don’t put pressure on new hires by giving them too many tasks or overloading them with information in a short space of time.
- Don’t neglect personal contact and social interaction between new employees and other team members.
- Don’t use obsolete or confusing technology that may compromise the user-friendliness and effectiveness of the onboarding process.
- Don’t view digital onboarding as a one-time event, but rather as an ongoing process to ensure that new employees flourish in the long term.
Digital onboarding best practice
New Collar Network
IBM has developed a digital onboarding platform called the New Collar Network, which enables new employees to plan their careers at IBM, take training courses, and gain certifications. The platform also includes a mentoring program that helps new hires connect with experienced IBM employees.
Deloitte has developed a digital onboarding platform that enables new employees to complete training and certification programs online as well as track their progress. The platform also includes a personalized onboarding checklist that helps new hires keep up to speed with their tasks and responsibilities.
Fressnapf created a standardized digital onboarding process to motivate employees, make them feel part of the Fressnapf family, and help them identify more strongly with the company. Providing new employees with specific and specialized knowledge enables them to advise customers confidently and take account of their needs. This strengthens customers’ trust in - and loyalty to - the company. It also heightens awareness of the Fressnapf and Maxi Zoo brand as an employer, because the employees communicate their sense of satisfaction and their identification with Fressnapf Tiernahrungs GmbH values to the outside world. In addition, the new process takes the pressure off store management and reduces the time required for onboarding.
The bottom line.
Digital onboarding is an effective and up-to-date way of integrating new employees into your company. It allows you to provide new employees with flexible and personalized training, in order to prepare them for their roles and responsibilities. Digital onboarding replaces expensive and time-consuming face-to-face training. It minimizes errors that may arise from misinformation or ineffective traditional training methods. In addition, digital onboarding is the method of choice in this new era of work, as new employees can be shown the ropes without needing to be present on site. In times of skills shortages, this presents a significant advantage and is a USP in comparison to other companies, ensuring you will be perceived as an attractive employer.