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4 tips for digitally onboarding new employees

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The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has forced many businesses to adapt, including the way they operate and transition to working from home. However this presents a new challenge if you still need to onboard new staff during these times.

Onboarding has gained attention recently because done effectively, it can help a new employee to start contributing sooner, feel more integrated, boost their confidence in their ability to do their work and enjoy greater job satisfaction.1

Effective onboarding recognises and addresses the anxieties often felt by new hires. So how can you achieve this when everyone is working from home? Here are four digital onboarding tips to help provide a great experience regardless of where staff are located.

1. Plan beyond orientation

Making new team members feel supported digitally begins with having a clear plan that goes beyond orientation activities.

While many businesses already use technology when onboarding, these tend to involve getting IT equipment ready and having internal network, software and email addresses set up. Companies with deeper digital integration might also make forms, company policies and training materials available online.

Although these are vital parts of orientation — particularly for new hires starting work from home — digital onboarding should ideally involve a longer process to integrate new hires into their role, immerse them in organisational culture and foster a sense of belonging. This means including things like development plans, check-in points, feedback opportunities and mentoring.

Clarity is also important. New hires will feel less anxious if they understand from early on what their responsibilities are, who they’ll report to and work with, what training is available, and how they their performance will be evaluated.2

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2. Use the right mix of technology

Having identified what you need to achieve through digital onboarding, you’ll need to deliver it through the right mix of easy-to-use technology.

There are many internal communication tools available. For example, video conferencing software can assist with meeting other colleagues and relationship building, while an internal messaging platform allows quick communication. A regularly updated intranet provides easy access to organisational news, and can be linked to electronic checklists for new hires to keep track of onboarding activities.

In terms of training, you could consider a mix of digital tools like webinars, videos, video conferencing and even podcasts. Survey software can be used to collect feedback to identify problems early.

Whatever technology solutions you choose, you’ll need to ensure they’re integrated into your onboarding process and are documented properly.

3. Get more from virtual meetings

Apart from adopting software that allows meetings to be scheduled quickly and easily, it’s important virtual meetings take place between the right people and achieve the right objectives.

Active involvement from a direct manager is crucial to the onboarding experience,3 and virtual meetings allow valuable one-on-one time for new hires to ask questions and receive feedback.

Video conferencing with team members and colleagues from other business areas help new hires understand how things work within the organisation. Virtual “coffee catch-ups” with HR or a direct manager offer less formal check-ins.

4. Build a social community

A final digital onboarding tip is to harness technology to engage new employees socially. While developing relationships and a sense of shared community can be challenging when everyone is working remotely, digital tools and social networks can help.

For example, a buddy or mentor program can be implemented virtually, while channels on internal messaging platforms can be created to bring people with common interest together.

Watch our virtual event: ‘Leading through the COVID-19 crisis’

On 26 May, we held our first Sage Advice Live virtual event. Watch our video to hear from our panel on how their businesses have navigated the challenges of COVID-19, what the future business landscape will look like, and tips on how you can survive and thrive.

You'll hear from:

  • Cindy Nicholson, CEO, Braintree
  • Mark Chapman, Tax Communications Director, H&R Block
  • Danielle Wood, Program Director, Grattan Institute
  • Kerry Agiasotis, MD & EVP APAC, Sage
  • Mark Jones, Chief Storyteller & CEO, Filtered Media (Host)
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15 Steps for an effective onboarding process“, Human Resources Director, September 2019

2Best practices for new employee onboarding“, Human Resources Director, December 2018

3 “Inside the minds of today’s candidates“, LinkedIn Talent Solutions Report, April 2017