How you onboard a new employee impacts your business’ success. Just consider a study conducted by the SHRM Foundation. Half of all hourly workers leave new jobs within the first 120 days. Meanwhile, 69% are likely to remain at a company for up to three years because of a well-structured process. One route to ensure a positive experience is to go digital.
Considering technological advancements in other industries and the increase in automating many processes, it only makes sense to extend this to Human Resources in the form of digital onboarding.
What is the purpose of digital onboarding?
Before we consider the purpose of digital onboarding, it’s worth unpacking it for what it is. Fortunately, it’s straightforward.
Digital onboarding is when you take a traditional onboarding process and make it available online. We’ll touch on the advantages of onboarding your new hires this way shortly. For now, it’s worth pointing out that if well-structured, it’s perfect for onboarding (and then managing) any of your employees that work remotely.
As for the purpose or reasons for onboarding new employees digitally, there are generally two.
The first is that it allows you to get your new hires up and running as quickly as possible. You can integrate them into the company and ensure they have all the tools they need to begin working and contributing.
With traditional onboarding, as an HR manager or assistant, you’d usually find yourself having to discuss company policies and procedures, getting new employees to sign documents and then also conduct training sessions. While all of these are important, it is not an efficient way to onboard your employees.
Secondly, you can use digital onboarding to influence any first impressions that your new employees might have of your company. It’s important to note that you don’t wait until the day someone joins your company to begin onboarding them. By implementing an onboarding process online, you have the opportunity to begin before this.
Whenever you choose to begin the onboarding process is up to you. However, it’s generally accepted that it begins the day someone signs their contact.
What are the benefits of digital onboarding?
The fact that you can digitally onboard someone before they begin working at your company makes you more efficient. But this is not the only benefit of implementing it in your business. Below are a handful of other reasons why digitally onboarding new employees makes sense.
1. It allows you to be more organised
A shortcoming of traditional onboarding is that it involves a lot of paperwork. In today’s business environment, it’s no longer a viable option for onboarding employees. You can just imagine all the documents and policies that you’d have to print out and ensure the right people sign them.
And then you need to file them and hope that nothing goes missing.
Instead, with a digital onboarding process, you can store everything in a central database. Your employees can sign any document online and then send it back to you where you can put it in the correct folders.
What’s more, if you have the right software in place to assist you, you could even pre-determine or select the documentation that you want your new employees to read through, sign and then upload on their first day of work. That includes policies and procedures, company annexures, certifications, CVs, ID documents and so on.
2. You can ensure consistency around onboarding
Besides being more organised, this process also allows you to be consistent.
Here, we’re referring specifically to the whole process of onboarding new employees. By taking everyone through the same process, you can build a consistent company culture. So, no matter if someone begins work today, next month or in a year. They’ll all experience the same training.
This also comes back to the first impression - it ensures you can control how your new hires perceive the company. If you can give everyone the same experience, you’ll be able to build a team that understands the culture and values of your business.
The only difference might be when you tweak any process that you already have to improve it.
From a policy and procedure point of view, by having everything in one place, you can, quite easily distribute any documentation to any new employees and not worry about sending them the wrong information.
3. It ensures employee and company compliance
The fact that you can hold all documents and policies in one central database means that you can ensure employee compliance.
Everyone will have access to anything they need. For example, if you unveil a new company policy and make it available online, all new hires (and employees) can access it and sign it before uploading it to their profile.
What’s more, if an employee queries a certain policy or annexures in the business, your HR department can refer them to their signed document along with all the captured details. This acts as proof of acknowledgement.
There is, of course, another benefit to this. If your company is required by law to implement a policy, you can do so quickly and efficiently.
4. It helps to reduce costs
Training up new employees costs your company time and resources. Then there are the traditional onboarding costs such as printing materials, paperwork and more that you could quite easily replace without losing any efficiency.
Yes, paper-based onboarding is popular. And for some companies that might remain so for a while. However, if you want to reduce your costs, setting up documents and policies that employees could sign online is necessary.
More than that, by moving everything online, you can ensure that your HR team works on other aspects of your business. These are the aspects that they might not otherwise have had time for because they’re busy conducting training or overseeing the signing of documents.
5. You can reach your remote workforce
If you have a workforce spread out across a city, province, country or even the world, digital onboarding is a must. In truth, traditional onboarding shouldn’t even be a viable option if you want to ensure new hires are introduced correctly.
Not only can you give everyone a consistent onboarding experience. You can also mould the process you use to anyone, regardless of where they are in the world. In doing so, you can ensure that no one is left out or feels like you don’t have their best interests at heart.
What digital onboarding best practices should you consider?
By now you should know about why it's worth implementing a digital onboarding process into your business. That’s regardless of the industry in which you work. But what about best practices.
Below are a few that you should consider. Please note, they are not in any particular order or sequence.
First, ensure that all your documents are uploaded and kept relevant. If there is a new policy or document, place it in an easily accessible folder. And then ensure that everyone who needs to sign it, has access to that folder. It's worth going back regularly to ensure that the document is up to date.
Second, make sure that you mark any information that an employee needs to provide before they can move on to the next step in their onboarding process. For example, when first starting, you might want your employees to upload their CV, ID document and Driver’s License if appropriate. If they don’t they can’t continue.
In this instance, it is not about stopping them from onboarding. Instead, it’s about following due process and ensuring that the steps are completed.
Third, when creating a user’s profile and capturing information, make sure that any information you input is as accurate as possible. This allows you to speed up the onboarding process that any employee needs to go through.
Four, and this one is important. Go through the onboarding process yourself before. This is important for two reasons. It’s so you can see what the process looks like and make notes or changes if anything doesn’t make sense. Also, if a new employee asks you a question about any aspect of the process, you’ll have an answer.
Five, pay attention to file size limits. If you don’t, you could face an issue when someone wants to upload a document only to find that it’s too large. As a result, the document won’t save. Then, each time the person logs in, the system will prompt them to upload the document again. This comes back to our second best practice mentioned above.
Six, keep all your documents and required information in easily accessible and manageable folders. For example, group your policies, annexures and so on. Doing so will help you to find any documents when asked. Again, it’s also important to keep these folders up to date.
DotActiv’s team management software, Activ8, has built-in functionality which helps you to digitally onboarding any new employees, saving you time and resources that you can use elsewhere. If your business needs software to help it track the progress of all work across your business, you can sign up to Activ8 for free for the first four months. Your first 20 users are free ongoing.