If the coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we can achieve more online than we thought: grocery shopping, remote work, team meetings, even socializing with friends. So, why do so many companies fail to utilize online onboarding for new hires?
In this guide, we cover why and how to implement online onboarding at your company to benefit your employees, your business, and your profits. Then, we round it out with a few tools you can use to expand your company’s remote operations.
7 Benefits of online onboarding
The employee onboarding process is the most fragile stage in the employment relationship. It’s also the most impactful; 20% of new hires leave within the first 45 days. A solid onboarding process not only reduces this statistic, but can also increase long-term productivity by over 70%.
It can be difficult to achieve, deliver, and maintain a robust process using manual methods. However, online training changes this.
Online programs use software and learning management tools to train new hires.
New online hires can begin onboarding as soon as they’ve accepted a job offer and the company has processed all the paperwork. This helps an employee hit the ground running with all the knowledge they need at their fingertips, instead of having them wait around for someone to answer their questions in the office.
Having your onboarding processes for different departments and roles compiled online also enables employees to learn and train in other roles, which is great for succession planning and cross-functional teamwork (covered further below).
2) Seamless cross-departmental projects
Remote training allows you to create high-performing, multi-functional project teams, regardless of where employees are located.
A unified online onboarding can help with cross-functional collaborations, because you can implement one basic onboarding process for all new hires before they branch off into their respective departments.
It provides the same baseline alignment and understanding of the company culture, values, and processes that when it’s time for let’s say marketing and engineering to collaborate, they aren’t speaking different languages.
Online onboarding can utilize interactive learning to make the process more fun and memorable. You can gamify it with checklists and rewards, which makes for a more interesting learning experience than listening to a manager recite the employee handbook.
Plus, remote work as a whole is a huge employee perk that many are willing to switch jobs to obtain. It cuts out stressful commutes and enhances work-life balance, which leads to lower stress and higher performance.
Once you implement online onboarding at your company, the hard work of laying a strong foundation is done. New employees can complete their training as soon as they join, without HR having to repeat procedures or take time out of managers’ schedules.
This also ensures everyone receives the same information and training, which is crucial for legal requirements and company regulations.
5) Clear records
Online onboarding gives companies better insight into which new team members have (or have not) completed their onboarding. Depending on the systems you use, you can see who has watched a video, read through a handbook, and more.
Records of who completed different onboarding or trainings (and when) is especially useful for scheduling refresher courses, or updates in case new policies have been rolled out since someone was onboarded.
6) Business continuity
As you already know, remote business practices enable your company to continue operations even when key employees can’t be in the office (or a pandemic prevents you from opening).
Online onboarding gives your remote hires the same experience and start as other employees, which helps ensure business as usual as long as your team members have working hardware and reliable Internet access.
Remote work is here to stay, and your business will be stronger and more resilient if you optimize for remote operations.
7) Wider talent pools
Moving your onboarding and training programs online means you can engage talent from different cities or countries, without asking candidates to relocate. This widens your options for sourcing top talent for your business.
Ultimately, online onboarding helps new hires, remote or not, integrate into your company smoothly and efficiently. In addition to lower overheads, expanded availability for customers (use a difference in timezones to your advantage!), and greater flexibility, remote work and onboarding equips your team to endure any unexpected surprises.
How to implement online onboarding
There are a few basic steps to implementing online onboarding at your company. Even if you already have a manual onboarding process you think might translate well online, I suggest going through these steps to avoid leaving your new employees with a patchwork onboarding, or missing information or resources.
1. Plan out the basics
First, it’s important to establish the primary goal of your onboarding process.
For example, do you want new hires to learn only the essential information about the company and their responsibilities? Or do you want to take this opportunity to upskill an employee for their particular role?
You could have one basic onboarding for the entire company (talking about payroll, equity, communication channels, etc), and then more in-depth and department-specific onboarding processes for each individual team (talking about how the editorial calendar works, where to log tickets, how to schedule a peer reviewer, etc).
2. Map your employee onboarding journey
Plan out what your employee onboarding journey should look like. It should be informative, logical, and as easy as possible for them to get through.
Typically, the journey consists of preboarding, training and mentoring, and check-ins.
The period before the first day is the perfect opportunity to engage the employee, get them excited about their new role, and complete initial tasks.
It’s as simple as sending new hires a link to the onboarding system, where you can include:
- A welcome message from their manager and team.
- Helpful information, such as what to wear, an office map, and the job description.
- Documents to complete, such as contracts, payroll details, and benefit forms.
B) First-day introduction
The employee’s first day should introduce them to the company and their new role.
Online onboarding can provide helpful information like:
- Details about the company’s history, values, and customers.
- An organizational chart that shows how the employee fits into the bigger picture.
- HR policies and operating procedures.
- Employee benefits, perks, and development opportunities.
Don’t forget to add in the fun stuff too, such as a link to the intranet, a calendar of social events, and an intro to who else is in the company.
Next, you’ll want new hires to complete the training necessary for optimal performance:
- Training required by law or company regulations, such as health and safety, equality and diversity, and data protection.
- Training on the systems they’ll be using, including bespoke software, the intranet, and the HR portal.
- Training on how to perform their role, such as customer service, public speaking, or communication guidelines.
Online onboarding allows you to deliver microlearning in a fun and interactive way, using learning modules, quizzes, step-by-step videos, and even test environments.
It’s helpful to assign new employees a mentor they can contact via email or webchat with any questions. Some companies find it beneficial to assign a mentor from a different department to help new hires make connections across the company.
E) Virtual check-ins
Your onboarding system should also feature periodic reviews with your new hire after their start date. You can use online forms to gather feedback on how they’re adapting to their role, any pain points they’ve experienced, and any concerns they have.
F) Ongoing engagement
The onboarding journey is the first of many opportunities to engage with employees throughout their tenure with your company. You can use the system to provide continuous access to important policies and procedures, run refresher trainings, and check in with employees on how they’re doing.
3. Pick a system
Employee onboarding and learning management tools are widely available. When deciding the best system for your company, it’s important to consider branding, customization, functionality, and accessibility.
- Branding — Can you alter the system to reflect your employer brand, including colors, logos, wording, and style? Branding builds familiarity and trust with new employees.
- Customization — Can you customize the onboarding system, processes, and text to reflect your onboarding journey and company culture?
- Functionality — Can the system satisfy your needs? For example, does it have virtual signatures, eLearning modules, forms, and quizzes?
- Accessibility — Can the system be accessed remotely, and are updates installed automatically?
A few tools I’ve seen used well as an onboarding database include Notion (for the more advanced guides), Confluence, and even well-organized Google Drive folders. If you want a more sophisticated system that tracks progress, you can also check out Rippling.
Once you adopt a system and implement your onboarding journey, it’s time to test the process. Tap into a group of volunteers (you’ll probably want to provide an incentive) to trial your onboarding process, and include existing employees, managers, and a few new hires. Take advantage of their feedback to make edits and adjustments before you go live to all incoming employees.
Congratulations, you’ve launched your online onboarding system! But it’s not over yet. Regularly seek feedback from new hires about their experience with the process and how you can improve it – the learning never stops when it comes to new employees.
10 Tools to create a great remote business for your online team
We’re rounding out this article with a few tools to help supercharge your business beyond simply onboarding. Months ago, remote work was considered a rare perk; today, it’s a necessity. But that doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from or thrive in it.
If you haven’t yet embraced remote business practices, or if your tools aren’t producing the results you need, we’ve curated a list of the top resources to help transition more of your business to remote now and in the future.
However, becoming remote requires more than issuing a laptop and work phone. You need the right tools to maintain and boost productivity, performance, and profits.
Employee communication tools
Maintaining communication with your remote workforce is important for morale, performance, and knowing what everyone is up to. Microsoft Teams and Google Meet are great both for professional video conferences and allowing employees to connect socially with one another.
Google Meet is a video conferencing tool that forms part of G Suite. The tool ensures secure video conferencing via a URL link accessible on any computer, mobile phone, or tablet. Each meeting also issues a dial-in number for anyone who wants to connect by phone, and the instant messaging functionality lets users send private or group messages.
Microsoft Teams is a video conferencing tool that forms part of the Office 365 suite. Users can run secure video conferencing, as well as access instant messaging, group chats, and file storage.
Team collaboration tools
Too many video conference meetings and emails can be a detriment to remote work – they just sap away productivity, so be sure to reduce their frequency. That being said, you still need a way for your teams to collaborate.
Slack is a collaboration tool that keeps remote teams on task and aligned without flooding their inboxes. Managers can create separate channels for different teams, projects, or clients. Messages, documents, and real-time conversations are then contained within these channels, so employees can share ideas, upload documents, and search for relevant information effortlessly.
Google Drive provides hassle-free collaboration on documents, spreadsheets, slides, and other files in real-time. Features include secure cloud storage, task assignment, access controls, advanced search, and compatibility with Trello and Asana.
Project management tools
Project management is often described as a visual process, but that doesn’t mean you need to physically see your group to run successful projects.
Trello is a simple project management tool that achieves big results. Managers can create boards, lists, and cards to map projects visually, assign tasks, and upload relevant documents. Trello also has built-in workflow automation that lets you create rule-based triggers and commands to increase efficiency and remove tedious tasks from your team’s to-do list.
Asana describes itself as a work management platform for planning, structuring, and visualizing all project work. Project leaders can create projects, assign tasks, organize priorities, and set deadlines so everyone is on the same page. In 2020, Asana released an automation feature that creates workflow rules, builds custom templates, and automatically updates full project schedules when a single date changes.
Productivity is a huge concern for businesses looking to increase remote operations. However, there are tools for tracking and even enhancing work output.
Time Doctor is a time tracking tool that monitors productivity among teams. It shows a breakdown of how much time employees spend on specific tasks, projects, and clients, as well as the time lost through non-essential tasks like meetings and telephone calls. On-screen alerts can be set to prevent employees from procrastinating and to prompt managers to conduct a welfare check when someone doesn’t log on when they should.
Todoist is a powerful task management tool that can be used by individuals, teams, or entire companies to enhance productivity. Employees can make simple to-do lists or apply more advanced task management features such as recurring dates, task priorities, labels, and tracking.
It’s not just your employees and projects that require special attention for remote working; your customers need support too, especially if you remove in-person touchpoints.
Zendesk is a customer support platform that empowers remote customer support. It comes with an array of features, including ticketing forms, phone, chat, email, and social media support that teams can access remotely.
HubSpot is a CRM system that ensures an adequate level of contact, support, and care for your customers, even when working away from the office. Managers can alter HubSpot to reflect their team structure, guaranteeing every user has remote access to the right content, tasks, and reminders.
That’s a long list of tools to consider, and you don’t want to overwhelm your teams with so many options that your efforts become counterproductive.
If you’re using more than two of these tools, consider an integration platform such as Zapier to incorporate your platforms, automate tasks, and yield greater results from remote work.
Wrapping up — Use online onboarding to unify, equip, and upskill your teams
You spend significant time and money attracting talent to your company – don’t allow your onboarding process to let you down at the final hurdle. Online onboarding can transform the process from a necessity into an exciting introduction to your company.