Technology’s Growing Role in Onboarding

By Raj Sheth

Developing an effective onboarding process is tricky. It’s a delicate balance of company culture and adequate training, with the goal being not only to engage new hires but also increase the likelihood of knowledge retention.

The pressure to do this right can be formidable for both the employer and the new hire. How can an organization train a newly acquired employee while developing an effective onboarding process?

The answer in today’s business environment: technology.

Advancements in technology can make a difference in the onboarding process. Although they will never replace interpersonal communication, technologies like virtual interviews, social media, self-service portals and learning management systems augment it. The onboarding process doesn’t thrive solely on the textbook teachings of corporate classrooms; it’s a structured mechanism fueled by the fluidity of modern workplace technology.

Hit Record

Fifteen years ago, the Internet was primarily driven by dial-up and progressive leaders. Now it permeates nearly every aspect of business. Take the applicant tracking system — the electronic filing system has grown into a highly adaptive and responsive automated system to make the hiring process easier for employers.

Technologies like video interviews, social recruiting and sourcing engines evolved as well. The interconnectedness of the Web touches all aspects of the hiring and onboarding process, both inside the human resources department and in the job-seeking world.

Before offering a candidate the position, companies review applications and interview the talent that has the work history and experience to successfully do the job.

Interviewing today has a very different scope than it did even a decade ago. Candidates live farther away, equating to higher travel costs, so fully integrated video interviewing can be a valuable alternative to high travel costs. Video integration also doesn’t have to stop at the interview process. To be consistent, organizations can use video in their onboarding process as well.

It’s not the task of one single department to complete an onboarding cycle. It takes the entirety of an organization to make the process smooth and as in-depth as possible. Video makes it easy for company leadership to connect with new hires. By creating a “welcome video,” the CEO or other senior leadership can communicate with the new members of their team with ease.

“Make sure the CEO makes an appearance early on to share their vision, passion and goals for the company,” said Robin Schooling, managing director and HR strategist at talent strategy firm Silver Zebras. “If the CEO can’t appear in person, consider using technology to connect new hires with the CEO via Skype or even a pre-recorded video message.”

Additionally, Schooling said telling the company story is vital to the onboarding process. With video, training professionals can engage and connect new hires to the company mission and adopt organizational goals as their own before day one on the job. Put the organizational leader in front of new hires to increase their cultural connection with the company.

Let’s Get Social

As many personalities enter the workforce, there’s a growing need to develop a program that combines their desire for collaboration with the training they need. If onboarding is the process of helping new hires adjust to social and performance aspects of their new jobs quickly and smoothly, then why not leverage today’s available technology?

As the behemoth of today’s professional networking, social media is an ideal tool for learning in a collaborative work environment. Integrate social learning into the increasingly digital and tech-centered onboarding process with monitored discussion boards, gamification and internal social networks as they hold the key to engaging the tech-savvy and emerging workforce.

Some companies, “like Bank of America, have scrapped traditional orientation and revamped new hire training by creating a robust self-guided learning environment where critical information is readily available and easy to find,” said Kyle Lagunas, talent acquisition analyst at Brandon Hall Group. “Others, like Yammer, are leveraging social technology to give new employees a platform for building meaningful connections within the organization.”

At Your Own Pace

Self-service portals keep all of the training and onboarding files in one, easy-to-find location online. Because they are on the company intranet, it makes it simple for employees to learn at their own pace. It also makes it easier for managers to track onboarding performance and scores with training.

Self-service portals enable new and notable employees to easily go back into their training files and refresh their skills or knowledge. These portals contain all of the onboarding documents and training material they need.

Socializing New Hires

Social learning tools are on the rise as the workforce becomes more collaborative.  But employers are still reluctant to engage in mobile platforms in the onboarding process.

Of the 59 percent of organizations that use social learning strategies, only 24 percent say they are effective, according to the State of Learning and Development 2014 survey from Brandon Hall Group.

This is primarily because of the controlled access to platforms that enable social opportunities, limiting employers to file sharing and discussion forums. Yet, research suggests that microblogs or the use of video are more effective in training new hires.

Social learning better enables employers to align their newly hired employees with company goals and the overall organizational mission. Immersing the new hires in the culture and in the work deepens their relationship with the brand, making employees more apt to retain the information they learn during onboarding.

—Raj Sheth

Gamification is an onboarding process component that has the potential to allow new hires to take their education as an employee into their own hands. It gives managers the ability to track and analyze their progress based on scores.

Moreover, it decreases employment costs for companies as it improves turnover. As 2013 research by Aberdeen Group Inc. shows, organizations that implement gamification into their onboarding programs have a 48 percent increase in engagement.

Also, these portals and gamification make the learning management system easier to use. Integrating these portals into the LMS could be the difference in reaching educational goals or letting employee training fall by the wayside. In any event, the Aberdeen study suggests learning is becoming increasingly important to the growth of organizations.

Organizations that develop technological onboarding programs catering to new hire needs for collaboration and innovation are likely to have not only successful onboarding programs but also a reduction in turnover. However, this isn’t to give authority to the new hires, but rather to engage them in such a way that they not only understand but also relate with as well.

As video has taken hold of the interview process, companies can use it in combination with their tech-centered onboarding process as well. The process is easier for workers to learn and retain the information.

Perhaps most importantly, visual teaching and communication breaches the generational divide most companies experience with the intake of a new workforce.

Not including file sharing, Internet video traffic will reach 80 to 90 percent of global consumer Internet traffic by 2018, according to 2014 data from business technology provider Cisco Systems Inc. Therefore, the video interfacing during onboarding is likely to increase engagement and will increase long-term knowledge retention after training is over.

Growing the team is crucial to the growth of the organization, both financially and in innovation. With training systems and onboarding programs that cater to the desire for innovative programs, company leadership is likely to increase engagement levels.

Integrating the onboarding process improves learning efficiency and effectiveness because employees are able to learn in a medium they are comfortable with and at their own pace. Leveraging learning technology throughout the employee life cycle inherently releases time that would otherwise be spent in a corporate classroom or nose deep in a binder.

This gives new hires the opportunities to engage in the culture while cultivating professional relationships with colleagues who can help mentor and provide feedback.

Company leadership, despite busy schedules and meetings, have the ability to make a positive initial impression through the development of video in the onboarding process. Many organizations have adopted social media to involve the new hires in the company culture through the intranet. That’s not to mention the ability for collaborative learning process through discussion boards.

This collaborative learning opportunity allows new hires to not only learn to work together but also take their onboarding into their own hands through self-service portals.

Successful companies view onboarding as a vital process to the success of the new hire in both individual and company terms. They have the best onboarding programs because they are 35 percent more likely to begin the onboarding process before a new hire’s first day compared with all other companies combined, according to 2015 Aberdeen Group research.

Additionally, they are 1.6 times more like to use a self-service portal for new hires to access company onboarding files, 14 percent more likely to provide these files before day one, and 2.5 times more likely to track new-hire progress throughout the onboarding process.

While it’s no easy feat creating an engaging onboarding program, company leadership has the ability to remain competitive. Creativity in conjunction with technology makes the organization’s culture and goals clear and engaging for new employees.

The growth of technology has made HR professionals find a state of equilibrium in the onboarding process. New employees want innovation, and by integrating technology into their first few days, they are able to maintain that wealth of information.

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