July 2019 | Point of View

The importance of digital employee onboarding and how to achieve it in a digital workplace

As digital transformation becomes a matter of business policy, enterprises need to carry their transformation conversation from the high level down to the frontline

Digital transformation has moved well past the hype phase and is now a business imperative. 

But for enterprises, it’s time to shift the transformation conversation from high-level to everyday application. And they need to identify specific functional areas where digital solutions can help augment and improve outdated processes. 

Employee onboarding is one of the areas where transformation strategies can play an immediate and impactful role on engagement and productivity. According to Gallup, only 12% of employees strongly agree that their organization does a great job onboarding new employees. Yet onboarding is the first step toward delivering an effective employee experience — and in the absence of it, many employees don’t stick around. Poorly designed onboarding processes are one of the reasons more than one quarter of new employees quit within 90 days.

The shortcomings of traditional onboarding 

Onboarding is perhaps the most overlooked element of a successful employee journey. For companies, clear, direct, and streamlined onboarding processes enable them to set employees up for success and optimal productivity. And on the employee end, a seamless onboarding process gives them the confidence they’ve made the right career choice and helps establish their engagement and loyalty for the long term. It also helps them become a valuable contributor, earlier. 

Paper-based processes are one of the key areas in which onboarding remains planted firmly in the past. Despite the rate at which enterprises have replaced paper with digital tools in almost every other area, stacks of forms and paper-based corporate manuals and approval processes remain an onboarding mainstay. 

Why? The challenges with this paper reliance are twofold: First, it removes colleagues and managers from the picture and makes the process feel impersonal. Second, employees likely won’t engage with the materials, since they’ll be too overwhelmed by the volume of paper dumped on their desk on day one. This lack of engagement at the outset sets a bad precedent for longer-term loyalty. 

Another issue we’ve noticed with onboarding processes is a lack of interactive and role-applicable tasks. Almost all employees begin a job eager to prove their value and excited to help their team. Why, then, do so many enterprises deny them that opportunity and instead put them through weeks of largely isolated learning, when people prefer to learn by doing and interacting with their teammates?

Designing a digitally driven onboarding process

Here are some of our recommendations for how enterprises can implement a digital employee onboarding process in the workplace that addresses some of the aforementioned issues:

  • Prioritize human-centered design: Too often, onboarding is a top-down directive planned and rolled out by corporate leaders without the input of employees. Instead, companies should begin their digital onboarding planning by talking to the people most qualified to speak to the state of onboarding at the business: Those who’ve recently experienced it and those who support it. By internally auditing your existing onboarding functions — through direct and candid engagement with employees — HR decision makers can quickly identify overly time-consuming and manual processes, areas that lack engagement, and key elements to improve.

    This outside-in approach that listens and learns from the voice of the employees, develops employee personas and explores employee onboarding journeys, is a key part of human-centered design — the proven concept that bottom-up, experience-driven solutions yield the best results. When a large non-profit medical association launched a digital transformation effort, for example, it began by creating an organization-wide survey to understand perceptions about and usefulness of the current workplace. The team then did detailed interviews and workshops with a diverse cross-section of employees to create four user personas which highlighted the motivations, behaviors, interactions, needs, and goals of typical employees engaging with the company intranet. Using human-centered design, rapid prototyping frameworks and lean-agile product development principles, the association and West Monroe designed the intranet-based digital workplace, meeting an array of user demands and positioning the association for success.

  • Find the right digital tools: Once HR and other enterprise leaders have engaged with their employees to identify areas for improvement, it’s time to overhaul the onboarding process with digital tools that engage and empower new employees. When it comes to finding the best solutions for your onboarding needs, it can be helpful to work with outside experts to envision, conceive and build a process that integrates the most tailored tools. When you hire new employees, you need to quickly bring them up to speed on the latest projects, provide access to current project documents and introduce them to key stakeholders and their team members.

    Through Microsoft Teams, new employees can immediately have access to past conversations and documents, or use chat, audio or video calling features to ask questions about the projects. The employee self-service bot within Microsoft Teams reduces the time employees spend searching for information to get their job done. Through this bot, new employees can access HR policies and processes like leave, benefits, and payroll via chat.

  • Accept onboarding as a continuous process: For business purposes, it’s tidiest to think of onboarding as a process that occurs over a set period of time and then ends. But that’s not a recipe for employee happiness or retention. Here at West Monroe, we see onboarding as a continuous process — and as a result, asking employees about their new hire experiences after their first week and then again after 90 days helps us learn things that matter to new hires. Organizations can leverage Office 365 Workplace analytics and MyAnalytics to help individuals and teams build better collaboration habits and strategies to improve engagement. Your training and new learnings never stop, whether you’re an entry-level employee or a member of the C-suite. Because employee training can be expensive and time-consuming when you’re hiring employees in multiple locations, there is a need for an easy way to make training engaging, and resources and documents accessible to everyone. You can train new employees with Microsoft Teams by scheduling a live event to host an interactive training session and answer questions in real time, and providing access to training resources like HR and IT onboarding forms, policy manuals and other training videos via digital means.

With clear onboarding processes, enterprises can set up their talent for long-term success and retention. If you don’t, you could end up causing employees to actively or passively seek out job opportunities — something 80% of workers are doing at any given time. For enterprises that want to curb this concerning trend, prioritizing a digitally driven onboarding process in the digital workplace is a critical solution.

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