5 Digital Onboarding Best Practices For New Remote Employees

Published on 27/07/2020 by Anna Hammond

As the world continues to fight the coronavirus, Australia is advising businesses to allow staff to continue working from home where appropriate. To help businesses that are hiring while remote, we share five digital onboarding best practices to set new staff up for success. 

Digital onboarding best practices

What is digital onboarding?

Digital onboarding is the process of familiarising a new employee with a business (their new employer). It also refers to the welcoming of that person, ensuring they feel comfortable and able to establish positive working relationships with their colleagues.

Digital onboarding covers everything included in traditional onboarding. However, as the name suggests, the main difference is the former is executed online. Rather than holding an introductory meeting with their manager face-to-face, for example, the employee would meet them over video conferencing software instead.

Why is digital onboarding important?

Most of us have or know of someone who has a tale about being left to ‘sink or swim’ in a new job. Cases like this normally happen when the employer overestimates an employee’s ability to feel their way through a role without the relevant training. However, reality tends to be that the recruit is left feeling overwhelmed and unsupported. In a home office, where an employee won’t be surrounded by the buzz of an office, onboarding is even more important.

A report by Gartner says that successful onboarding can increase an employee’s discretionary effort by more than 20%. From a business perspective, digital onboarding boosts and accelerates a new employee’s ability to positively impact the company’s bottom line.

Read on to discover our five digital onboarding best practices. 

Interested in downloading an onboarding template, check out Capterra’s ultimate onboarding checklist.

Digital onboarding best practices for remote employees 

1. Complete paperwork ahead of their first day

Pre-boarding refers to the activity that takes place before a person officially joins the company. In this stage, it is a good idea to tackle administrative tasks such as signing contracts and completing payroll enrolling—all of which can be managed through online platforms. 

The advantage of handling paperwork online, and before the recruit’s start date, means their first day in work can be much more impactful and memorable. The day will revolve around them meeting colleagues and learning about the business, rather than reading through a pile of paperwork.

Handy tools for handling paperwork remotely:

  • Document management software allows HR managers to automate the process of collecting and storing digital paperwork. 
  • Digital signature software enables HR professionals to obtain signed paperwork from new employees electronically. Using the software, the employee can capture an image of their signature and attach it to the relevant documents.
  • Employee onboarding software works well for HR professionals looking for an end-to-end solution to handle elements such as contract generation, payroll setup, and paperwork automation.

2. Make day one memorable

Like the paperwork, managers should ensure the new employee has the relevant technology to create an at-home work station before their first day. This means having the physical technology available (such as a company laptop) as well as accounts to appropriate software. With those elements taken care of, new employees can jump straight into immersing themselves into the business. 

It’s important to consider ways a person may miss out on an in-person welcome. For example, meeting them at reception when they first arrive at the office is a nice touch. Being taken out for lunch is another first-day ritual people tend to look forward to because it gives them a chance to bond on a personal level with colleagues. 

These may be a little trickier to replicate digitally, but there are ways managers can make remote employees feel welcome:

Virtual meet-and-greets

Start their day with a one-on-one video call to greet them ‘face-to-face.’ Later in the day, and using the same software, managers can replace the in-person introductions with a virtual team-building activity. Using video can help to offer the new hire a warmer reception than a telephone or digital conversation. 

Handy tools for replicating remote meet-and-greets:

  • Video conferencing software is, as the name suggests, a technology that enables employees to host one-on-one or team meetings through video and audio display. 

Full-company introductions

Giving the hire a shout-out on an internal communication tool also helps create a sense of culture and togetherness. It gives colleagues who may not work directly with the new hire every day an opportunity to say hello and introduce themselves in an informal setting. To help kick off the conversations, try collecting some facts about the employee before they start so that you can share it in their welcome message.

Handy tools for virtual company introductions:

  • Survey software allows HR staff to share a pre-prepared fact-gathering questionnaire with new starters. Most platforms allow users to set up their survey so that the answers are automatically emailed to the relevant person.
  • Internal communication software enables colleagues to share information internally and have continuous interaction with each other. For this reason, it’s a suitable platform to post a welcome message to new members of the company.

The buddy system

A Capterra survey of 500 Australian millennials found that almost half (48%) of this age group appreciates people in the onboarding process over a completely automated version of it. A third (33%) of women would not like an AI involved in their onboarding at all, compared to 24% of men. 

A good solution for employers and new employees is to implement a buddy system—in other words, a colleague that the recruit can lean on for support and knowledge sharing.

Handy tools for buddy-systems:

3. Automate administrative tasks to reduce repetition

All new hires need the necessary team introductions and check-ins, as well as information on processes and tools. To make the most of the employees time, prepare and provide them with an agenda for their first day. This could extend to a full week, month, or probation period if necessary. 

For HR professionals, this aspect of onboarding can prove to be especially administration-heavy. Therefore, it’s worth managers considering tools that could reduce the time spent on this task so that their department can focus on tasks that require uniquely human skills. 

Handy tools for automating digital onboarding:

  • Project management tools can come in useful when it comes to creating a process as it allows users to lean on readily created templates—some even provide pre-made onboarding templates as part of their service. HR professionals can tailor the templates to suit their needs, attaching all of the relevant forms, instructions, and documents. 
  • Scheduling software gives staff access to a shared calendar, providing HR professionals with a real-time view of when the new employee’s team is available for onboarding meetings.

4. Set clear goals & objectives

After the new hire has had time to settle in, it’s important to introduce some expectations and goals to them. This step is a fundamental component in the process and helps provide them with a purpose in the business.

Goal setting should always come with a lot of clarity. For every objective, there should be a clear set of guidelines that explains how the employee can reach them. The objectives should be attainable and accessible. This may include participating in training modules or connecting them with a support network (such as internal experts).

Handy tools for setting goals & objectives:

  • HR software tends to include performance features that allow HR staff to create, assign, and track progress with set goals. Some platforms also automatically send reminders when performance review dates are coming up.

5.  Consider digital training methods

Ongoing training is essential in a person’s career. At the beginning of a new job, however, online training plays a pivotal role in the making or breaking of that person’s success within a company. 

Digital onboarding can sometimes be confused with orientation.  The latter handles the basics of a new hire’s role, office policies, and equipment usage. Online training, on the other hand, provides them with the software tools, resources, and knowledge that will allow them to be productive from the offset.

Hint! Thinking about holding an online staff training session? Check out our best practices for training remote employees.

Handy tools for training remote employees

  • Learning management software (LMS) helps to formalise online training in the onboarding process—such as the agenda, timeline, and training material. This makes onboarding a defined and scalable process.
  • Video conferencing software allows training facilitators to host live, interactive video presentations by sharing their screen with virtual attendees. The host could also, for example, walk through a tool as well have group discussions.

Defining your own digital onboarding best practices

Using automation technology to create a digital onboarding process helps to reduce repetitive task-handling. However, a one-size-fits-all program may not be the most impactful approach. Every new hire’s needs are different, which is often role and experience-dependent. 

What technology can do is centralise process flows and event triggers. By doing this, HR professionals can focus on creating a truly personalised experience for every hire.

Looking for employee onboarding software? Check out our catalogue.

This article may refer to products, programs or services that are not available in your country, or that may be restricted under the laws or regulations of your country. We suggest that you consult the software provider directly for information regarding product availability and compliance with local laws.

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