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22 tips on how to create an effective online onboarding program

The employee experience is the total set of perceptions that employees have about their work and is influenced by the thoughts and feelings invoked by the employer, the team and the job, as well as by the interaction between the employee and the employer. Onboarding is an important part of this total employee experience for new hires as it determines the emotional attachment an employee feels to the organization.

If the organization fails to meet an employee’s expectations, they are more likely to become demotivated or look for another job. Good employee experience not only reduces employee turnover but also creates a culture that matches the organization and helps to create a positive reputation for you as an employer.

Although online onboarding programs must be tailored to an organization’s needs and culture, the most successful programs include the following stages:

Pre-hire - Attract

The pre-hiring phase starts from the moment a potential candidate discovers your company to the moment the contract is signed.

A good candidate experience is an important prerequisite for the employer brand and employer impact. If this is missing, there’s no point in topping the ‘best employer’ charts. Employees are doing their own online research, checking rating sites like Glassdoor, and choosing companies that are committed to impact. Therefore, give candidates a glimpse into your company:

  • Tell your own organizational story and have your culture speak for itself.
  • Share the experiences of your employees.
  • Share your vision and explain the impact of your employees, their role in the bigger picture, and their development process.
  • Develop a clear and honest corporate page and vacancy page.
  • Share relevant content and offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse at your company on social media.
  • Explore the channels visited by your target group and post actively.

Preboarding - Adopt

The preboarding phase starts the moment the employee signs the contract and lasts until the first day of work. Don’t wait until the first workday.

The time of paperwork and lengthy intakes is long gone. You should treat new hires – and candidates who quit the application process or didn’t make the cut – like you’d want to be treated. A lot of new employees quit before they’ve even settled into their new jobs. Good preboarding will motivate your employees and will help prevent this.

  • Start with onboarding the new hire for the first day of work. Failing to contact a new employee or only contacting them for practical issues is not exactly a good experience.
  • Involve your new employee in team plans and the company’s vision of the future at an early stage. Make it interactive!
  • Invite the new employee to a team meeting or team dinner before their first workday.
  • Give the employee as much relevant information as possible to help them become familiar with colleagues, the workplace, and the work method.
  • Give new employees the opportunity to provide feedback and give them a small thank-you gift that will come in handy during their first work week.

Onboarding - Accelerate

The onboarding phase starts on the first day of work and lasts until the new employee is comfortable in their new role. Remember: the onboarding process never really ends. It’s important to keep the employee on board, even after the first few months.

This involves corporate onboarding and functional onboarding. Advancement to a similar position within the same company is no longer a given. Roles and soft skills are becoming increasingly important. You can expect the corporate and functional onboarding process to take at least three months, although this depends on the available training courses as well. Ongoing onboarding involves the following:

  • Give the new employee a warm welcome and plan a few coffee dates with colleagues.
  • Go beyond the primary and secondary employment conditions to welcome the new hire. Introduce them to other colleagues on the company monitor and prepare a welcome package.
  • Link the new employee to a buddy who can answer questions and offer support if needed.
  • Share and celebrate each other’s successes.
  • Maintain open channels of communication! While performance and appraisal interviews are certainly important, biweekly heads-up meetings and employee engagement surveys are even more important
  • Make sure your content stays up to date.
  • Prepare for a solid end of the probation interview

Tip: An onboarding buddy makes the transition into a new job much easier for your new hire. Our friends at Appical made a free Onboarding buddy toolbox with everything you need to easily set up an onboarding buddy system.

Offboarding - Ambassador

The offboarding phase starts the moment the employee announces their resignation and lasts until the final work day. The old adage ‘out of sight, out of mind’ does not apply here. Try to maintain a relationship with your ambassadors after they leave. Exit management has changed in recent years. People want to keep growing, work on a variety of projects, see a variety of clients, and do what makes them happy. Stay in touch, even after the employee leaves the company:

  • Set up an alumni group and stay in touch by sharing job vacancies and invitations to company events.
  • Make the exit interview more interactive and give the employee more time to share feedback when they leave the organization.
  • Acknowledge achievements, even upon termination of employment, and thank the employee for their efforts (whether they were with the company for two years or ten). Former employees don’t want to feel abandoned.
  • Save the information you collect during exit interviews, so you can make real changes if needed.

Instead of making your employees read a 687-page ‘employee manual’, give them an unforgettable digital learning pre-hire, preboarding, onboarding & offboarding experience. Let them play games, view videos, and answer questions in an interactive way by using the Appical platform. With Appical you get a streamlined process everywhere & anytime and can easily keep track of your employees’ progress and task completion. You can request a FREE demo from our friends at Appical here.

How Unit4 can help

Make a bigger impact with people-centric solutions purpose-built to help organizations like yours nail pre-hire, preboarding, onboarding, and so much more with industry-leading Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Human Capital Management (HCM), and Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A) solutions. You can find out more about how these solutions can help you here.


What is the best way to introduce a new team member virtually?

If you follow the steps of pre-hire, preboarding, and onboarding in the right way, you can’t go wrong. When people are fully remote, and onboarding is done virtually, a welcome handshake and office walk around to introduce them to colleagues becomes a welcome message or video call and further online meetings and emails introducing them to their new team. You must follow all the same steps but work out the best way to do each step virtually. Technology is your friend here. Use all the tools available to you to make introducing a new team member as welcoming as it would be in person. 

How can you make remote onboarding fun?

There are lots of ways to make the online onboarding process fun. Think about organizing some games for the whole team to play, using training videos instead of manuals to read, hosting online coffee meet-ups, setting up virtual one-to-one meetings, or sending out care packages. It doesn’t have to be a struggle. Some of these virtual onboarding ideas will allow your new people to feel welcome and included in their new work team almost immediately.

What should employees expect from virtual onboarding?

People will expect a clear path to allow them to settle in well. They will expect to be given a clear understanding of their role, tasks, and the systems they will use in their work. They will also expect clarity around company values, team objectives, and individual goals. You should establish time frames for training, reviews, and milestones. A successful online onboarding experience will eliminate any ambiguities and confusion that sometimes come with virtual work, allowing new team members to settle into their roles quickly and begin to build the relationships and trust they need to deliver results.

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