February 2, 2022

Digital onboarding: How initial training also works remotely!

While classic onboarding measures are based on face-to-face communication, this proven process is currently being shaken to its foundations: contact restrictions, home office requirements and the desire for more remote work among employees mean that the "onboarding" of new employees is becoming increasingly digitalised.

In this article, you will learn how to quickly, effectively and comprehensively onboard new employees remotely, which tools help you and why digital onboarding ultimately saves time.

Traditional onboarding vs. digital onboarding

The goal of onboarding - whether classic or digital - is to introduce new employees to the company, to familiarise them with their field of activity and to integrate them into the team. A well thought-out and structured process helps you to save time and not to forget any important points - especially if several employees have to be trained at the same time.

The classic onboarding process 'on site' is divided into three phases (pre-boarding, start-up phase, familiarisation phase). During this time, new colleagues get to know the team, the boss, the managing director, the location as well as the corporate culture, employee roles and rules. They are also welcomed to their workplace, trained by a mentor and have their first meetings, feedback sessions, training or education.

Digital onboarding takes place online and without any offline measures at all. The three phases of onboarding (pre-boarding, start-up phase and integration) and their goals remain the same. Of course, what is completely omitted in digital onboarding is the direct personal contact in the company. This is not an insignificant factor for the integration of new employees. In the course of this article, we will therefore explore the question of how HR managers and supervisors can replace the lack of personal contact online.

Change in the world of work: digital onboarding is growing

Onboarding goes digital. Even after the removal of contact restrictions and home office regulations due to the Corona pandemic, more and more employees will be onboarded in the home office in the future.

You will see that virtual onboarding (or at least a mix of on and offline) is the way forward - even after Corona. Whether it's a pandemic, the desire for more flexible working hours or a shortage of skilled workers and the training of staff around the world - there will certainly be no going back to old patterns. Experts predict that the change in the world of work will be even more profound. They expect an increasingly global labour market without migration.

This makes it all the more important for companies to also implement the digital transformation in HR processes in order to recruit and retain suitable staff. According to the Haufe Onboarding Study, only 6% of the companies surveyed used digital tools in the onboarding process in 2018. In 2020, this figure had already risen to 23%. This means that usage has almost quadrupled in just 2 years. Companies have recognised that structured digital onboarding saves a lot of time and money through regulated and clear processes.

What makes digital onboarding different?

First impressions count, whether in person or virtually. But introducing employees digitally into a company requires a change in thinking. You should consider which points of the classic onboarding process you can standardise in advance in order to integrate new staff quickly and efficiently into the daily work routine and the team.

Of course, you can send links and try to retrain staff each time in long video calls. But in the long run, this is not only time-consuming (you would have to do this for every new employee!), it is simply not feasible when onboarding several employees.

The solution: standardised processes for digital onboarding in combination with online meetings, team events, digital "coffee chats" and online training.

Opportunities in digital onboarding in the home office

We have shown you that the digital transformation in companies is not only taking place in recruitment, but increasingly in onboarding. If you are only thinking about the new documents, processes, tools and media and are panicking, then take a deep breath, because digital onboarding in the home office also means a lot of potential for you and your company.

  • Time saving: Even though setting up an online onboarding process is work in the beginning, standardised formats will save you time in the end. Once the online videos are recorded, the guides and processes documented, you can retrieve them again and again and send them easily.
  • Accessible anytime, anywhere: Via digital onboarding tools and apps, information and knowledge on professional induction can be accessed anytime and anywhere. If colleagues want to look at something again, this is no problem digitally.
  • Lower costs: Time savings mean lower costs, because if many processes are digitalised and standardised, employees can concentrate on other tasks. In addition, if more employees work from home in the future, costs for office space and electricity expenses will be reduced in the long run.
  • New, creative solutions: Change brings new opportunities. You can try out new digital and creative solutions. Introduce the boss in a relaxed and casual video, use team event opportunities such as online speed dating to introduce teams or a joint virtual escape room experience.

Digital onboarding challenges in the home office

When new employees join your company, a lot of information and unwritten laws of collaboration and work culture are exchanged during desk-to-desk conversations, lunch breaks or coffee chats. This part is unfortunately omitted when employees work from the home office.

  1. Social component: A major challenge in digital onboarding is social interaction. In the Future Talents Report 2021, interviewed interns stated that the social component in digital onboarding came up short. Therefore, remote onboarding should be built on these two important pillars: 1. technical onboarding, 2. social onboarding.
  2. Longer onboarding phase: Also plan more time for the digital onboarding of new employees. Instead of only accompanying them up to the probationary period in phase 3, remote structures can take longer. Otherwise, there is a risk that new colleagues will feel overwhelmed by the amount of information. The most important information should therefore be given in good doses over a longer period of time. If possible, plan for an onboarding process of up to 12 months in order to make it more manageable.
  3. Communication: In the traditional onboarding process, a lot of knowledge is clarified within a team by "looking over the shoulder" and a quick question over the edge of the screen. Digitally, the communication effort is much higher, as a message has to be written or an appointment made for every small question. Therefore, make sure that communication tools are simple and fast in order to create short distances. Everyone should have the possibility to ask contact persons about different topics within the company. The tool "Slack" is a suitable example of this.
  4. Central online "knowledge repository": A lack of exchange, difficult familiarisation, lack of networking opportunities and non-transparent processes and structures can deter "newcomers". Therefore, it is best to provide a central means of communication and a central "knowledge store" where all videos and documents for the onboarding are stored and can be accessed by everyone - always and everywhere.

Which digital onboarding tools help?

For digital onboarding you need digital tools. Tools help you to standardise digital onboarding measures and to make the learning phase and communication efficient and simple, despite the home office. Here we give you tips on online onboarding tools:

  1. Onboarding portals: There are large HR management software platforms, such as Oracle Taleo or SAP Successfactors, which also offer onboarding modules. A cost-effective employee onboarding tool tailored to small and medium-sized businesses is Memberspot. With Memberspot, you can create your own branded employee area and use it as your company's own online academy.
  2. Onboarding apps: An app makes the onboarding process even more flexible, as it can be accessed at any time and from any location. Memberspot is best managed as an app on the go.
  3. Social networking tools: Whether the first exchange is via networks such as Xing or LinkedIn - the use of social media in the onboarding process allows new employees to network easily and benefit from the exchange of knowledge.
  4. E-learning tool: Training and education is an important part of the onboarding process. Either put the training videos on your own space at Memberspot as well or work with another e-learning platform.
  5. Communication tools: As mentioned earlier, quick and easy communication is the name of the game when it comes to home office onboarding! Whether you rely on Slack, Skype for Business or meeting tools like Google Hangout, Zoom or Microsoft Teams is up to you, but communication should also work smoothly online.

Successful despite distance: ideas for virtual induction

1. Digital pre-boarding: before the first day of work

The right onboarding is ideally already supported by good pre-boarding, which takes place directly after signing the contract. You have the following options to establish a successful digital welcome culture:

  1. Introduce the company and location online: Show new employees around the office in a video or during a live call. If you want to do something special, you can also make an impression with an augmented reality tour.
  2. Get to know colleagues online: organise an appointment for a virtual coffee break or a joint lunch, where everyone in the team can have a meal delivered to their home.
  3. Send welcome packages home in advance: With branded gadgets or a bouquet of flowers, joy is sure to come from the home office.
  4. Upload facilities: Provide digital upload facilities for necessary documents
  5. Create initial videos: Videos on company introductions, data protection training, etc.
  6. Hardware and software: Equip new colleagues with the necessary hardware and software before their first day of work.

2. Start-up phase: accompany the first working week digitally

Give your new employees a first onboarding week in the home office that they won't forget.

  1. Procedure: Send new employees a "schedule" of the first week with meetings, digital "coffee", work tasks and feedback sessions. This way they know exactly what to expect and when.
  2. Familiarise yourself with communication channels: Whether video call, telephone or chat programme, show and guide "newbies" through the company's internal digital world.
  3. Video call with superiors: Even digitally, it's important for the boss to introduce himself personally.
  4. Welcome training: Invite new employees to a joint welcome training to convey company values and structures. Newcomers can get to know each other.
  5. Newbies groups: Offer chat groups for new employees where questions can be asked.
  6. Mentor: Provide a contact person or mentor to whom new colleagues can always turn.
  7. Prepare first interesting task: You can create a small checklist of first tasks or get them directly involved in a new interesting project.
  8. Organise digital breakout sessions: Whether it's coffee, lunch or an after-work session - getting to know each other in person strengthens the bond within the team.
  9. Feedback meeting: After the first week, you should schedule a first feedback meeting to directly clear up questions and misunderstandings. Also ask questions about whether the digital onboarding process has been successful or whether there is a need for optimisation.

3. Integration phase: 6 - 12 months after the start of work.

  1. Necessary training and education: Newcomers should know when mandatory training takes place or can be accessed online and which information sessions are voluntary.
  2. Regular feedback meetings: schedule a virtual feedback meeting at least 1 time per month to discuss further steps and take positive as well as negative criticism.
  3. Digital team events: In the first 6 to 12 months, at least one major team event should take place, which you can also organise in a digitally creative way.


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