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Innovation – How onboarding apps improve the new employee experience

You’ve secured a talented employee and it’s high fives all around the office, or your co-working space or wherever your business “lives”. But don’t get ahead of yourselves just yet.

The next pivotal stage requires your new starter to have an exceptional onboarding experience. That experience needs to align with your company brand and values. What’s more, your approach must match the “story” you told the candidate during the interview process.

Without (or with bad) employee onboarding, companies lose 25% of all new employees with a year (Source: Allied Workforce Mobility Survey) – HR Tech Weekly

Onboarding 101

The onboarding process is not a new concept. However, a couple of things have changed. The first is that new technology has been developed to help your company to onboard new employees more professionally and consistently.

The second change is that, new employees now expect an exceptional onboarding experience. This will optimise their engagement, performance and retention. Whilst technology can assist you with some of the more laborious aspects of the onboarding process, you cannot automate everything – human interaction MUST be present, to optimise your new employee experience.

69% of employees are more likely to stay with the company for three years if they experienced great onboarding – SHRM article

HR onboarding 

Onboarding is a key activity that sits within the HR function. The onboarding process plays an important role in introducing your new employees to the attitudes, knowledge, skills, behaviors, tools and resources of your company.

It is highly likely that you will experience efficiencies in the process by automating the delivery of some content via an app, a web based solution or via mobile devices with your new starters.

Reference onboarding on your Careers page

Outlining your onboarding approach (in broad terms) on your Careers page, shows candidates you are focused on more than just getting them to the start line. It demonstrates your commitment to a consistent and highly professional approach to guiding them through a process that is going to optimise their job satisfaction and performance.

In addition, you might consider having a page on your intranet for new starters. It might direct them to various pages to find specific information, remind them of content covered in their initial onboarding and allow them to use make contact with any initial queries they may have.

The importance of an onboarding checklist

It is a good idea to develop a checklist of steps in your onboarding process. This ensures every onboarding experience will be consistent and if designed and executed well, will create an exceptional new employee experience.

If you are a start up or a small company and don’t have a lot of cash to spare, this onboarding checklist could simply be on a centrally stored spreadsheet, shared with those who are involved in the onboarding process. Alternatively tools like Trello can be effective, allowing team members to share the accountability for a smooth onboarding experience every time.

Do the onboarding basics…and more

More and more companies are leveraging technology to enhance their onboarding process. They are automating some elements of the onboarding process. This makes sense. Efficiencies gained in delivering some of the more laborious elements via technology, means you can spend more time with new employees on high impact elements in person.

To get an edge on your competitors, you should cover all of the basics (of course) BUT also do a little bit more, to exceed your new employee’s expectations.

Key onboarding content

Your onboarding process should include:

  • Reference to who each new starter will meet
  • A comprehensive overview of OH&S and office logistics
  • Company discovery sessions including listing key heads of department
  • An explanation of your referral program
  • Reference to your Learning and Development approach (including a discussion about gaps, aspirations, whats next from the interview process)
  • A discussion of key company events and forums

Onboarding apps versus web based onboarding solutions

There is a difference between onboarding apps and web based onboarding solutions. App based software needs to be downloaded and installed onto a user device. Mobile first web-based software is stored on a server. It’s user interface is accessed through a web browser.

Both options have merit but also some pitfalls.

Employee onboarding app pitfalls:

  • Can be a little bit of a pain to build, maintain, customise and adjust
  • Need to be installed by new employees on their phones and some products can have notifications that are a little hit and miss
  • Some users may struggle to download an app depending on the type of smart phone they use (Apple, Android etc)

Web based onboarding solutions:

  • Don’t require any downloading
  • Cheaper, quicker and easier to update
  • Allow for new employees and company leaders to choose their preferred channel of engagement (ie SMS, email, Slack etc)

Best onboarding practices

The success of your onboarding program really lies in the experience it creates for new employees. Whilst you may have used the latest technology to create a world class onboarding process, if your new employees don’t like it, all the work is for nought.

32% of global executives rate the onboarding they experienced as poor (Source: Harvard Business Review) and replacing each failed executive can cost a business up to 213% of his or her salary (Source: Center for American Progress) – HR Tech Weekly

How do you know how new employees feel about your onboarding system? You ask them. A couple of weeks after a new starter has commenced with you, you can send them a survey to see how they found your initial onboarding process.

To make it easy and to increase the likelihood of new starters providing feedback, make the survey quick and easy to follow with some free text allowed to gain more specific feedback not addressed in your core questions.

Organisations with a standard onboarding process experience 50% greater new hire productivity – SHRM

Allow anonymity if you think that will bring you better results. And of course, let new starters know that you are seeking feedback to improve the process moving forward.

Related: Here is a New Hire Onboarding survey template from SurveyMonkey as an example 

Onboarding experience

When onboarding new employees you are aiming for a seamless, comprehensive, but not overwhelming experience.

Your onboarding program should be contemporary (ie not 4 hours in a small room with a myriad of Powerpoint slides!), interesting and easy to “consume”. New employees should come away from your program feeling valued, inspired, interested and excited about what lies ahead for them with your company.

54% of companies with onboarding programs reported higher employee engagement (Source: Society For Human Resources Management) | HR Tech Weekly

If you already have a program in place, consider looking at each element of your current program. Does each element of your current onboarding process create an exceptional new employee experience?

If there are elements that could do with a face-lift, take action. Don’t wait to review your onboarding program once a year – make iterative changes regularly to continually improve the new employee experience.

Onboarding ux

It is astounding to me that we all expect an exceptional customer experience as a consumer of goods and services, yet many companies don’t measure how well they meet new employee expectations when they are onboarded. It’s as if, we are concerned about the response – and perhaps, for some companies, that is a warranted concern!

Service organisations regularly send me a survey to rate my experience with their customer service team. Yet many companies don’t seek feedback from employees on their experience with the company.

In recruitment and talent acquisition settings, we must adopt a customer experience mentality. We should constantly be asking ourselves, “Are we meeting the needs of our employees?” Other relevant questions include “How can we improve your working experience with us?” and “How could the onboarding experience have been better for you?”

You now have the technology and tools to collate meaningful data, that can be sliced and diced. Use the tools you can afford to provide powerful insights into the effectiveness of your current onboarding program.

Onboarding for contingent workers

Let’s not ignore the elephant in the room. Not all employees are permanent members of staff. Contingent worker and freelancer numbers are rapidly increasing as talented individuals seek more flexibility in the way that they work. These individuals play an important role in the success of your company too.

So you need to consider what subset of your existing onboarding activities are relevant to be delivered to your contingent and freelance work force as well. New material may need to be created to specifically address the needs of those workers.

It is paramount to monitor and survey those working with your company on a flexible basis, to understand their onboarding experience.

In an article written by Peter Limone, published on, he suggests asking flexible workers “to rate collaboration and rapport between core and temporary employees on a five-point scale.” In addition, include some open ended questions for suggested changes and consider using a third party provider to conduct the survey (or devise surveys where contributors maintain their anonymity).

Onboarding contact points

If you map your onboarding experience, you will see that your program has a number of key contact points with your new employees. View each of these touch points as an opportunity to create an exceptional new employee experience.

You don’t need to invest any more money to enhance the experience – you simply need to ensure that you have consciously thought about what you want each touch point to look like from a new employee point of view. You also need to make sure that the person within your company making contact at those junctures understands the importance of creating an exceptional experience too.

Here are the typical touch points in a new starter onboarding process:

  • Sending or providing letter of offer and related documentation
  • Receiving paperwork back
  • Providing next steps information including first day details
  • If notice is being served, conducting regular check ins with your new starter before they commence
  • Day One greeting and hosting
  • End of week 1 review
  • End of month reviews for the first 12 months

Coach, mentor and buddy systems

When a new starter comes on board it can be useful to implement a coach, mentor or buddy system. In addition you might consider starting a number of new starters on the one day or week and creating a “starter group”.

A “starter group” is designed to provide peer support through an onboarding process. When created as a regular forum, new starters gain support from others who have commenced with the company at a similar time. They are able to share knowledge, ideas and questions and build a sense of belonging.

Taking this concept one step further, you can assign a long serving employee to meet with this “starter group” regularly. In these meetings they can answer any question new starters might have as well as share company stories and news.

This can also be a useful forum to direct new starters to appropriate company stakeholders with any outstanding queries or questions they may have.

Innovation in employee onboarding

Using onboarding apps to enhance to new starter experience are not the only technology innovation in recent years.

In our fast paced, changing work landscape, people leaders and HR specialists are also using other technology and tools to create an exceptional employee onboarding experience.

Here are a few examples of key technology trends in onboarding:

Use of videos

  • Virtual office tours
  • “How to” guides
  • Introductory messages from the CEO and other key company stakeholders
  • OH&S virtual tours including emergency exits, medical and safety equipment locations, communication of safe work practices etc

Digital Documents

  • eBooks to outline key onboarding processes
  • Virtual signature functionality on Letters of Offer

Other digital technology and tools

  • Use of feedback tools such as Survey Monkey to gain feedback on the onboarding process
  • Use of tools such as Slack to communicate with new starters
  • Chatbot installation on company intranets specifically for new starter questions

Innovation in success measurement and continuous improvement

Onboarding programs should be assessed and measured with robust data based decision making. It can be tempting to use new technology to create efficiencies in your onboarding processes.

But if that technology is difficult for new starters to use and fails to create an exceptional new starter experience, you are wasting your money.

To encourage continuous improvement in your onboarding process, create best practice forums with stakeholders from across business units. Use this forum to identify areas on your onboarding process that require improvement, share ideas for innovation and look within and externally for best practices that should be adopted.

You could also consider an onboarding hack session (say once every quarter or so) to brainstorm and share ideas to exceed new starter expectations.

What has changed – Onboarding ux

What in the world is onboarding ux you ask? UX stands for user experience. So at a high level, a new starters onboarding ux refers to their experience of your overall onboarding process.

Take the time to step through your onboarding experience from a new starters point of view. There is no “right way” to bring someone onboard, but what is essential is that the user experience is very positive.

Start ups and companies scaling quickly

All of this talk of onboarding may sound overwhelming for start ups and companies that are scaling really quickly. But your agility is your strength.

In the early days, don’t overthink things too much. Put a process in place but be open to making changes on the fly as you learn more about what works and what doesn’t.

Some start ups use tools such as Evernote to keep track of their onboarding program. Others use tools like Trello, an effective visual collaboration tool that ensures no steps or processes are missed as you onboard new employees.

Time for an audit of your existing onboarding program?

It you have not reviewed your onboarding program for a year or two, it’s time to have a look at it again. Consider how you can innovate with the assistance of web based tools and digital content to improve the new employee onboarding experience.

Companies are taking action right now to improve their onboarding programs to gain competitive advantage. So, if you have just made a note to get your team together, socialise some new ideas, come back together in a couple of months to talk again, don’t waste your time. Start making changes as soon as you can.

Here’s a few ideas to get you going:

  1. Look at the current content of your employee onboarding program – can any of it be digitised? Would an infographic work better to explain certain things than 5 paragraphs of fairly uninspiring content?
  2. Survey or get feedback from those who have been onboarded over the last 6-12 months. What did new starters think of the process? Take their feedback on board and start making incremental changes, starting with changes that you think will have the greatest impact first
  3. Create a 30 day action plan for changes, including assigning accountability for various components to specific people
  4. Consider whether an app or web based onboarding system is worth exploring. Assign someone in your team to take a look at some of the key players in this space and come back to you with costings and pros and cons

Need some help overhauling your current employee onboarding program or creating a new innovative onboarding program? I can help. Get in touch. Let’s explore how I can assist you.  

Further Resources and Reading

Best employee onboarding software

Top 7 employee onboarding tools

Onboarding software

Employee onboarding – Positive new employee experiences

Don’t underestimate the importance of effective onboarding

6 employee onboarding statistics

5 ways to welcome temporary workers into your culture

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