Staffing Management

Onboarding: Tips and Best Practices for Bringing New Workers on Board

By Sarah Fister Gale

Oct. 8, 2013

When Lois Miller, group head of human resources services and solutions at MasterCard Inc., took over the credit card company’s onboarding program in late 2011, it had a lot of problems. Stories about new hires not getting their badges and PCs, or not having access to the network for a week after they were hired was fairly common, she said. “It eventually got back to the CEO, and he decided it had to be fixed.”

Miller was brought in to revamp the program, focusing both on culture and technical needs of new hires, including making sure they have all the tools and technology they need to start working on day one.

“We wanted to get to a place where employees could be more productive fast, but also that they would look back and say it was a really good onboarding experience,” Miller said. To streamline the process and keep tabs on employees, Miller started using the company’s Workday human capital management system.

In the year since they’ve been using the onboarding system, new hires report better onboarding experiences, she said. “The key was enabling the onboarding workflows through Workday.”

Six Ways to Incorporate Technology Into Onboarding

Employees will never be more in love with your organization than the day they start work. And one of the primary goals of a good onboarding program is to maintain that enthusiasm.

Experts offer this advice on how technology can help engage employees as soon as they are hired, and streamline tasks so they are more productive from the start.

1.     Send welcome messages. Create videos of key executives welcoming new employees, and send those links to new hires as soon as they accept your offer, said Katherine Jones, a lead analyst at Bersin by Deloitte. It’s an efficient way to introduce employees to the leadership team and to get them excited about starting their new job.

2.     Build a new hire portal. Create a site on the network where employees can go to complete all of their administrative tasks, learn about the corporate culture, take new hire training, and find out anything else that will help them be more productive, said Kim Lamoureux, a lead analyst at Bersin by Deloitte. “It enables employees to take responsibility for onboarding tasks, rather than waiting for someone to tell them what to do.”

3.     Pre-board. Take advantage of electronic signature and verification tools to let employees finish administrative paperwork online before their first day. This keeps them excited about the job, and allows them to be more productive when they start, Jones said. “This can be especially good for college graduates who may have months between when they are hired and when they start work.”

4.     Build a new-hire social network: If you are hiring a large number of young employees, an online new-hire community can help them feel more at home. These corporate social networks can be used for work tasks — allowing employees to help each other learn the ropes; and for socialization so they can make friends and feel a greater sense of belonging.

5.     Track onboarding tasks. Use task management tools to track new-hire status and progress. Many of these tools also offer automated reminders when employees fail to stay on track.

6.     Engage new hires in the company’s social network. Don’t just give them a password, Jones said. Invite them to join online conversations, participate in surveys or ask questions of their colleagues. It’s a way to get them connected to other people in the company, even if they are all in different offices, she said.

—Sarah Fister Gale

Out of the Way

As soon as employees are hired — and before they even start — they are added to the Workday system, which triggers access to a number of onboarding tools. They receive an email welcoming them aboard with links to videos from the CEO, along with access to the cloud application where they can update their employment information, upload a photo for their badge, read about learning opportunities and complete paperwork for benefits enrollment, taxes and direct deposit. “All of the tasks you normally do on the first day are now done in advance,” Miller said.

At the same time, the manager of the new hire goes online to select the tools and office space they will need, and those requests are sent to the information technology and facilities department, so they are ready for the employee on their first day.

You May Already Have the Tools

Many companies have existing workplace technology that can be used to support the onboarding process, though they may not be using it effectively, said Kim Lamoureux, a lead analyst at Bersin by Deloitte. “If you have a task management system, or employee tracking tools, you can make sure new hires don’t fall through the cracks,” she said. “It makes the process much more manageable.”

She encourages HR executives to review their applicant tracking and HR management system to find the tools or modules that can specifically support onboarding. Most HR systems, including Silkroad, Successfactors, Taleo and Workday offer tools to build new hire portals, implement electronic signatures for online documents, create task lists and talent profiles as well as dashboards and reports to track new hires.

“These tools simplify the process and give HR visibility into how new hires are progressing,” says Leighanne Levensaler, vice president of product management at Workday.  

Internal social media tools, including Chatter, IBM Connect, Jive and Yammer can also be implemented in the onboarding, said Mike Grafham, head of Yammer customer success in the United Kingdom. “Organizations can build networks for preboarding new hires, send them welcome messages, and give them an environment where they can ask questions and engage with other employees,” he said.

It can also help new employees learn the business more organically by allowing them to search for answers to specific questions or read message boards to understand unique workflows. “Instead of taking a training course on a topic, a new hire can join a group and read backward through the posts to see how work is done,” Grafham said. “That helps them become immediately more productive.”

While onboarding isn’t all about technology, taking advantage of these tools can streamline the process and make it consistent across the organization, said Katherine Jones, a lead analyst at Bersin By Deloitte. “Technology can mitigate bottlenecks in the onboarding process, and engage before they even come through the door.”

Sarah Fister Gale is a writer based in the Chicago area. Comment below or email Follow Workforce on Twitter at @workforcenews.

Sarah Fister Gale is a writer in Chicago.

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