Leveraging technology for effective employee onboarding

09 June 2021 | Opinion

JONAS D. ILEKA

Whether you run a restaurant, IT start-up or a large corporation with various branches across the country, employee onboarding is by far one of the most critical touchpoints that a company has with its employees.

Research suggests that an effective onboarding process can improve employee retention by as much as 82% and productivity by more than 70%. However, 88% of participants indicated that their organisation did not have a good onboarding process.

Beyond a lasting first impression

For the longest time, the value proposition of onboarding has been to create a good first impression and ensure policy and statutory compliance. As such, most induction programmes are designed to make new hires feel welcome and provide them with relevant information regarding the company and their new role, through an induction or orientation programme.

Although this information is undoubtedly vital, these well-intended efforts may be misplaced, as there is potential to create additional value for both the new hire and the employer by looking beyond first impressions and focusing on truly empowering new hires to hit the ground running through an effective preboarding process.

Optimising preboarding through digitization

Preboarding can be defined simply as the phase from appointment to the new hire's first day of work.

As it stands, the preboarding process of most companies is spent on completing paperwork. From biographical information, to tax, social security, pension and medical aid registration forms. These essential processes can be digitised and integrated, paperless, to minimise duplication, save time and reduce errors in data capturing and processing.

Additionally, training on relevant software, company policies, health and safety matters, as well as essential soft skills required for the role, can be done during the preboarding phase on a learning management system (LMS). This enables new employees to not only learn at their own pace, but also consolidate knowledge without the pressure of having to remember everything on the first day.

By developing a system to get through paperwork swiftly, employers can optimise the time spent on administrative aspects to focus on activities and content that will enhance the new hire's employment experience and productivity, such as helping them better understand and acclimate to the organisation's unique culture. Moreover, access to on-demand training modules and peer-led tutorials, allows a new employee to learn the nuts and bolts of the new job and get up to speed quickly - significantly reducing the time it takes them to become optimally productive.

The entire onboarding process can be automated into a checklist, which includes all items to go over during induction or orientation. This will further track onboarding progress, provide feedback and analytics for continuous improvement, and ensure compliance.

Gamifying for optimum employee engagement

As the digital revolution advances into the workforce, onboarding is shifting from information overload to an interactive learning experience.

Gamification of the onboarding process offers differentiation for the company, while making the new employee's experience interesting, fun and less stressful.

Moreover, gamification helps to increase the rate at which new hires absorb and retain information so they can apply it to their new roles immediately and long after the onboarding process has ended. This partially stems from the way in which the gaming content format stimulates parts of the brain and facilitates active learning through the player's participation.

Gamified short and micro courses, as well as knowledge checks can be incorporated for online use and live-in person participation through game-based learning platforms such as Kahoot, as part of the onboarding process design.

The digital transformation of an onboarding process should, however, not be seen as a replacement for continuous one on one interaction with the new hire. Regular check-ins are required to clarify any uncertainties, settle first-day jitters and effectively guide the new hire. As such, a blended approach that leverages technology without neglecting the human element is the secret recipe for an effective employee onboarding system in the fourth industrial world of work.

* Jonas Ileka is the acting manager for organisational development and learning at the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) and a talent management consultant based in Windhoek. He writes in his personal capacity.

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