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Onboarding and the Digital Workplace

This article was originally posted on Interact in January 2017. 

The onboarding process is crucial for new employees—not only does it offer their first glimpse into the company’s structure and their role in that structure, it gives them access to the resources that they’ll need to accomplish their tasks.

In addition to its important role in the company as a whole, employee onboarding is an ever-evolving process that doesn’t have a specific cut-and-dry formula. Despite these challenges, one thing is clear—technology is an ally in getting new hires up to speed with their position in a manner that is both quick and thorough with teaching them the confidence and knowledge that will make them productive team players.

An Introduction to Digital Workplaces

Digital or virtual workplaces have been on the rise since the 1990s. The digital workplace is, in many ways, the virtual equivalent of the physical workspace. Its primary purpose is not to replace the physical workplace, but to augment and elevate it by giving a company both a digital and a physical identity.

As the digital workplace has become more common, more companies are looking for ways to take advantage of the wide variety of digital workplace software to make their onboarding process more efficient and relevant to new hires.

Here are a few ways that incorporating a digital workplace into the process can help streamline your onboarding:

Establishes Expectations

With the large amount of information that new employees are tasked with processing, receiving and understanding job expectations often fall by the wayside. With a strategic implementation of a digital workplace, new employees can learn relevant information and job expectations side by side.

Online programs, like Quip, Workplace, or intelligent intranets help this process by giving the new user prompts and direction regarding how to conduct them from the moment they login. It also provides a readily available resource for reviewing of assignments, employee options, role clarifications, etc.

Encourages Self-Efficacy

Another purpose of onboarding is to aid the new hire in becoming self-efficient. Digital workplace strategies offer options that can help reduce the time this can take.

Intranet toolkits are great for keeping track of each employee’s assignments and projects.   Workplaces without access to their own intranet can also use online tools like Trello to provide a similar service. When new hires have easy access to their task assignments, it helps them manage their time on their own, which is the first step in overall self-efficacy.

Fosters Social Acceptance

Social acceptance within a company culture is a critical aspect of onboarding. A new hire’s ability to find the right person to ask when they have questions is key to their success in the company.

Intranets often have an instant messaging feature, and messaging programs like Slack offer employees ways to connect at many different levels. These workplace social connections not only build rapport, but also offer another outlet for questions when direct person to person communication isn’t possible.

Builds Knowledge of Organizational Culture

Lastly, digital workplaces also aid the onboarding process by making information about the company’s organizational culture more available.

Intranets function as effective repositories of organizational culture. Search functions in intelligent intranets can be tailored to the user, so when employees use the system, they will be able to track down relevant information, as well as related information based on previous searches.

Online options for learning this culture can include corporate social media sites like Yammer or LinkedIn. These sites make articles, blogs, etc. available for exploration at an employee’s leisure, and they also give users the ability to contribute their ideas.

Collective Versus Individual Onboarding

Another important function of the digital workplaces is bridging the gap between collective and individual onboarding, which effectively marks the difference between feeling lost in the shuffle and feeling like an integral part of the company.

By opening more than one support chain to the new hire, they become quickly acclimated to the organizational culture, which creates a functioning and satisfied team member. This process also allows for initial collective onboarding in group meetings that can then be refined through use of the digital workplace toolkit.

All in all, it is easy to see that digital workplaces are an excellent means to evolving a company’s onboarding process. They may not replace all the facets of the process, but they certainly do streamline and bolster them to the benefit of the new hire and the company.