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A complete digital onboarding guide

Creating a positive digital onboarding experience is key to creating a good company culture. Studies show positive environments have more engaged employees, resulting in higher retention rates. Not only does it help retain employees, but it also brings in new ones. Remember, it’s not a one-time thing; you must ensure your new hire feels welcome and included from day one, making digital onboarding a critical moment in the employee lifecycle. We’ve broken down what it takes to master a digital onboarding process.

In this guide, we’ve broken down what it takes to master a digital onboarding process.

Table of Content

    What is digital onboarding?

    Digital onboarding is the process of onboarding a new employee using technology like digital onboarding software.

    Digital onboarding has many benefits for organizations and new hires:

    • Reduces onboarding costs
    • Easily sign and submit documents
    • Keeps employee documents consistent and compliant
    • A faster onboarding process that allows employees to start working sooner

    The first day in a new job is exciting. But that excitement can be replaced with anxiety if the employee is bombarded with mounds of paperwork and a list of onboarding tasks that don’t allow them to make connections to their team and new role. If your onboarding process isn’t up to par, your company will likely experience an increase in the early exit rate. SHRM estimates that nearly ⅓ of all new hires quit their jobs within the first 7 months, but companies that implement engaging onboarding programs retain 91% of their workers through the first year. And many experts anticipate even higher numbers with the current candidate-controlled market.

    Moving to a digital onboarding process not only creates an automated, streamlined process for the company but also is easier for the candidate to navigate and keep current. Here are the top reasons why using less paper is more engaging, more efficient, and more compliant!

    What you’ll learn in this guide

    Benefits of a Paperless Onboarding Program


    How to Create an Onboarding Process


    Onboarding Mistakes and How to Ease Them


    How to Set Measurable Goals for Employees

    Benefits of digital onboarding

    Key Benefit

    Digital onboarding increases automation

    With a paperless system, when a new hire signs an offer letter onboarding tasks can be automated, making it simple for the HR professional or Hiring Manager to assign and track onboarding tasks. Paperwork doesn’t get lost in the shuffle and employees and employers can refer back to material when they need to.

    Your candidate doesn’t have to enter the same information multiple times, there’s no chance of their paperwork getting lost in some random filing cabinet and changes can be made across multiple documents with the click of a button.


    Digital Onboarding Increases Automation-IMG@2x


    Digital Onboarding Software Simplifies New Hire Tasks@2x


    Key Benefit

    Digital onboarding software simplifies new hire tasks

    Going digital streamlines your onboarding checklist and improves preparedness for new hires. It also enhances the user experience for the new employee. They can proceed and learn at their own pace and require less guidance from the HR professional.

    New employees learn in a multitude of ways, so allowing for a simple process that clearly delineates what they need to complete, learn, and have due helps them navigate their early days with ease. Many paperless onboarding systems integrate with payroll, ATS, training modules, and performance management platforms. This makes the employee experience seamless from start to finish, even with something as simple as an I-9.


    Key Benefit

    Digital onboarding software saves money

    The cost savings that come with switching to digital are astounding. Some of the savings are obvious - paper, ink, paper clips, staples, pens, etc. But don’t forget to factor in the amount of space you will save without all of those filing cabinets and the man-hours spent on creating those onboarding packets. While the transition may cost you money upfront, savings acquired over time ensure you come out ahead.


    Consider the savings involved in creating a seamless onboarding process where your HR department is always in compliance and any important employee document is accessible in a few clicks and your employee records are always updated and can be used as a single source of truth within your talent management platforms. These are the savings paperless onboarding provides that are incalculable.




    Key Benefit

    Digital onboarding leads to higher retention

    We’ve already mentioned the retention rate of employees in the first year when they receive effective onboarding. SHRM goes on to estimate 69% of employees are more likely to stay with a company for three years with a quality onboarding experience. And not only will they stay, but they will also be more productive. Organizations with a standard onboarding process experience 50% greater new-hire productivity.

    It makes perfect sense. When your employees can blaze through the paperwork, receive a clear understanding of what’s required in their first few weeks, and immediately grasp the workings of the company, department, team, and their place within each, of course, they will launch into a productive employee faster. And with the confidence of a keen understanding of their role, intangible things like building relationships at work, setting performance goals, and expanding their role to assist others come naturally and faster than with no onboarding process at all.

    Growing companies need an efficient and effective onboarding process. Going paperless achieves both of these feats by simplifying the process for both the employer and employee. Don’t lose top talent because of a lackluster onboarding program. Gain a competitive advantage with ClearCompany’s onboarding software. See a demo today.

    How to create a digital onboarding process

    The employee onboarding process takes time and it is tempting for an employer to rush the process in hopes of getting the new hire active in their day-to-day tasks as soon as possible. However, structured onboarding helps new hires become 62% more productive than those who don’t go through a formal program.

    The following list will help you onboard effectively and get your employee started on the path toward a productive and engaged tenure.

    Before they arrive
    • Invest in a pre-boarding process. Most people would agree that filling out paperwork can quickly turn first-day excitement into boredom. With paperless onboarding, tax forms, like W-2s or W-4s, identification forms, like the I-9 form, direct deposit information, and a signed offer letter can all be completed before Day 1, leaving more time for the new hire to get acquainted with their new surroundings and teammates.
    • Send them a card! When a new hire arrives, it’s cause for celebration! Have the team sign and maybe include a photo of the team or office.
    • Prepare their needed tools. Computer, pens, business cards, etc. If the prep work isn’t done, it is a waste of the employee’s time and may leave them wondering if this is an indicator of a bigger company issue.
    • Order the swag. Whether you have branded snuggies or a simple mousepad, make sure you have a set of company swag delivered to their home or waiting in their chair.
    • Create a plan. This should include milestones the employee is expected to reach by the end of day 5, week 2, month 1, etc. This helps them plan their time and provides them with a bar to measure their progress. As an added bonus, they will feel pride when they are meeting these milestones.


    Day 1
    • Announce their arrival. Prepare a welcome get-together with the department so you can introduce the new team member and allow them to forge connections. This will help the new hire relax and feel at home in their new space. Make a company or department-wide announcement in an email blast. This should include their role and some background information. At ClearCompany, we have every new hire write and send their own introduction, allowing them to share some fun details about themselves and be welcomed by the team with gifs, virtual high-fives, and plenty of jokes.
    • Give them a tour. People want to feel comfortable in their surroundings and don’t want to wander the halls looking for the restrooms like a student at a new school. Show them different departments, the break room, and where to get supplies. As you walk, share some tips you have learned in your time with the company and introduce them to people you meet along the way.
    Extra Tip:
    If your onboarding system doesn’t have the ability to do this for you, create a “Meet the Team” packet that provides information about the team members the new employee will have regular interaction with. Include headshots to make it easier to learn names and some fun facts to keep it light.
    • Assign a mentor. They are all set up with a game plan for the week and introduced to the team. Now starts the training. Find a senior team member that is both friendly and knowledgeable. This mentor should be able to guide the new hire through the ins and outs of the company as well as how to perform daily tasks.
    • Make names visible. When showing the new hire around, ensure that nameplates are visible on everyone’s desk. This allows them to get their bearings and will help them easily find the people they need to interact with in the coming days.
    • Prepare them for the week ahead. Comfort often comes with being in the know. Discuss the first week’s schedule and allow them to ask questions so they aren’t stressing about what they should be doing.
    • Give them the digits. Provide a contact list with phone numbers and extensions. If codes are required for parking lots and meeting rooms, distribute those as well.
    • More paperwork. Documents like non-compete agreements, NDAs, or other privacy forms require explanation and ensured understanding before signing. Therefore they cannot be completed prior to day 1. But with all the other paperwork out of the way, the employee’s eyes are less likely to glaze over by the time you get to this important information.

    The first week
    • Show them how to set up their stuff. Guide them through setting an outgoing message on their phone, computer setup, and the ins and outs of the processes and platforms your team uses. Every company has a particular way of doing things, so walk them through it and then make sure they can do it on their own.
    • Let the Training Begin. Once your new hire is settled in their workspace, the remainder of the first day should be dedicated to training with their assigned mentor. Familiarize them with any training materials or modules, and make sure they know if there are any deadlines to completing certain training
    • Walk them through important procedures and standards. This step lets the employee know what is expected of them on a daily basis and establish a solid foundation for when they get started on the real work. Walk them through your employee manual to cover the rules and processes you have in place, such as internet usage, email communication, breaks, and how to request time off. Make sure they have enough time to read and digest it before signing.  
    • Introduce company culture. Explain how the rules and processes outlined in the previous step correlate with the company culture and contribute to the organization's success.
    • Friendly advice. Does Tim prefer phone calls while Melissa is more apt to answer emails? Is there a trick to getting a printer to work or a door handle that always needs a little extra oomph to open? Share inside knowledge learned in your time with the company.  
    • Practice inclusion. If you have company shirts or a calendar that resides on everyone’s desk, make sure these are provided to the new hire. This is a quick win to make them feel like part of the team.
    • Make time for questions. As you guide your new hire through the first week of training, encourage them to write down any questions or concerns. Then...
    • Follow up at the end of the week. Now that they have had time to get used to their workspace and the general flow of their daily activities, meet to discuss how things are going. Are they comfortable with the team? Is the pace of training appropriate? What questions and concerns do they have? This is also an opportune time to discuss what lies ahead in the upcoming weeks and the milestones they will be expected to reach.
    • Give them something to do. Employee onboarding and training take time and work can start to pile up. Allocate a few hours each day to having the new hire complete actual work. This also ensures that the trainer has time to complete theirs.
    • Always set a timeline. Your new hire has no idea how long things are expected to take in your company. Give them an idea of the average timeline a task should take and ask them to check in halfway through. This way they know where they should be within a few months and don’t have to wonder if they’re meeting expectations. When they check in, it gives you the opportunity to ensure they’re on the right track and correct any misalignment.

    Between months one and three
    • Get them involved. Provide opportunities for the new hire to get involved with the company and team. Are there any upcoming company volunteer opportunities? Does your team partake in a monthly happy hour? Encourage them to join in the fun.
    • Start the feedback. Get regular updates from the new hire’s mentor and anyone else that is working closely with them. Find out what they are doing well and any areas they may be faltering.
    • Get feedback from them. Whether you informally ask them into your office or simply grab some coffee and a walking meeting, identifying early issues or concerns can aid in retention in the long run, especially when caught early on.
    • Establish lines of open communication. By the end of the first month, the new hire should be settled into their office and feel comfortable with their daily activities. Make sure they feel comfortable discussing what is going well and what they may be struggling with. Be open to their comments and offer strategies that can help them overcome any obstacles they are facing.
    • Encourage independence. New hires should take copious notes during training. If they have questions on tasks that you have covered several times, it is okay to remind them of when they tackled something similar. Encourage them to review their notes. Check their work and provide feedback. Introduce them to new projects and tasks as they are ready for new challenges.

    • Set performance goals. Prior to their first review, set the employee up with S.M.A.R.T. goals. This will help keep them engaged and provide something to work toward in their first 90 days.
    • Complete their first performance review. After 90 days, the new hire should be at a healthy proficiency in their role. Review their progress on their S.M.A.R.T. goals and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. Company standards vary and every employee progresses at a different pace. Make sure to evaluate if the current training program is meeting their needs.
    • Build a career path. According to TLNT, 70% of employees say job-related training and development opportunities impacted their decision to stay at their job. Work with the new hire to develop a career plan that fits their personal goals and the needs of the team.

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    Onboarding mistakes and how to ease them

    During the hiring process, a company wants to be wowed by a candidate. But the onboarding process flips the script and the company now gets to wow the new hire. If a company wants to retain its employees it needs to engage them with a strong onboarding program. Reviewing these common pain points of new employees can help you evaluate the wow factor of your program.

    Pain point: Paperwork is boring.

    Paperwork is important for compliance, but it’s not exactly thrilling. If the bulk of an employee’s first day revolves around filling out paperwork, you are losing valuable time that could be used to establish connections with coworkers and getting acquainted with their new workspace.

    Ease it by: Going paperless.

    Let employees get a jump start on this before they even set foot in the office with paperless onboarding. Employees can review this at their own pace and can prepare any questions they have for day one. This extra time can now be filled with more energizing and motivating tasks, such as socializing with team members and touring the facility.

    Pain point: Unpreparedness

    Do your new employees have to ask these questions after the first day?

    When will I have a computer and desk? Should I just walk around and get my bearings? Who do I report to? How do I get paid? Should I be doing anything? Who’s training me?

    If you answered yes, then your employee onboarding process needs help. Chances are there is a lack of ownership of the process and everyone thinks everyone else will take on these responsibilities.

    Ease it by: Establishing ownership of the process.

    Effective employee onboarding has someone in charge that will take responsibility for the details. Otherwise, the simple items, like having your new hire’s desk ready, fall through the cracks. Establish a mentor that will guide the newbie through their training and can be a line of communication if there are questions or concerns. Being prepared for a new hire ensures they can hit the ground running instead of twiddling their thumbs asking what to do.

    Pain point: Lack of growth opportunities

    Your new employee isn’t expecting advancement opportunities in their first week. But they do expect to be given a list of milestones to know they are progressing as expected. They also expect to formulate performance goals with their manager during their 60 or 90-day performance check-in.

    Ease it by: Establishing goals early on.

    If you wowed the new employee during the interview process with promises of growth opportunities and career advancement, keep your promise. Clearly outline the progress they should be making in an onboarding workbook. Have the employee complete a performance evaluation after 60 or 90 days in which they not only note their accomplishments and struggles but also articulate their personal and team goals as they continue their tenure with the company. As a bonus, you may find that they have additional skills that could go beyond their hired role that your team can utilize.

    Pain point: Feeling disconnected

    Being the new person on staff is tough. So if the effort isn’t made to familiarize a new hire with their team, they are sure to feel isolated. If this team member particularly values collaboration, this may be their queue to exit.

    Ease it by: Planning a team-building activity.

    This can be a lunch or happy hour, a walk around campus, or even a break to play a team-building game. Establishing connections early on will help the new hire relax and feel at ease with their coworkers. They will be less intimidated and more apt to ask the questions they need during training.

    Committing the aforementioned faux pas will leave your new hire thinking “Do I really want to work here?” If you expect quality work out of your employee, you should put in the work to onboard them effectively.

    To retain your latest crop of A-players, supercharge your onboarding process with ClearCompany’s onboarding software. Start your demo today.

    How to set measurable goals for employees

    The first day at a new job or in a new role at a company can be exciting and scary. Proper onboarding and training is vital to setting the employee up for success. Why? Employee goals offer several things a new hire is naturally craving:

    • Clear Direction: They want to know which way to go to ensure success.
    • Parameters: If you give them goals to hit and the parameters in which to hit them, they don’t have to wonder if they are meeting your expectations.
    • Stability: New hires often feel as though they aren’t really working the first few weeks. By creating goalposts that measure their work and give them something to look forward to, you’ll subconsciously cement their place in the organization.
    • Meaning: It’s widely known that employees want meaning. Giving them company-aligned goals helps them feel like more than a cog in the machine.

    In order to engage your new hires, consider taking a goal-centric approach. By aligning new employees' goals with existing company objectives, you ensure that everyone is on the right page from day one.

    When establishing these goals, focus on the 4 C’s: compliance, clarification, culture, and connection.

    New employee goals need Compliance

    You may be asking yourself “How is compliance tied to company strategy?” While the answer isn’t blatantly obvious, compliance matters are the brass tacks of the onboarding process and should be aligned with company goals.

    Whether it’s company-wide policies or legal issues, a new hire should get an overview on these items during onboarding. Spending time upfront discussing these policies and how they impact their daily work lives ensures they have the necessary foundation to hit the ground running and become an A-Player.

    Compliance isn’t sexy, but it is incredibly important and teaching the new hire the ropes by ensuring their goals are compliant and safe (for them and the company) is a great managerial move.

    New employee goals need Clarification

    Clarification is essential to goal alignment. New employees need to understand how the role they play fits into the big picture of the organization. And every employee wants to feel like the work they do contributes to the company’s overall success. So, how do you create goals that are CLEAR? By using the SMART method for goal-setting.

    How to Identify SMART Goals
    • Is the goal Specific?

    • Is the goal Measurable?

    • Is the goal Attainable?

    • Is the goal Relevant?

    • Is the goal Timely?

    Contributions can be tracked with goal alignment software, making it easier to track how a new team member is progressing and fitting into the goals of the larger system.

    New employee goals need Culture

    Positive company culture is something that needs regular maintenance. Chances are, a new hire was chosen in part because they were a cultural fit. But if they become disengaged, your company culture suffers. Having a clear view of organizational goals ensures that employees are engaged from day one and your company culture is maintained.

    Don’t forget to align the goals themselves with the culture. A goal may meet all the criteria of a SMART goal and still fall short of cultural alignment. For example, if you assign a goal that requires a new employee to work by themselves but the company culture values collaboration, that goal is misaligned with your culture and may very well result in a frustrated and disconnected employee. Find goals to hit that incorporate your company values from all angles.

    Onboarding-12 (1)

    New employee goals need Connection

    Successful organizations emphasize collaboration to accomplish common goals. New hires must forge connections with those they will be working alongside on a daily basis. If the new hire has a hard time connecting with the team, their contributions toward company initiatives will be minimal and they may just become a part of the ⅓ of new hires that leave their job in the first 6 months.

    Connecting to the company mission, vision, and values are all great first steps but how does the employee goal connect to their team goals, departmental goals, and other employees across the organization. When you offer employees the chance to connect over shared, mutual goals, you foster employee relationships that can positively impact their lives and the bottom line of your company.

    Focusing on goals during the digital onboarding process allows your new hire to better understand where they fit into the organization. It also fosters collaboration by informing them on how the responsibilities of other employees connect with their own.

    To learn more about how ClearCompany can help you align goals and onboard effectively, see a demo of our Complete Talent Management solution today.

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