Effective onboarding can improve employee retention by as much as 82%. Yet, recent Gallup polling found that nearly 90% of companies don’t have an adequate onboarding strategy.
The same poll also cited the Society for Human Resource Management’s finding that 50% of new employees quit after 18 months on the job. Furthermore, the SHRM found that companies spend over $4,000 per new employee.
New hire costs cover:
- Work materials
Onboarding itself involves technical training, custom dashboards, digital signatures, and more variables. Plus, you have to consider the time investment and labor required.
Fortunately, the right tools can reduce your hiring costs and increase retention rates. Yet, what’s the best strategy for your company?
Start brainstorming with this complete guide to merging technology with onboarding.
Why Employee Onboarding Starts with the Application Process
Typically, you wouldn’t think of onboarding until after the hiring phase. However, this approach misses an opportunity to boost retention rates from the start.
Before the advent of digital tools, the job application process was traditionally accepted as cumbersome. Applicants didn’t expect an experience per se; it was merely standard procedure. Thus, employers didn’t invest in anything beyond a job ad.
However, job-seeker expectations have entirely changed, putting new pressures on companies to invest in employer branding. This reality has become more apparent as labor shortages and turnover rates soar.
Today, job-seekers apply for over 15 jobs per week, averaging 2 to 3 applications per day. Nevertheless, 71% of career-seekers don’t finish their applications, often abandoning them after 15 minutes.
On one hand, employers can view this behavior as self-filtering. Employers already attract roughly 250 applications for every job opening. Isn’t that enough?
Look at the data again. It may be telling another story.
If retention and performance rates are plummeting, analyze your talent pool. Your application process may be turning off 5-star talent.
Design Your Onboarding Process Around the Ideal Hire
First, you need to get the best applicants to the onboarding stage. Think about your ideal employee, and start from there.
What do you expect from them, and what should they expect from you? How can you attract them to your company and follow through with their application?
Use market research, surveys, and Linkedin to brainstorm an ideal employee profile. Look at data to learn how employee behavior has changed. You could hire a recruiting firm to do the leg work, identifying and contacting candidates that match your profile.
Next, invest in a sleek, user-friendly application hiring page.
Optimize your landing page with these employer branding elements:
- Employee perks (i.e., benefits, free food, etc.)
- Qualities that make your company culture unique
- A mission statement to give applicants a sense of purpose
- Happy and positive media
- Inspiring employee stories
- Employee development programs
Today, employers have to market themselves to applicants like job-seekers have traditionally been doing for decades. A simple way to make your company more appealing to in-demand talent is to create a sense of importance in applicants.
It’s not just about the money. Job-seekers want to feel like they’re a part of something that matters. Look at how passionate advocates feel about a social cause; the right application process can foster similar energy before the real onboarding begins.
Emphasize your company’s growth and contribution to the industry. This approach works well for conscious industries like eco-friendly apparel companies. Even providing a sense of family can inspire more applicants to follow through.
These mindsets also underscore the importance of offering development programs, like executive mentorships and courses.
Gamify the Experience
Take a look at your application activity data.
Are applicants abandoning your applications after a few minutes too?
If your online applications look like a series of tax forms, candidates are more likely to quit. Instead, use gamified applications that walk applicants through the process, rewarding them at every step.
Instead of scrolling, users are seamlessly advanced to the next step without even clicking. Therefore, when an applicant inputs their name, they’re prompted to input their email, phone number, and so forth.
Attractive colors, celebratory effects, and seamless flow engage applicants, creating a more pleasant experience. Even better, you can build off this momentum to create better onboarding experiences.
For example, a digital media company may use gamified onboarding to encourage eligible candidates to apply for roles and onboard that same day. This approach works well for freelance recruitment and onboarding processes. You see this method a lot with freelance marketplaces too.
Imagine you own a large freelance marketplace or digital media company.
Clients are waiting, and you need to hire 200 freelance designers. Plus, you want to onboard them as quickly as possible. You’re also keen on hiring new designers who want to grow their portfolios.
How would you tackle this goal?
First, create an onboarding strategy complete with benchmark goals.
Use the following tools to attract and onboard designers:
- Effective mobile landing pages
- Step-by-step application videos (optional)
- Digital application tools that track metrics
- Animated and gamified applications
- Email marketing tools
- Engaging step-by-step onboarding videos
- AI tools for super-fast screening
- Custom onboarding software
Work with marketers to create appealing mobile hiring apps, landing pages, copy, and animated effects. Prompt applicants to input their emails first. If applicants or new hires abandon their journeys, you can send them gentle reminders via email.
Here’s a hypothetical example of a gamified journey for a freelance graphic designer, from application to onboarding:
Gamified Onboarding in Action
- A qualified applicant views a job ad, proceeding to the hiring landing page. Alternatively, they may visit your website and click on a “become a designer” tab. This wording can have a profound impact on a new designer looking for more experience.
- The applicant views the hiring page, getting a better feel for the company’s values, expectations, and supportive atmosphere.
- They decide to click the “apply now” button, where they’re promptly greeted with a friendly message before being ushered through the application. They can also view a meter that shows their application progress.
- When they’re finished, the applicant is rewarded with a congratulations screen with confetti. They should expect an instant confirmation email assuring them their application is in process.
- Since you want to hire 200 new freelancers, integrate an AI screening tool to instantly hire applicants who passed the skills test with flying colors. Alternatively, you can screen applicants in-house within 24 hours.
- The lucky applicant receives an email within hours congratulating their accomplishment. This email should welcome hire news to the company too. Include a visible “start onboarding” button to inspire new hires to get started.
- From their new hire email, freelancers are immediately taken to an onboarding hub.
This hub includes the following:
- A welcome video
- Technical training videos for software
- Training videos for specific roles
- Company culture videos
- A large knowledge base
- Downloadable freelancer (or employee) manual
- A live chat for questions
New hires can also fill out profiles, introducing themselves to the team. Prompt hires to upload photos to create a more human-centered virtual environment.
Since you’re onboarding virtually, you have to try harder to create an immersive experience that engages hires. Like your online application, freelancers will abandon your platform for your competition if it’s too boring, complicated, and cumbersome.
Gather Feedback About the Employee Onboarding Process
Onboarding doesn’t end once new hires are finished with their training materials. Collect data about new hires’ experience. View abandonment rates to investigate areas to improve.
There are a few ways to collect data. You can send out anonymous email surveys. You could also integrate small surveys within the onboarding journey. For example, after each training video, you could prompt hires to leave feedback or a star rating.
Include comment boxes with surveys so that hires can elaborate on their thoughts. If a training video is unclear, you should hear about it. You could save yourself thousands of dollars in quality issues too.
Invest in an onboarding platform that captures and interprets onboarding data. Data-driven software lets you view completion rates in real-time. You can also tell which areas are giving new hires trouble.
Likewise, new hires also need data to perform at their best.
Similar to your gamified applications, include a progress meter to encourage new hires to finish their onboarding. Reward them with a congratulations email after completing their training. You could even send a free digital gift to their email.
Keep the positive energy going!
Along with free gifts, reward new hires with incentivized referral offers. For every referral who’s hired, the referring employee will receive a bonus. This way, you get a lot more mileage out of your onboarding strategy.
Encourage Self-Sufficiency with Onboarding Tools
Digital onboarding provides a unique opportunity to empower employees and freelancers.
Including a referral program in your onboarding process is one way to empower hires and foster community. Immersive training materials also instill confidence in new employees and freelancers.
Furthermore, digital onboarding cuts out the hiring middleman, allowing new hires to streamline their own paperwork faster.
For example, this page explains how new hires can select an authorized hiring representative online to avoid long in-person wait times: https://WorkBright.com/verify-i9-remote/.
Onboarding hubs also house all employee materials, which mitigates confusion about job roles and expectations. Plus, with essentials nearby, employees don’t feel lost on the job. Confident employees take more initiative, leading to a self-starter mindset.
Digital Tools to Improve Onboarding Communication
You’ll need a reliable email marketing tool to maintain communication with new hires, starting from the application process.
Encourage prospective employees to register for the platform by asking for their email at the beginning of the application. From there, you can automate messages with users.
Hence, your email marketing platform must have the following features:
- Email list segmentation
- Email content templates (with branding)
- Animated graphics
- Email metrics monitoring
Make sure your platform has instant segmentation. For example, applicants should be auto-added to a separate email list, while onboarding hires should be on another list.
Email communication is a must, but you can enhance your strategy with business communication tools. Popular tools include Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Google chat. Startups are even using discord to improve the onboarding process!
What if your employees are entirely remote, scattered around the globe?
You need a 24-hour communication solution. Even an auto-generated response from a bot can put an employee’s mind at ease.
Integrate chatbots into your website and onboarding platform. AI bots also need a massive knowledge base, so think of as many questions and answers as possible.
You can also hold live onboarding Q&A sessions via zoom. Even better, you can upload recorded sessions to the onboarding platform.
Create Community Around Onboarding
Stellar communication leads to the next point on community.
Collective-minded companies create supportive environments for new hires. Along with multiple communication channels, create chat rooms for new hires to get to know each other.
This tip encourages self-sufficiency and comradery, two cornerstones of good employee morale. Plus, you can see which leaders emerge from the group, eventually onboarding them into management-level roles.
Furthermore, you’re likely to increase retention when new hires are welcomed into the company by their peers. Keep the good vibes going with digital meetups, in-person events, and company swag!
Think of onboarding as a complete journey. If it starts with the application process, it doesn’t end once new hires are trained.
Elicit feedback at every stage of the employee’s journey. If a new hire is quitting after three months, provide an exit survey to learn more. Likewise, ask a 5-year employee about their hiring experience.
Optimize Your Onboarding Journey
The tools are there. You just need the right employee onboarding strategy to attract, retain, and inspire new hires.
Start with a goal, then identify the right tools and processes to meet that goal. Leverage digital tools to create positive hiring experiences. Optimize your communication strategies to foster community and employee growth.