How to make your online onboarding ‘social’

Published by Lily Winslow on

How to make your online onboarding 'social'

Table of contents

Onboarding is going online. For many organisations, creating online onboarding experiences is part of a wider digital transformation of their systems and processes. In many cases that transformation has been accelerated by the pandemic.

Moving to an online onboarding approach is inevitable, but it’s not as simple as creating a digital version of your existing, face-to-face onboarding programme. Careful design considerations must be made to ensure the key elements of an onboarding programme are retained in your online space.

One of those key elements is social integration.

Why social integration is important with online onboarding

Research into new hire performance states that one of the most common reasons for failure is ‘difficulty forging alliances with peers’. When we consider that effective onboarding increases both employee engagement and retention, it’s clear that social integration is a key part of an onboarding experience.

It’s easy to see how social opportunities, connections, and events could be omitted from online onboarding. New hires won’t see their colleagues at face-to-face training events, some may work remotely so won’t see people around the office and there’s less opportunity for informal networking. Not only does this impact the effectiveness of onboarding, it can lead to feelings of isolation among new hires.

As more onboarding goes online, how can you make sure your onboarding programme retains its social elements?

young woman smiling looking at laptop screen

Create a network

In an office environment, a new hire can get a feel for an organisation, its culture and the people in it. They start to build connections over making coffee in the kitchen, sharing the lift or being informally introduced. These connections create a network of people that new hires can call on for help and be inspired by, and with whom they can form great working relationships.

In some cases, these informal connections are kickstarted with an ‘office orientation’ as part of a new hire’s first week. While there’s not a simple equivalent in digital onboarding, these networking opportunities can be orchestrated so that your new hires aren’t missing out on vital social connections.

Set up remote, informal meetings for them to get to know people. This could be a coffee date or a knowledge sharing session with colleagues from across the business.

Every new hire should have a network. It can start small, with their buddy and their manager, and then grow over time with team members and colleagues from other teams.

Build communities with online onboarding

As well as having a network of individual connections they can call on, social integration means offering new hires the opportunity to be part of a community. This could be a ‘new hire’ community or a community built around a specific interest.

Here’s where going online has a real social benefit. You can build bigger communities much quicker online.

You could create a digital forum, chat group or regular virtual meetings to build communities.

Make sure your community spaces facilitate new hires seeing others who are like them and that they feel part of something where they can share and receive advice.

looking over someone's shoulder with a view of a team call on their laptop screen

Share experiences

An important part of social integration is sharing stories, experiences, opinions and learnings with others. In fact, it can help your new hire master their new role. Real stories allow people to understand how others react in a situation, and builds voluntary cooperation (Zak, 2014).

One way to make this happen is to select leaders in your new hire community to share their way of doing things. This can help to create social norms around bestpractice.

Encourage new hires to share their experiences during the onboarding period both with their manager and their network. Online communities such as  forums and group chats are great spaces for sharing experiences.

Make it social

Create networks, build communities and encourage new hires to share their experiences to ensure social integration is a part of a successful and enriching online onboarding experience.

The BAD team can create online onboarding experiences and tools that help you increase engagement and retention.

Get in touch if you’d like your new hires to learn through social experiences.

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