On the ball onboarding

In a bid to quickly engage and connect with new hires even before they set foot in the office, organisations are crafting customised onboarding initiatives in the online space. HRM Asia reveals more

On the first day of their job, new recruits at DBS enjoy a 360-degree virtual reality experience, showcasing the bank’s offices across Singapore.

Another initiative designed for new employees is known as DBS Power Up.

This is a mobile app for new hires to access information, and to work and connect with colleagues on the go. The app is also used to conduct surveys and solicit regular feedback from new hires.

The bank is also working on a microsite which will serve as a one-stop shop to help new recruits navigate through the bank’s internal resources online. 

This interactive platform ensures line managers have the necessary resources and information to support new hires efficiently. 

US-based online retail giant Zappos uses a learning management system by the name of Litmos to help house its online training tutorials and interactive practices.

These tools offer a supplemental learning environment to give new employees a chance to have hands-on practice in their respective job duties.

“All the information is discussed in class in a lecture form, but we feel that if they are able to practice going through the processes, the information is retained at a higher rate,” Megan Petrini, training supervisor at Zappos Family of Companies tells HRM Asia.

Meanwhile, new hires at luxury tea brand TWG Tea can tap onto the internal mobile app to learn about the business’ extensive product list. With easy- to-use predefined filters, trainees are able to recognise and sell the right tea to the right customer, based on their inputs and preferences.

Maranda Barnes, co-founder and Business Development Director of TWG Tea Company, says a strong on-boarding tool is imperative to the company’s success. With an extensive product range, a fast-changing workforce with diverse knowledge of tea initially, and the high expectations of customers, recruits need to take in a high base level of understanding from their first days on the job.

“For our employees, the app is very much like having a TWG Tea Handbook at all times, but is discrete enough to fit in the palm of the hand,” Barnes says. “This helps the employee onboarding process as it gives them quick access to tea knowledge at any point in time.”

Why e-onboard?

The importance of a structured and comprehensive onboarding programme for new employees has long been advocated among HR professionals.

According to a report by consulting firm Allegis Group, a quality onboarding experience helps to facilitate time-to-productivity, with high-performing recruitment organisations taking 44% less time to have a new hire hit a “productive” level of output.

The use of “e-onboarding” tools specifically can help improve efficiency, create more customised employee onboarding experiences, and cultivate better relationships between new hires and their organisation.

Sylvia Lai, Executive Director, Group HR, DBS Bank, says e-onboarding tools are great platforms to digitally engage with new recruits and allow them to virtually experience the company’s culture.

“We recognise that a strong onboarding process is crucial to increasing engagement from their (new hires) first day and preventing employee attrition within the first six months. With this in mind, we redesigned the process to eliminate pain points and to improve the overall journey,” says Lai.

These tools have enhanced the employee experience from the point new recruits accept their offers with DBS, increasing engagement with them even before they begin their first day of work.

Gareth Davies, Vice President of Sales at Enboarder, a technology developer which aims to optimise employee engagement, believes that by fostering a personalised and engaging onboarding experience, new hires become more connected with their colleagues, more engaged in their work, and much more likely to stay for the long term. 

Enboarder designs customised workflows for different occupations, delivers a consistent and personalised experience for new hires and managers, and simplifies HR processes by creating, testing and deploying engaging workflows without the need for sophisticated information technology apparatus.

According to Davies, onboarding typically focuses on processes rather than people.

“At Enboarder we are helping companies create a consistent onboarding experience for everyone, coaching managers on making new hires feel like they belong, and guiding new hires every step of the way so they feel they’ve made the right decision,” he says.

“The focus is on establishing connections and engaging with your new employees before they’ve even started.”

Rapid learning

Traditional onboarding at TWG Tea used to involve trainers going through specific sets of teas, highlighting their different characteristics to new recruits of all job-types.

With the introduction of the mobile app, new employees can access the entire product range with a tap of a finger. They can then read much further on the specific product, in order to understand the tea, as well as associated gourmet products and tea accessories.

Barnes says this allows employees to take control of their learning and explore the world of TWG Tea at their own pace.

“Our employees enjoy using the TWG Tea mobile app as it greatly enhances their tea knowledge during their training and beyond. The application is quite functional and intuitive,” she shares.

Barnes says TWG customers will ask a series of varied questions to find their perfect product.

“Developing the ability to automatically have the right top-of-mind responses to these questions can take from six months to many years; so a tool that employees can consult makes them more confident more quickly when facing customers.”

Zappos says giving new employees the opportunity to practice customer service in a safe environment builds up their comfort levels. New hires are then more likely to have a higher sense of confidence when they are assisting customers.

“It also gives them a chance to learn the back-end systems at their own pace,” says Petrini.  

Tangible benefits

Through DBS Bank’s Taleo applicant tracking system, new hires are introduced to the onboarding website where they can find out more about the working culture at DBS, and update themselves on the latest internal developments.

An email is sent to new hires 10 days before their commencement date to welcome them and guide them through what to expect on their first day of work. 

At the same time, automated notifications are sent to the hiring managers to remind them to prepare the necessary tools and resources for the arrival of the new colleague. Managers are also reminded to appoint a buddy for each new hire to help them assimilate into the DBS environment.

Lai says this enhanced system has been very well received.

“Almost 90% of our survey respondents have given positive feedback. Most of have said the system was easy to use, and was an innovative approach to onboarding new hires,” she shares.

The organisation has also reduced early attrition levels over the past few years. Less than 7% of new employees left the organisation in their first six months, compared to 9% in 2014.

Zappos has also witnessed a higher retention rate as a result of its enhanced e-onboarding measures. “It engages different learning styles and helps with comprehension,” says Petrini.

Retaining traditional platforms

Although e-onboarding platforms play a vital role in today’s recruitment and engagement landscape, traditional techniques for welcoming new hires are not obsolete. Lai says these are now working in tandem.

“While we leverage digital tools to enhance the onboarding experience, we recognise the value and importance of human interaction to create a holistic experience,” she says.

Hence, DBS continues to have orientation sessions for new hires on their first day, alongside networking sessions, and other face-to-face meetings.

TWG Tea also continues to incorporate traditional onboarding methods.

Indeed, the organisation has also enhanced these techniques by analysing traditional classroom methods and developing new ones to make live training experiences more engaging.

“We only adopt these new techniques once we have proven that trainees have a 80% retention rate or higher,” says Barnes. “At the end of the day, retention and application of information is the objective, no matter what method is used,” says Barnes.

Zappos also utilises online tools to supplement its traditional learning techniques and practices for new hires.

“Our onboarding training experience is a face-to-face, interactive, and family-like environment. We provide them with a physical manual, notebook, along with online tools,” says Petrini.

“We have class discussions and teambuilding activities built into our daily schedule to help engage and bond with our newest team members.”