5 Onboarding trends to watch in 2021

Appical Team
December 14, 2020
min read
Table of Contents
What a year it has been. The pandemic has changed the world of work immensely: most businesses had to make big changes - especially when it comes to how and where we work.Working environments look very different than they did a year ago. This means the way organizations hire and onboard new employees has changed as well. To prepare for a post-COVID world and match the ‘new reality’, organizations will need to rethink the onboarding experience.

What lessons did we learn in the past year? How can organizations update their onboarding process in 2021? Although we are still living in the pandemic and more transformation is inevitable, we look forward to 5 onboarding trends in 2021 and beyond. 

1. Remote onboarding

For many organizations, remote working has become the new normal. While this trend has been catching up for the past few years, the COVID-19 situation accelerated its urgency.

For example, companies like Twitter, Mastercard, and Salesforce recently announced that working from home is here to stay. 

“Almost 75% of companies plan to more remote work post-COVID.” - Gartner (2020)

Other organizations, like Microsoft, are planning to adopt a ‘hybrid workplace,’ which offers employees greater flexibility once the pandemic comes to an end.

This shift in the working environment also changes the process of onboarding new hires.

“Onboarding activities, as well as performance management and even firing decisions, have relied on in-person conversations. HR needs to reinvent current practices to effectively deal with these situations in a digital world”, says Human Resources Today.

Imagine a new hire joining your organization. Rather than stepping into an office or workspace, he or she starts the first day of work by logging in from home.

Especially the social integration of your new employee into the organization is very different while working from home. 

Networking with new colleagues at the coffee machine, or spontaneous learning opportunities offered by informal interactions with peers, are now missed.

Therefore, organizations need to find alternative ways to make sure they still offer the same level of information and feeling of connection with the organization as they would have with an in-person onboarding experience. 

As a result, more companies will let go of traditional onboarding processes and shift towards remote, or virtual, onboarding. This brings us to the next trend.

2. Digitize & automatize the onboarding process

One way to provide new hires with a remote onboarding experience is with the use of technology. 

By digitizing the onboarding program, for example using a cloud-based onboarding tool, organizations can provide new hires with easy access to the right information and knowledge wherever they are located, to retain and engage them, and get them productive more quickly.

“85% of organizations are already utilizing new technology to onboard employees.” - Gartner (2020)

Using a digital platform also enables organizations to turn previously in-person onboarding processes into digital assets that they can simply re-use and update. 

For example, create a quality video that can replace some of the human interactions from ‘the before times,’ like an onboarding presentation by department leaders. 

It’s a chance for organizations to innovate the onboarding program with fun and surprising content which creates an interactive, engaging, and positive employee experience.

Implementing new technology also creates an opportunity for organizations to automate repetitive HR tasks and maximizes efficiency.

For example, integrating an onboarding platform with other core HR systems, like an SSO or ATS, reduces the workload and creates a more seamless onboarding experience for the new hire.

3. Reboarding the entire workforce

Of course, not every company will ask their employees to work from home forever. Some new hires who are onboarded virtually will start coming to the workplace after social distancing guidelines are lifted. 

Once at the office, they will be in a whole new setting and be the ‘newbie at work’... again. During their remote onboarding, new hires acquired information about their role and the organization, but now they will need to start socially integrating themselves with their team. 

New employees would have to unlearn the remote working norms and learn the behaviors and cultural norms of the workplace, as HR Daily Advisor mentions.

“Reboarding is a completely new step in the employee experience that didn’t exist before the pandemic.”

However, this ‘reboarding’ process, the return of the workforce back to the workplace after working remotely, will not only be applied to new employees.

Organizations should not forget their returning and current employees — as the shift from working-from-home moves toward working back in the office after the pandemic affects everyone.

For current employees, the workplace isn’t the same as it was before. Immediate and ongoing COVID-related changes may cause insecurity and anxieties for all employees. These concerns need to be addressed, and supporting those concerns must become part of the culture. 

Therefore, HR will need to think about a return-to-work/reboarding plan for the entire workforce to support all employees, including new hires, (re)familiarizing with the new ‘business as usual’.

4. Make data-driven decisions

Putting employees first has been given a boost by the corona crisis, writes Heleen Mes, an expert in employee experience at PW. What do employees need to be the best version of themselves in these times? 

By digitizing the onboarding process, it’s easier for organizations to keep track of the onboarding process of new hires and collect data to make better decisions. 

For example, by including a survey in the digital onboarding platform, organizations can ask questions like: 

  • How are new employees feeling during their onboarding? 
  • Do they feel well-supported? 
  • If he or she is lagging behind, is there vital information missing in the remote onboarding program? 
  • What tools or learning strategies can an organization apply to get them productive more quickly?

When analyzing the responses, organizations can immediately adjust and improve the onboarding process according to the needs of the employees.

This, in turn, will lead to improving the employees’ performance and well-being, which is even more crucial in these times of social distancing. 

5. Personalization & inclusive onboarding

HR Trend Institute states that for many years the HR sector focused heavily on standardization and a one-size-fits-all strategy, but now we are moving towards a more personalized approach that has the individual needs, wishes, and skills of each employee at its core. 

Translating that to onboarding, every team has its own processes, tools, and key contact persons. Therefore, every new hire needs different information at a different stage in their journey.

HR must be able to offer customization because every person is different. With the help of a digital onboarding tool, like Appical, it’s easier for organizations to create and tailor multiple onboarding journeys based on the location, department, or role in which the new hire will start working. 

For example, is a new hire relocating from another country to work for the employer? Provide information in their onboarding program about their new country and culture, how to obtain a work permit and find housing, and how to register at the municipality. 

Create a meaningful onboarding experience by considering the individual needs and make your new employee feel like they belong at your company from day one.

Providing personalized information will lead towards a more personal and inclusive onboarding process, boosting the employee’s success and that of the organization.

Rethinking employee onboarding

There you have it, our top 5 onboarding trends for 2021 and beyond. Do you want to read more about these topics? Here are some recommendations:

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