A carefree start at Amsterdam UMC with the onboarding app

Appical Team
January 24, 2020
min read
Table of Contents
How do you find your way around in the hospital as a new employee? Where do you collect your uniform? Who can you contact if you have questions? And what do you do if you need to work at a branch location? To answer all these questions and to give new employees a smooth start in their new job, Amsterdam UMC works with a state of the art onboarding app. HR Project leader Giselle Straathof talks about the recent renewal of the app and Appical gets to look behind the scenes. We walk along during the “Experience”, a tour through the hospital for new employees via the app.

Why is Amsterdam UMC working with an onboarding app?

The healthcare sector is dealing with substantial deficiencies. In particular, nurses and medical support staff (such as operating assistants and anesthesia staff) are scarce. The supporting functions of this sector are also challenged because of a tight labor market. Therefore, retaining employees is a major concern within healthcare as a whole. This is why a good onboarding program adds value by contributing to decreased turnover.

Talent retention is not the only reason for Amsterdam UMC to evolve its onboarding program. AMC and VUmc merged administratively on 7 June 2018. This means that the same Executive Board controls both locations.  But, employees are still employed at either the AMC location or the VUmc location. The hospitals are two separate legal entities, but they work under the Amsterdam UMC umbrella. 

That is why Amsterdam UMC chose to harmonize the onboarding program at both locations beginning January 2020. This allows new employees to get acquainted with Amsterdam UMC as a whole, and not just at the location where they started their job. 

“The onboarding app allows us to introduce new employees to our merged organization in a fun, accessible, and informative way.”

 Amsterdam UMC welcomes approximately 100 new colleagues at the AMC and VUmc every month, and they are raving fans of the new onboarding program. The onboarding app allows new colleagues the best possible start. They quickly feel at home within the organization and they are able to get started with their assignments for which they are hired on day one.

“Previously, the period up to the introduction day or first working day was a period in which we had little contact with the new employee. The onboarding app now gives a very nice completion to this pre-boarding period,” says Giselle Straathof, HR Policy Adviser at Amsterdam UMC. Together with her colleagues, she is responsible for renewing the induction program of the new merger.

Amsterdam UMC onboarding app

The Amsterdam UMC onboarding app

How did you update the onboarding program?

Working with an onboarding app was not entirely new for Amsterdam UMC. “At the VUmc location, the onboarding app already played a major role in the introduction program. The tour at the VUmc location ran for several years using the app,” says Straathof. “We updated this tour and gave it a whole new look. Thanks to good cooperation between colleagues at both locations, we were able to create a tour for the AMC location in no time using the app.”

“When it was decided to introduce the onboarding app at the AMC location as well, we immediately wanted to tackle this process properly and give substance to the pre-boarding period. The pre-boarding section in the onboarding app allows us to introduce new employees to our merged organization in a fun, accessible, and informative way.”

Setting up the pre-boarding app started with an “Onboarding Game” facilitated by Appical. Recently hired colleagues were also present at the Game, because they are the ‘experts’ in the field of onboarding after all. During the interactive session, the main question was: what information is essential for new employees to know during their first days at their new job? And at what time is it useful for them to know this?

“Appical had many useful tips and after the game we received a complete framework from them on what do include in our onboarding app. We filled this framework with content ourselves: photos, videos and texts, quiz questions, facts and statements. “

The app was translated into English, so international employees can also use the app. Current employees got the opportunity to activate a temporary account and to discover how their new colleagues are being welcomed at Amsterdam UMC. 

The app went live in January 2020. From that moment on, every new employee of Amsterdam UMC receives login details to create their own account for the new onboarding program. Part of the onboarding is the introduction day, where all new employees are introduced to the Executive Board and do a tour through the hospital via the app. Appical joined them at the AMC location.

The AMC Experience

The introduction day for new employees takes place on the first working day of the month. It does not matter in which department you start within the hospital: all new employees are divided into groups during the Experience. 

Via the app, they follow a route consisting of six stages over the entire site. The tour alternates with interactive questions whereby they learn more about the ins and outs of the hospital. How many students graduate each year? Where is the clothing intake? How many artworks does the hospital own? How many visits does the polyclinic receive annually and where do you receive a discount with your employee pass? 

Halfway through the Experience, employees can get a free cup of coffee from the AH to Go. The app proposes a conversation starter to get to know each other better during the coffee break: “How much do you notice about the merger in your position?” This broke the ice for the new employees.


Photo: Sake Rijpkema

Isn’t it a shame that you are not taking the tour with direct colleagues? “No, this way, you get to know new people outside of your immediate colleagues. I hope to meet them again. You become aware of how many different types of people and departments there are within the UMC,” says Laura, a recent hire at UMC.

She finds the tour with the app efficient. “No employee needs to tell the same story over and over again; in that case, you feel burdened. Now you can do it yourself with a group, without a supervisor. It feels more empowering because you go exploring yourself.”

What are the benefits of the onboarding app for the organization?

“The app is a means by which we can inform our new employees at an early stage before they can log in to our systems. This way, we can take away any questions, doubts or uncertainties, and we can share practical information before their first working day,” says Straathof. The platform is accessible on a smart phone or your laptop and is not bound to a work address.

“What I also experienced as an advantage is the accessible contact with the developer, Appical. The consultants answered our questions quickly and accurately, along the lines of what suits our organization. We have a very diverse workforce which makes it challenging to offer a customized onboarding process for every employee based on a central idea. In the app, the employee controls the buttons and can explore the parts that interest them the most. We naturally encourage new employees to go through all the chapters. Some components, such as the frequently asked questions and a dictionary, are aimed at the very curious new employees or the employees with specific questions.” 

The future of the onboarding program

The pre-boarding and Amsterdam UMC Experiences are up and running. What now? “Every day I am motivated to keep developing a great onboarding program for new employees at Amsterdam UMC. With the app, we have taken a significant step in welcoming new employees to our organization. The program is not finished yet.” says Straathof.  In the near future, Straathof and her colleagues will start working on phase two: the first months that someone is employed, also known as onboarding. “Of course, we look at how we can use the app in this phase. It would be very interesting if we could include information for specific roles. The app from Appical offers many possibilities, so we have to look at which of them suit our organization.”

 In addition, Straathof also receives input from new employees. Via the platform, there is the possibility to request feedback from the end-users and to analyze this data. “We will certainly be able to make improvements in the coming months. That is also an advantage to the app; the tools are very user-friendly for us as administrators. We can directly process the feedback received from employees ourselves. That gives a lot of freedom and independence.”

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