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Tips for Creating an Effective Onboarding Site

ORLANDO, Fla.—When employers consider building an online onboarding portal, they should first think about the core messages the website will impart to new hires and integrate those ideas into the design components, said Brenda Hampel, co-founder and principal of Connect the Dots Consulting, an HR consultancy headquartered in Dublin, Ohio.

Hampel and her partner and co-founder Erika Lamont spoke April 20 at the Society for Human Resource Management’s Talent Management Conference & Exposition.

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The importance of an onboarding portal is obvious. “As new hires get ready to start a new job, they are disconnecting from their previous role and are anxious to gain as much information as possible about the new role,” Hampel said.

New hires can receive a link for the site upon accepting the job offer. The link then takes them to a landing page full of various resources where the new employee can learn about the organization, the culture of the company and what to expect on the first day.

Getting Started

Hampel said that in her experience, HR generally wants to get right to work on creating content for onboarding. “HR starts focusing on what to share, what checklists people need, forms to fill out. We would encourage you to peel away from that and stay a little higher. If we get in to the content first, we are going to lose sight of the greater onboarding purpose.”

She recommended HR first consider “Why does my site exist?” What is its purpose? “Then take it a step or two further,” she said. “Ask, what does onboarding mean in your organization?”

For example, the answer might be to enable your new hires to “connect to success.” “Making that connection has a direct correlation to engagement and being successful that’s mutually beneficial to the individual and the organization,” Hampel said.

Once a clear vision of what the onboarding site should be has been established, employers need to determine what they will focus on to achieve that vision. Hampel outlined three possibilities relating to her example above:

Highlight the culture. “We want new hires to understand the culture: What do we believe, what are our values, how do we work with one another?” Hampel said. She suggested creating videos to achieve this aim. “You don’t need to bring in a high-end production company. Everybody has access to basic technology that can help create these videos.”

Don’t show new hires only the CEO’s message. “New hires generally want to see the folks that they will be working with, not the CEO. Show them what it’s actually like to work there. Use real examples and real stories.” A YouTube channel is a good outlet for this.

Build relationships. Work gets done by collaborating with other people in the organization. “The faster we can make those connections and help build those relationships, the faster we will allow new employees to be productive.” Hampel suggested including photos in the online directory. “Who are the people we are going to be working with? So when I start to see people, they look a little familiar to me because I’ve seen their face.” Purposeful meet and greets are another good relationship-builder. “Don’t just take the person around and introduce them on the first day. Give them and the person they meet with an agenda,” Hampel said. She added that new hires should meet with people more than once.

Gather feedback. This is the component that is most often missing from onboarding programs, Hampel said. “There’s a lot of feedback on the logistical process: Did you get what you needed? Did you complete your forms? But these things won’t let you reach your objective of connecting new hires to success.”

She suggested building into the portal short feedback surveys of between four and seven questions, to be taken by both the new hire and the hiring manager. That data can be used to understand what both parties are thinking and how well-aligned they are. Then HR can facilitate a discussion to help bridge any gaps that may exist.  

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM. Follow him @SHRMRoy


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