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Digital Onboarding for Small and Medium-Sized Companies: A Toolbox Approach

Requester: Berner Fachhochschule (BFH)

In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, the onboarding process has emerged as a crucial aspect of organizational success. With the advent of remote work and virtual teams, new challenges have arisen, necessitating the development of structured onboarding processes that incorporate digital tools. However, the integration of analog and digital tools to effectively assimilate new hires remains a persistent challenge for organizations. With our work we want explore the significance of onboarding in SME, elucidate the challenges posed by remote work, and propose potential strategies for integrating analog and digital tools in the onboarding process.

Effective onboarding of new hires has long been recognized as a critical factor in organizational success. It ensures a smooth transition for new employees and facilitates their assimilation into the organizational culture and workflow. However, with the paradigm shift towards remote work and virtual teams, the traditional onboarding process has encountered new hurdles, necessitating the adoption of novel strategies and digital tools. New work arrangements offer flexibility and access to talent pools beyond geographical boundaries. However, they also present unique challenges in terms of team collaboration, communication, and fostering a sense of belonging. Addressing these challenges requires a reimagining of the onboarding process.

Leveraging digital technologies for employee onboarding creates complexities that differ from traditional in-person onboarding. The absence of physical presence makes it challenging to establish personal connections (commitment and organizational citizenship behaviour) and convey the organizational culture effectively. Additionally, the reliance on digital communication platforms raises concerns about information overload, misinterpretation, and reduced non-verbal cues. Consequently, organizations must adapt their onboarding processes to ensure remote hires receive adequate support and integration. When adequately orchestrated and integrated in organizational processes, virtual meeting platforms, collaborative software, and knowledge-sharing tools provide avenues for effective communication, training, and engagement. By leveraging these tools, organizations can create interactive and immersive experiences that simulate in-person interactions, fostering stronger connections and facilitating the assimilation of new hires.

However, to bridge the analog-digital divide, organizations must carefully blend both types of tools in their onboarding processes. A hybrid approach can leverage the benefits of face-to-face interactions while harnessing the efficiency and accessibility of digital tools.

The challenges posed by the combination of analog and digital tools necessitate innovative strategies. By implementing a structured onboarding process that incorporates digital tools effectively, organizations can foster a sense of connection, enhance employee engagement, and lay the foundation for long-term success in a digital-first era.

The project aims to develop a toolbox of digital solutions in order to empower SMEs to effectively integrate new hires. Through empirical research and a focus on specific SME needs, this study seeks to enhance the onboarding experience and promote organizational success.

In order to carry out the project in a practical manner, continuous collaboration with potential industry partners is essential. This collaboration allows for the identification of pain points and the gathering of valuable insights from previous experiences. By engaging in this exchange, targeted research can be conducted, leading to the development of practical and feasible solutions.

In a first step, we are actively seeking companies interested in participating in a shaping workshop to share their knowledge and insights regarding the use of digital tools in the onboarding processes. This workshop will provide an opportunity for participants to discuss the challenges they face and generate initial ideas on how to effectively address these challenges. We encourage companies to join us in this collaborative session to foster knowledge sharing and collectively enhance the onboarding experience.

In a second step, we are looking for firms as implementation partners to co-develop initial concepts and possibly prototypes. Firms could be specialized in HR, or HR consulting, or providing systems/development to support HR processes.