How social onboarding can increase employee productivity

HR is often only seen as an administrative arm of the business. They manage the intake of information to get payrolls and benefits done, track employee movement through the organisation and they disseminate those pesky annual spreadsheets managers use to allocate incentive compensation.

But in truth, the aim of HR is to increase the productivity of those resources.

The landscape of technology can be confusing for many HR practitioners who are focused on people and process, rather than tools. This confusion can be exacerbated when new technologies are involved. As new technologies and capabilities emerge, operational, research & development, and marketing concerns usually take the first pass at implementations while administrative functions take the budgetary back seat.

Social enterprise is a space that HR has been interested in for several years, but has been afraid of "Facebook-like" interactions that are too personal and ungoverned. While HR has been wavering on the applications of social in the workplace, IT has forged ahead with collaboration spaces that are knowledge and innovation focused. However, there is still space for HR to collaborate and create value through the use of social and collaboration technologies.

Typically, employee onboarding consists of the mundane tasks of filling out paperwork, getting computers and business cards ordered, and enrolling in benefits and direct deposits. Every manager, however, is fully aware of long ramp up times for new employees as they adapt to a new culture, business processes, and team members.

For some roles, the ramp up period can be as short as a month, for other more technical roles 18 months is not unheard of. Not only is there a need to decrease the ramp up period for productivity reasons, but the employee experience suffers as they struggle to navigate the new workplace.

While onboarding is the realm of HR practitioners, start-up and time to productivity is the realm of the manager. A well thought out social onboarding approach can integrate the two needs and accelerate tasks while engaging the new employee. Tasks that happen informally in the current state of a business could be put to a "gamified" experience where new employees win points or badges as they accomplish a set of activities.

Simple activities could be making sure benefit enrolments are performed and going to the employee orientation. But informal meetings, like having lunch with their manager and other team members, can be awarded. Going a step further, creating a network of links in the internal social enterprise site can be encouraged, and getting to know other members of the staff beyond the employee's core team will help the employee connect broadly in ways that may help their work in the not so immediate future.

True gaming experiences can also be applied to onboarding. Imagine if the employee could show up on their first day, download an app to their phone and take a guided tour of the office. Or the mentoring experience could be converted to a series of interactions for which both the new employee and the mentor can be rewarded.

Whether it's recruiting the highest quality staff, getting them trained so that they have the best capabilities, or initiating corrective actions through performance cycles, the administration of HR is just a nasty by-product of the actual goal.

In many cases, HR is not the first in line when it comes to investing in tools that help achieve the productivity outcomes, and this is where IT can, and should, help.

Wes Wu is a HR strategy consultant at Appirio