Onboarding with the Intranet

When new employees open their laptops, the first thing they see is the company intranet. For many, the intranet is their trusty companion in the digital workplace. The familiarity and reliability of intranets make them very useful for onboarding.

Onboarding mit dem Intranet

Onboarding is:

...the mechanism through which new employees acquire the necessary knowledge, skills, and behaviors to become effective organizational members and insiders.

The purpose of onboarding is to help transform new employees into productive members of the organization as quickly as possible. While "personnel" often came in with the necessary equipment, instructions and infrastructure in the past, onboarding nowadays involves,  to a large extent, "soft" social and cultural aspects:

What should onboarding accomplish?
The goals of onboarding can be seen as achieved not only when there is no termination during the trial period or within two or three years (for permanent employees), but instead, most importantly, when the new employee…

  • is fast and proficient in tasks, neither over nor underwhelmed, is employed according to his strengths and promoted by virtue of his talents.
  • is well-integrated into the team, recognized as a team member and has built up strong relationships with his or her superiors and other departments.
  • is also culturally integrated–that is–he knows the corporate culture and believes he can make an important contribution to the company.

(Onboarding: Integrating New Employees into the Workplace, in German)

The next step is to integrate the employee as a social entity into the company. Cultural integration is followed by professional integration. (Onboarding: Challenges and Possibilities in the Age of Digitization, Haufein German)

In the tradition of managing human capital, there are software platforms and other specialized software that offer onboarding programs (see Haufein German).

Almost all major HR management software platforms now offer their own onboarding modules, such as Oracle Taleo, SAP Successfactors and Haufe-Umantis Talent Management. In addition, there are a number of specialized software solutions for onboarding.
Furthermore, an enterprise intranet or internal enterprise wiki is frequently used to document the most important information.

These days, software solutions from the HR sector even enable automation:

Automated onboarding programs typically take advantage of an onboarding portal or intranet, giving new hires the opportunity to access pertinent information and critical documents even before their first day of work.

(Intranet onboarding: how automation can improve employee onboarding, Nonlinear Enterprise)

Through automation, messages and documents can be sent, and tasks can be assigned and reviewed. In addition, workflows can be used to perform event-driven actions. Examples of automated components for onboarding from Nonlinear Enterprise include:

  • Welcome message from the CEO and other key stakeholders.

  • Summary of company vision, values and mission statements.

  • Biographies of co-workers.

  • Information on mentorship and leadership development programs.

Once companies grow into large organizations, like NNE Pharmaplan, they design their own onboarding solutions:

A great example of using an intranet for onboarding is Navigate, a custom-built global onboarding solution introduced by NNE Pharmaplan, a consulting and engineering firm offering services to the biotech and pharmaceutical industry.
On Navigate new employees have to complete three missions in the first ninety days of employment, each of which is made up of a number of modules. Each module has a mixture of content, including videos, interactive quizzes and other material. The emphasis of Navigate is very much on learning about the organisation, its ethos and different skills, rather than completing different transactions.

(Using the intranet for employee onboarding)

Haufe views intranets and wikis as storage and static information providers.1 Intranet workflow modules, however, can also cover automation. Workflow modules, such as content management systems or wikis, can access HR system data and carry out actions that are tailored to new employees.

But such tools alone cannot offer  social and cultural integration . Haufe refers to social networks in the company (also known as "Enterprise Social Networks", "Social Intranet" or "Intranet 2.0"):

Getting to know company culture and the opportunity to meet and join the new colleagues is also one of the basic components of a successful onboarding strategy, and includes the opportunity to consult and ask contacts for help on various topics within the company. Here, onboarding often uses different types of social networks such as XING and Linkedin. No matter whether internal, specially adapted social networking tools are used or the major platforms such as Twitter or Facebook - the use of social media in the onboarding process allows the new employees to network quickly within the company in order to gain from the exchange of knowledge with colleagues.

In addition to management, many companies rely on mentors or sponsors, who take newbies under their wing and serve as contacts, who can, and should, be asked about anything. But even mentors don't have all the answers, and other employees might prove to be more effective resources. With the exception of personal contact, most intranet communication can take place in a separate area:

The Newbie Zone

This is a place to ask all those „dumb questions“. Yes, we know there is no such thing — but it’s hard to put yourself out there in a new workplace. Even if it is perfectly okay to ask, we might be shy to ask things we „should“ already know from our boss. We have a space on our intranet for it, and actually the questions often challenge some of our assumptions about our culture.

(5 Ways to Make Onboarding Awesome)

It can be a forum, community, group or microblog. There are many ways to welcome and integrate newbies:

With social elements like video chat, instant messaging, newsfeeds, group forums and document collaboration, an onboarding process that includes a social intranet helps establish a sense of community by connecting with them others in the company, no matter where they’re located.

(Simplify Employee Onboarding with a Social Intranet)

To contact a sponsor or mentor, the new employee can also access video chat or instant messaging for a more personal experience.

Because social and cultural integration is about “people”, it's important to introduce the new employee within the intranet:

Make your new employees feel appreciated and welcomed by adding a New/Featured Employee Feed on the home page of your intranet or within your intranet Mega Menu. The New Employee Feed quickly provides high level information from the Employee Profile on your intranet, including their picture, and provides the opportunity for other team members to introduce themselves via your intranet or by recognizing the new employee in the hallway or common area.

(Improve Employee Onboarding with the Intranet)

Both professional as well as personal experiences and interests provide a variety of connecting points for discussions - both later in the cafeteria, or in a community or a blog on the intranet. A one-time introduction on the intranet is good. A more effective way, however, would be the use of employee profiles, which coworkers can find and exchange.

Erica Hakonson, with good reason, named the onboarding checklist the “New Employee Intranet Profile Completion.”

(Improve Employee Onboarding with the Intranet)

1 The difference between a company's intranet and its internal wiki is an artificial one, since a wiki is only a certain type of intranet or internet software. A company's intranet can consist of "just" a wiki or a wiki in a company can be part of the intranet.


Frank HammOriginal article Onboarding mit dem Intranet published in German by Frank Hamm.

Frank Hamm is a consultant for communication and collaboration who supports companies in their digital transformation. He has written for INJELEA-Blog about social business, intranets, enterprise 2.0 and company communication practices since 2005. Frank is an avowed nexialist and writes about this at Der Schreibende.

You can find more articles by Frank Hamm in our intranet special.

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