7 ways to use SharePoint to support employee onboarding

An important use case for any digital workplace or employee experience platform is employee onboarding. When a new hire first joins a company, there are lots of forms to complete, team members to meet and information to absorb. A successful onboarding initiative helps make that process for new joiners more efficient, less overwhelming and as welcoming as possible. Typically, an onboarding programme might continue from when a person is hired through their first 90 days or so, but can last longer, even sometimes extending up to a year.

Employee onboarding is an important element of employee experience. Critically, there are a plethora of statistics that show a successful onboarding programme can significantly reduce employee turnover and support talent retention.

Over the last few years, there has been more and more attention paid to how the digital workplace supports onboarding. Since the pandemic, the digital side of employee onboarding has become even more important as companies have been forced to design virtual onboarding programmes during lockdown. Thankfully, SharePoint, with some additional integrations from across Microsoft 365, can support employee onboarding in several ways. Let’s explore seven of these.

1 Provide a secure SharePoint site before day one

When a person first confirms that they are accepting a position, there is often a lot of paperwork they must complete before their first day, as well as information to provide and reading to do. Completing this before their first day usually helps get everything prepared, including setting them up on different systems, ordering IT equipment and so on. It can also allow them to learn about the company and even meet their new colleagues.

Creating a secure SharePoint site that new hires can access before their first day is a great way to provide all the necessary information and documents, as well as create all the forms they need to complete. The latter can use embedded Microsoft Forms with workflows from Power Automate to help IT and HR functions complete all the pre-first day tasks. A specific, secure SharePoint site can prove to be far more efficient than using email and helps a new hire make a flying start when they join, rather than spending the first day filling out forms and reading documentation.

2 Create a hub for your new hires on your SharePoint intranet

A SharePoint intranet often contains valuable information that new hires need to know regarding the company and its processes, its strategy and values, tools and apps, how to get things done and so on. Intranet teams often choose to create a new hire hub which highlights all the content that is valuable for a new starter, as well as adding specific resources for the new starter community. This might include checklists of things employees need to do, a welcome video from the CEO or presentations which feature in onboarding and induction sessions. It might also display a calendar of all the milestones an employee needs to be aware of in their first 30 days.

A hub can also contain links to some of the elements mentioned below, including a task list, a Yammer community, policies and learning resources. Ideally, a new hire hub should have web parts that are targeted and personalised to ensure resources and links are relevant to the individual and their location, department and role.

3 Build a custom set of personalised tasks with automation and workflow

When new starters join a company, there are a lot of tasks to complete, including forms to fill out, policies to read, learning to complete and courses to attend. Aggregating all these tasks into a targeted list can be extremely helpful in making sure the new starter keeps on top of what they need to do. Creating a set of personalised tasks that appears in your SharePoint intranet can be done through customised development, taking advantage of Power Automate to deliver the right workflows. Building this into your intranet homepage can also ensure they are front of mind for the new starter.

4 Get mandatory reads on your policies

When a person joins a company, there is often a lot of reading to get through, some of which might be mandatory. They may need to read a professional conduct policy, an IT policy, a social media usage policy and a range of other HR policies. There may also be some mandatory risk compliance procedures they need to read and digest, and which managers or HR functions need to monitor to ensure they have been read and digested. SharePoint can help with both disseminating information and monitoring mandatory reads.

You can use SharePoint document libraries to distribute companywide policies that need to be read, and also add some personalisation, customised development, Power Automate flows and Power BI reporting to create a targeted mandatory reads capability where the new starter confirms they have read a particular policy. A team manager or HR function can then monitor completion through reporting. This mandatory reads feature is so popular that we created it within our Xoralia policy management solution for SharePoint.

5 Create learning for employee onboarding using LMS365

Learning is usually a huge part of the onboarding experience. As part of the induction process, a new starter may need to take a series of courses or training programmes so they can settle into life at their new company and carry out their role. Some of this learning is likely to be mandatory. Typically, it may include:

  • An introduction to the company, its strategy and core processes
  • Health and safety
  • How to use technology platforms
  • Specific role-based training, often technical or specialist in nature
  • Mandatory compliance training across different areas.

The best way to incorporate learning directly into your SharePoint environment is to use a learning platform like LMS365; this integrates seamlessly with SharePoint and Microsoft 365 because it’s based on SharePoint itself. Some organisations choose to put a SharePoint page or site ahead of LMS365 in order to create a compelling entry point into the system or make it part of their intranet experience (most employees might not even be aware they are entering a different system). Given its power, many teams have established a whole onboarding programme within LMS365.

6 Create a new hire community

Meeting people and networking helps new employees settle quickly. Creating a community for new starters is a strong element for any onboarding programme, and is a good way to engage new starters. New hires can support each other, as well as connect with HR and other support functions to ask questions. With SharePoint Online and Microsoft 365, a Yammer community with an embedded feed in your new hire area on the intranet can work very well, although some organisations might prefer to use Teams for community interaction.

7 Get feedback on your employee onboarding programme

An important method of improving your employee onboarding programme is to make sure you ask for feedback from the new hires who have just gone through it. Getting specific feedback and input can help identify issues that need fixing, highlight elements that are working well and elicit ideas for improvements.

There are multiple ways to get feedback using SharePoint. You could embed a Microsoft form to ask specific questions or seek more detailed feedback, or you could embed a Yammer community on a SharePoint page to generate a discussion. You can also use SharePoint commenting to generate comments and ideas. However you do it, getting feedback can make all the difference, and sends a positive message that feedback from users is valued.

Designing employee onboarding using SharePoint

Employee onboarding is a key process in employee experience, and can make a tangible contribution to talent retention. SharePoint is a strong foundational technology to design onboarding experiences and deliver related content and features. If you’d like to discuss using SharePoint for your employee onboarding programme, then get in touch!

6 great SharePoint examples with screenshots for 2022

SharePoint remains an excellent platform for delivering high impact intranets and digital workplace solutions to increase engagement, drive efficiency, minimise risk and improve productivity. At Content Formula, we’ve delivered hundreds of SharePoint projects that have supported employees in their day-to-day work while helping the organisations they work for realise strategic goals.

One of the major advantages of SharePoint is its flexibility, insofar as it can deliver all kinds of different solutions while integrating with other Office 365 tools, providing huge value either out of the box or with customisation. There is also a highly mature ecosystem of products based on SharePoint.

With intranets and the digital workplace set to be more important in 2022 than ever, there are bound to be many opportunities for SharePoint to make a difference. Let’s look at six high impact examples of how you can use SharePoint, illustrated with screenshots from some of the work we have delivered to clients.

1 Using SharePoint to implement Viva Connections

One of the most exciting digital workplace developments of the past 18 months has been the launch of Microsoft Viva – the employee experience platform that consists of complementary apps that are accessed through Teams. One of these is Viva Connections, which seeks to surface internal communications, relevant reference content and Yammer conversations all within the Teams experience. Additionally, the Viva Connections dashboard can feature integrations from other digital workplace systems such as ServiceNow, SuccessFactors and Glint. We know many internal communications and digital workplace teams are currently considering how they can use Viva Connections, and 2022 will be a big year for the platform.

There is still some confusion about Viva Connections and whether it replaces a SharePoint intranet. In fact, Viva Connections is dependent on SharePoint, as what you’re viewing is essentially SharePoint content within the Microsoft Teams environment. By making a SharePoint communication or hub site a home site and creating your desired navigation within Viva Connections (or inheriting it from the home site), you can allow employees to access SharePoint content through Teams. This can be really valuable if your employees spend a lot of time within Teams, bringing SharePoint content to the place where they are working and providing a more consistent digital workplace experience across different tools.

Entain Viva Connections

2 Creating a hub or portal to centralise and contextualise learning

Over the past year, placing learning and training right at the heart of the digital workplace and the daily flow of work has come increasingly into focus. This is partly down to the possibilities of integrating a learning platform seamlessly into Office 365 through a solution like LMS365 (which is actually based on SharePoint), as well as the launch of Microsoft Viva Learning which surfaces relevant learning content for users.

If you are using LMS365, a great use case for SharePoint is to create a learning hub on your intranet which can act as a seamless front page into your learning platform, giving more context about the content you provide It can also be a top-level navigation item in your information architecture so users can find it more easily. Here, you can leverage SharePoint web parts such as news, events, key links and even Yammer threads to bring together the latest updates, as well as provide information about learning at your organisation, offer opportunities to ask questions to the learning team and more. You can also link to relevant dashboards within LMS365.

Because LMS365 integrates so seamlessly with a SharePoint intranet, users may not even realise that they are entering the LMS365 platform because it will feel like one integrated ecosystem, delivering a consistent digital employee experience and supporting good learning adoption.

School-Led Network LMS365

3 A central policy library to support compliance and minimise risk

SharePoint is an excellent platform for employees to access the trusted, authoritative information, content and documents that they need in order to get things done, carry out their role or complete mandatory compliance-related tasks. A central policy library built on SharePoint and Microsoft 365 has real value as a place where employees can easily find HR and work-related policies, procedural information, critical forms, key guidelines and more, knowing they are accessing the latest and most up-to-date information. When you don’t have a central library, it cannot only prove difficult for employees to find the policies they need, but if they do, they then have no way of knowing if it is the right version. Carrying out tasks and making decisions based on out-of-date policy documents can involve risks, especially if they pertain to a topic like health & safety.

There are multiple ways to create a policy library using SharePoint, such as leveraging pages, a document library, integrating workflows from Power Automate and using the right permissions to ensure documents are kept up to date. At Content Formula, we have used SharePoint as the basis for Xoralia – a sophisticated and intelligent policies and procedures library software product with multiple features including mandatory reads, detailed reporting, robust policy lifecycle management and even a range of useful web parts that you can deploy on your SharePoint intranet.

Xoralia

4 An HR intrant to support self-service and key HR processes

An HR intranet based on SharePoint is an excellent way to help HR teams achieve their goals and ensure employees have access to the people-related information they need. An HR-focused SharePoint intranet will have a number of key features including access to HR policies, personalisation to target information to the right location and role and integrations with core HR systems to support self-service tasks like booking annual leave. The flexibility of SharePoint means this can all be achieved in a relatively straightforward way that allows employees to access what they need on a self-serve basis, relieving pressure on busy HR support teams.

SharePoint pages can also include information and integrations to streamline major HR processes. For example, employee onboarding is a high-value use case that supports good employee experience. You can use a combination of SharePoint web parts, features and integrations like lists, notifications, to-dos, forms and personalisation to make sure new joiners have an authoritative list of the tasks they need to complete and when. They can then perform the tasks and track their progress. This drives efficiency and makes the onboarding experience smoother for new joiners.

Haines Watts

5 Revolutionising frontline messaging with a custom SharePoint solution

Communicating with frontline staff in a targeted and impactful way can be challenging. For example, we were engaged by TTEC – a global provider of customer experience services with many frontline staff deployed to different customers – to deliver an improved method of messaging hard-to-reach staff. Using email had proved to be ineffectual, and they were looking for a fresh way to deliver personalised, hyper-targeted messaging.

One of the advantages of using SharePoint here is that you can deliver customised solutions. Customisation is not always desired by IT functions, but for high impact use cases, it can be necessary to achieve great results. We were able to deliver a user-friendly messaging service that is hard-baked into their already highly-used SharePoint intranet. Here, each employee can view personal and targeted group messages and reply to them. It’s a simple and elegant solution that has had a strong impact and exploits the power of SharePoint.

TTEC Messages For You

6 Streamlining digital communications through a SharePoint intranet homepage

The digital communications landscape for most organisations is highly complex, with multiple channels for internal and external messaging as well as varied audience targeting across different locations, functions and regions. It’s hard for employees to keep on top of all the news they need to read, events they might want to attend, automated notifications they may receive from different systems, various social feeds and more!

One thing a SharePoint intranet does very well is surface news and updates from different channels in one place, helping to streamline communications and reduce information overload while also ensuring relevance through matching the right content to an individual’s Active Directory profile. For example, a SharePoint intranet homepage could include:

  • Global, regional, divisional, departmental and role-based news
  • Automated notifications, reminders and approval requests from right across the digital workplace
  • Embedded social feeds from internal tools like Yammer or external channels like Twitter
  • Details of events
  • And more!

A compelling intranet homepage that improves communications is a common use case that is as relevant in 2022 as it has been for the past fifteen years.

TP Bennetts

Using SharePoint in 2022

We’re looking to delivering more exciting SharePoint projects this year. If you’d like to discuss your potential SharePoint intranet or digital workplace project, then get in touch!

7 objectives for your modern intranet in 2022

Every few months, we come across someone telling us that intranets are dead or are no longer relevant. As we start 2022, this is very much not the case. Organisations from small charities with under a hundred staff through to global household brands with a workforce of hundreds of thousands still choose to invest in intranets. Intranet software providers and intranet consultancies are also thriving, and Microsoft continues to extend the power of SharePoint to make it easier to create an enterprise intranet. Modern intranets are very much here to stay, and are a central pillar of the wider digital workplace.

One of the reasons that misunderstandings about the value of intranets persist is that some commentators aren’t referring to modern intranets. In the past, many intranets have been poor, with low adoption, bad findability and stale content; unfortunately, these issues are still prevalent today due to lack of TLC from intranet owners. Such repositories of out-of-date and hard-to-find content, often with a poor user experience, have given intranets a bad name.

Modern intranets are actually vibrant and valuable, come integrated with digital workplace tools, provide strong content and communications, evolve with employee need and are driven by user feedback. They are essential in supporting employees everyday work as they get things done.

If you have a modern intranet that is delivering value, that’s great. But this year is no time to rest on your laurels. Modern intranets can always improve and extend their success. If you’re thinking about some 2022 goals for your intranet, we’ve listed some of our thoughts on what you should focus on.

Here are seven 2022 objectives for your modern intranet.

1 Deliver on your modern intranet strategic objectives (or revisit your strategy)

A great ambition for 2022 is to make sure you are delivering on your original intranet strategic objectives. But do you even know what your modern intranet strategic objectives are? Do you have a clear intranet strategy, or at least a strategy that has been reviewed more recently than when you originally set up your modern intranet?

It’s always good to revisit your intranet strategy to make sure it is relevant, provides value and is moving forwards in alignment with wider strategic goals. If your strategy is no longer relevant, you may need to redraft or reconsider your strategy, which might require further discovery or user research. Whether working towards a new strategy or reviewing your old one, it can be an excellent frame of reference and starting point for working out your modern intranet’s priorities and objectives going into 2022.

2 Make your content better

Having good quality content is essential for your intranet; it drives both value and employee trust, therefore underpinning adoption. Every piece of content on your intranet should be:

  • Purposeful
  • Accurate
  • Timely
  • Engaging
  • Findable
  • In accordance with publishing standards.

This is hard to achieve when you have a decentralised publishing model, which is the norm for most intranets. Unless they have been freshly launched, the vast majority of modern intranets have room to improve their content.

In 2022, a great commitment to make for your modern intranet is improving your content. Unless all your content creation and publishing is centralised, this can only be done by doubling down on content governance. This usually entails a variety of approaches and measures, including defining your publishing standards, establishing automated content reviews for authors, conducting annual site reviews involving the central intranet team, providing more training and resources across your content community and establishing approval workflows where necessary. Executing a combination of these tactics reaps rewards, improving adoption and increasing trust.

3 Be the front door to your wider digital workplace

A key role of a modern intranet is to provide the entry point into the wider digital workplace. Making the intranet a personalised front door and single pane of glass to the enterprise’s portfolio of applications is an excellent use case which is popular with employees. If it isn’t already, making your intranet just that front door should be a strong priority for any intranet team.

Again, there are multiple ways to achieve this, including creating a central directory of apps that employees choose from to create personalised links, integrating other platforms and apps to enable simple transactions to be completed or data to be viewed, or enabling a navigation or search that allows users to reach other digital workplace tools and content.

4 Improve findability

Poor search and findability is often the number one complaint from intranet users. One of a modern intranet’s key roles is to help employees find the content, apps and people they need to carry out their role. But all too often, finding what they need is more painful than it should be, resulting in wasted time and effort.

Even strong modern intranets usually have room for improvement when it comes to search and findability; moving the needle on this important aspect of a modern intranet is a great new year’s resolution to make. Here, a coordinated combination of approaches is needed. Findability is not just about search, but also about the content you’re searching for, as well as your information architecture.

Approaches to consider include tagging your content, training content authors to make their content more findable, regularly analysing search metrics, reducing the amount of content, adding best bets, re-jigging your intranet navigation and even creating directories of information such as apps and sites.

5 Support a better employee experience

The past couple of years have seen a real focus on employee experience for intranet and digital workplace teams. Products like Microsoft Viva are firmly positioned as improving employee experience, and some intranet software is being branded as employee experience platforms (EXPs).

Intranets have a role to play in improving employee experience through content, features and services. They can increase productivity, save time, reduce frustration and help employees get things done, as well as facilitating learning, supporting well-being and providing access to data that aids better decision-making. They can also engage the workforce by driving connections and community.

Employee experience is a wide term, so one of the secrets of ensuring your intranet promotes better employee experience in 2022 is to actually work out what this means to you and your employees. Here, having conversations with users, inviting feedback from employees and examining the results of your employee engagement survey, as well as working with partners in HR and learning, can help yield results while simultaneously showing that you are committed to improving your workforce’s experience.

6 Support hybrid and remote working

Hybrid working and how best to support it was a huge issue during 2020 and 2021, and will continue to be throughout 2022, especially as organisations start to encourage the return to the office and are figuring out the longer-term future of hybrid working.

As core channels in the digital workplace, modern intranets play a major role in supporting hybrid working, for example, through providing content on the best tools to use for new ways of working. Integrations can help with the return to the office, co-ordinating communication between those on site and those working remotely. Intranets also provide a forum for employees to air their opinions about hybrid working, which is crucial while it’s still a fast-moving area where listening is critical. We think hybrid work support will be a strong priority for any modern intranet this year.

7 Continually improve

Continual improvement is a concept that many intranet teams aspire to, but which can be hard to put into practice. Committing or recommitting to continual improvement in 2022 (and following through with it) will certainly reap value in terms of adoption, impact and perceptions of value.

Continual improvement is usually underpinned by multiple approaches, including:

  • Using measurement to inform changes, and then re-measuring to ascertain the relative impact
  • Using agile methodologies and sprints to drive a series of iterative improvements
  • Committing to a roadmap of new features and content areas
  • Seeking employee feedback and acting on it; this often means creating feedback loops to drive changes across your intranet
  • Driving a mindset of continual improvement in the core intranet team, but also across wider intranet roles and your content community.

Improving your intranet in 2022

Modern intranets have an important role to play in 2022, driving strategic value for your organisation and assisting employees in their day-to-day work. If you need help meeting your intranet objectives in 2022, or deciding what those priorities should be, then get in touch!

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