Nearly two years into COVID-19, companies and teams are still navigating the best way to work and collaborate. Leaders now recognize hybrid and remote work, in many cases, is here to stay — at least for the foreseeable future.

While the pandemic has normalized the idea of dispersed employees, the realization that remote work isn’t just a temporary, quick fix has teams justifiably rethinking their tools and processes. One of the biggest challenges — and opportunities — in this new business environment is how to onboard new employees.

Traditional Onboarding

Onboarding is the process of introducing and establishing new employees as members of the company and bringing them up to speed on their specific roles and responsibilities. Onboarding differs at each organization, but it typically consists of housekeeping activities (e.g., tax paperwork, benefits, security clearances, information technology equipment), company education (e.g., company history and structure, products and services, culture) and various introductory gatherings (e.g., lunches, happy hours, team and client meetings). The onboarding process can last anywhere from a few days to a few months.

Onboarding is vital as it gives new hires the best shot at acclimating to their companies, integrating with their teams and thriving in their roles. Onboarding has always been tricky but it’s infinitely harder now during COVID-19. Just this summer, Gallup research found that only 12% of U.S. employees felt as if their company did a good job onboarding, and

Joining a new company can be nerve-wracking and overwhelming on the best of days. Imagine what it’s like for remote new hires now. Onboarding has never been more important — or more of a challenge — for human resources (HR) and learning and development (L&D) teams.

Visual Onboarding

As hybrid and remote work become long-term business norms, companies are not only evaluating their onboarding processes but how material is presented in them. Increasingly, HR and L&D leaders are turning to presentation software to lighten their loads, streamline workflows and keep their organizations consistent and on-brand.

But these days, like Zoom backgrounds, presentation software isn’t all the same. Savvy leaders are searching for tools designed for visual storytelling. Particularly now, visual communication is ubiquitous — both an expectation and an imperative. This means onboarding for hybrid and remote workers also must be visual.

So, how are companies supposed to create visual onboarding materials? The simplest answer is to employ a tool designed for smart, engaging training. In particular, leaders should look for three visual storytelling capabilities:

  • Artificial intelligence (AI) design: The biggest differentiator among presentation software on the market today is AI design, also known as smart design. Al design applies the principles of great design in real-time and makes it easy for anyone to turn ideas into visual narratives. Companies should think of presentation software with AI design as a designer-in-a-box — a tool with built-in design intelligence. With AI-driven design principles at work, HR and L&D teams can focus on the material they need to present instead of how to present it.
  • Smart templates: The right presentation software should make the creation of onboarding material painless through pre-built, on-brand slide and presentation templates. Tools that offer smart templates remove the pressure to create something inspiring from scratch. With AI designs at work, each choice an HR or learning and development team member makes in a template saves time and upholds design-forward standards. What’s more, smart templates can be curated by industry, so organizations looking to make their onboarding more visual don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Software today offers templates specific to new hires and different parts of the onboarding process, including orientation and benefits. The key is to make sure the templates are customizable, straightforward and intelligible.
  • Experiences: Once onboarding material is created and designed, companies are tasked with presenting it. The reality is new hires today need and expect efficient, engaging and seamless experiences no matter where they’re located or whether they’re training asynchronously or in real time. This means HR and L&D teams need modern tools that use imagery, video and animations in their onboarding. They also need to be able to share that material with ease. The bottom line is the presentation methods of the past simply don’t cut it anymore. Organizations must adopt visual storytelling if they want to compete. In a perfect world, onboarding new hires would be energizing and memorable. Too often, the process falls woefully short. With employees more empowered than ever before in this business climate, HR and L&D teams must embrace the new and lean into technology that fosters visual storytelling. The right presentation software can make modern onboarding a painless and empowering experience.