Top tips for digital onboarding

Lisa Bateson from Shaw Trust shares the lessons learned from rapidly hiring and onboarding more than 500 new starters. The charity’s induction programme, which used eLearning provided by the Charity Learning Consortium, was shortlisted for an LPI Onboarding Programme of the Year award. 

Successful onboarding and induction programmes enable new colleagues to quickly become effective in their roles. And ideally in that process, they have also made connections with their colleagues and manager. 

‘Success’ could broadly be described as new starters:

  • Understanding what they need to do
  • Knowing how to do it
  • Appreciating how their role contributes to the strategic outcomes of your organisation
  • What behaviours are expected of them 
  • And how to live your values

A great induction and onboarding experience leaves new employees feeling confident that they’ve made the right decision to join you.

Pre-pandemic we might have gathered everyone together in a room for a few days for training. During the pandemic, this wasn’t possible and we used Microsoft Teams instead. Virtual inductions became the norm for new colleagues – who would also be working from home during lockdown. 

eLearning courses provided by the Charity Learning Consortium which are included in the induction programme


  • Introduction to working safely
  • DSE awareness
  • Environmental awareness
  • Equality and diversity in the workplace
  • Unconscious bias
  • Bribery Act


  • Time management
  • Five ways to wellbeing
  • Developing resilience – change your thinking
  • The dangers of sitting down

In October 2020 Shaw Trust began to deliver a contract for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). This was to support those made jobless by the Covid pandemic to get back into work. This meant recruiting and onboarding more than 500 new employees in phases. The new employees would all be home-based, supporting people over the telephone or via Teams.  As the pandemic was ongoing, and we were working at such speed and scale, induction and onboarding was done exclusively over Teams. 

The two week induction programme

The two-week programme started with our Welcome to Shaw Trust course, followed by a session which provided them with an overview of the DWP contract they would be working on.  

The first week of the induction included all the mandatory training you’d expect to see, most of which was delivered via eLearning provided by the Charity Learning Consortium. This was interspersed with facilitated courses and sessions that took a deeper dive into the DWP contract and their individual roles delivering it. We also built in time for meeting and shadowing colleagues. 

Week two of the induction was exclusively about using the information management system, where everyone had access to a dummy/training version to practise on.


The induction programme was designed by myself and key stakeholders and has continued to evolve. After all our hard work, we were delighted that it was shortlisted for a Learning and Performance Institute Onboarding Programme of the Year 2021 award! We learned a lot of lessons along the way.

Here are our tips for digital onboarding: 

1. Think about how you can create a sense of community online, so that new starters can make connections, learn together and support one another. For example, if using Teams, you can create a community. Set-up a chat group for each new cohort and be the first to use it by introducing yourself. Pop a poll into the chat and ask new starters to vote on a nickname for their group. This all helps people to connect and create a sense of belonging to a team.

2: Pay careful attention to IT, to ensure that you have everything in place to enable a digital induction:

  • Work closely with your IT team to ensure that new starters have everything they need set-up at home by day one of their induction 
  • Go over any information that is sent by IT to new starters and test it out. Is it user friendly? 
  • Before the induction programme starts, kick-off on day one with an informal IT drop-in surgery session, where new starters can bring any snags to be resolved
  • Build time into your programme on day one so that anyone who does have IT issues has sufficient time to get them resolved. For example, extend the lunch hour
  • Ensure that your IT team have people in place to support the influx of new starters and potential troubleshooting on key dates
  • Have a back-up plan in case anyone has significant IT issues. For example, copy all emails and meeting invites to their alternative/personal email addresses. That way they can join meetings using their personal devices if necessary
  • Provide support for using applications like Teams on day one of the induction. We did a very light touch ‘this is the basics’ session, which included etiquette, to open the induction. This enables anyone who is unfamiliar with the applications you’re using to learn, relax and engage

3. Juice the application you’re using to the max! Make use of what is available to you to create great learning experiences. For example, you could play music at the start of a session while waiting for everyone to join to avoid any awkward silences. Use video and animation in your presentations. Create interaction through polls, quizzes, raising hands, online breakout rooms and whiteboards. Use the chat function too and encourage the use of emojis and GIFs.

4. To avoid Zoom fatigue, build a mixture of activities into your induction programme. For example, the day could start with a face-to-face course, which allows you to check-in on how everyone is doing and make any adaptations. This could be followed by everyone working solo to complete some eLearning, then working in pairs and observing colleagues.

5. Engage with line managers of new starters. Share the induction programme with them and point out where you have allowed time for them to meet with their new team member. Get them to send meeting invites so managers and new colleagues meet one another.

6. Ask facilitators to join sessions early. We found that our new starters would join their face-to-face courses early so that they could have a chat and connect with their new colleagues. This is also an informal opportunity to to pick up on what is working well (or not), as well as get the general vibe of the group.

7. Make sure that welcome emails, guides and FAQ documents are branded and well written in plain English. Test them out on friends and family to ensure that they make sense to someone outside of the organisation.

8. Get a senior leader to welcome new starters early on in the programme. They need only drop in for five minutes but it can make a big difference.

9. If the induction includes training on using customer information systems, or similar, break large groups into smaller ones and run parallel sessions. You’ll need more facilitators/trainers but the return on investment is worth it.

10. Ensure that facilitators/trainers are prepared for virtual delivery. In particular, encourage facilitators to make best use of their voice. With the absence of full body language over Teams or Zoom, your voice – tone, pace and volume – becomes an important tool for sustaining learner engagement. 

Watch the interview here!

Michelle Parry-Slater interviews Lisa Bateson and Kira Squire (a former Employment Advisor but current L&D Trainer) to discuss how Shaw Trust helps people get back into work, along with sharing how the Trust’s L&D department transitioned into hybrid working following the pandemic.

The little book of Induction

Explore the world of Induction and how other organisations have transformed their Induction process. 

“One of the biggest mistakes people make when designing Induction is to think about it from the perspective of the organisation”

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