DWG Technology Exchange: Employee onboarding with Unily

May 6, 2022 Updated: May 9, 2022 by


In an April 2022 Technology Exchange, Kaz Hassan, Product Manager, Unily, talked about how the Unily employee experience platform supports employee onboarding, demoing how the Unily team use it themselves for their own new starters. This post offers some takeaways from the session. A recording is included and you can also download the presentation slides.

DWG team and guests

  • DWG team: Andrea Brant, Nancy Goebel and Rose Miller
  • Kaz Hassan, Product Manager, Unily

Who will be interested in this DWG Technology Exchange

This DWG Technology Exchange will be of particular interest to:

  • intranet and digital workplace teams considering employee onboarding
  • HR functions and related teams looking at improving employee experience
  • anyone working with, or interested in, the Unily platform.



Download the presentation.      

Supporting the onboarding process

Employee onboarding is one of the most critical and high-value use cases for employee experience (EX) platforms and intranets. These can make a significant contribution to the overall experience for any new starter to an organization by helping to guide them through a process that can feel overwhelming – and, in so doing, therefore also driving overall efficiency – while also making the new employee feel more welcome. But getting employee onboarding right on an intranet or similar platform is not always straightforward.

In a Technology Exchange held in April 2022, the DWG Institute partnered with Unily to gain insights into how best to support employee onboarding. Kaz Hassan, Unily’s Product Manager, walked us through how Unily approaches the onboarding process and utilizes the automation features of its own product to help support engagement and productivity.

Unily is a leading employee experience platform that has been around since 2006 and is used by some of the world’s leading companies to deliver intranet and employee experience capabilities. With the company headquartered in the UK, and having offices in the US, Canada, Australia and Hong Kong, the Unily platform is regularly accessed by around 3.5 million end users. The company and its customers have won several major awards.

In this article, we’re going to explore several takeaways from a lively and insightful session.

Why Unily decided to improve employee onboarding

Good onboarding is critical. Research from Gallup has shown that a great onboarding experience can improve employee retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%. However, at the same time, only 12% of employees say their organization has a robust onboarding experience. With the additional focus on the impact of the ‘Great resignation’ and the practical issues of onboarding employees in a remote or hybrid workspace, Unily felt this was a key area where it could add value for its customers.

One of the reasons that employee onboarding presents a key challenge in the enterprise is its complexity. There are lots of moving parts, involving multiple tasks and systems while also ensuring that an employee has the best experience possible; automation clearly has a role to play. However, internal communicators tend to lack the maturity of automation that is available to external-facing marketers and communicators, and this is a use case where Kaz and his team felt the “engagement automation” features of the platform could bring real value, helping to plan, schedule and automate a “marketing grade” campaign for new starters.

The challenges of onboarding

To begin building out features within the Unily platform to deliver onboarding, the team started to research some of the deeper challenges associated with the process. They found that within organizations there can typically be:

  • inconsistent and fragmented onboarding experiences across different locations, divisions and teams
  • time-consuming manual processes, which are both inefficient and energy-zapping
  • a focus on paperwork rather than cultural activities that employees expect and want – which can lead to problems in integrating employees later on
  • fragmented interdepartmental cooperation, for example across HR, IT and a new starter’s own team
  • missed opportunities to gather and act upon valuable feedback from new starters and improve the onboarding process, ideally on a continuous basis.

With overcoming these challenges in mind, the team started to consider the specifics of how the Unily platform could automate and streamline the repetitive elements of onboarding for platform administrators and intranet teams, while delivering an effective experience for new starters that delivers both efficiency and engagement.

Undertaking user research

To define their requirements, Kaz and his team carried out detailed user and stakeholder research into Unily’s own onboarding process by talking to the HR team, representatives from different functions and some new starters themselves. They decided also to do a more detailed dive into mapping the optimum onboarding process for the sales function, a team which had a lot of new staff coming in and where the onboarding experience was particularly important. At a high level, the research uncovered three main elements of employee onboarding:

  • Mandatory activities: carrying out the necessary admin, paperwork and training.
  • Culture and engagement: ensuring that new starters feel welcome and connected to the organization and their colleagues.
  • Setting up for success: ensuring employees have access to the right tools to fulfil their role properly and enable them to be highly effective.

At the same time, the research also suggested a number of key technology requirements that will enable onboarding and the related automation, including:

  • The ability to plan a timeline to be able to schedule communications.
  • Delivering communications across different digital workplace channels, including Teams, Slack, email and ServiceNow, playing to the strengths and use of each channel.
  • Being able to track onboarding goals and set relative goals to track key milestones and outcomes, which can differ from department to department.
  • Tracking journey success, through monitoring overall onboarding progress and tracking specific insights to improve success.

Delivering onboarding: the first week

Towards the end of the session, Kaz gave a demo of how the team actually use the Unily intranet to deliver an onboarding journey across four weeks in a way that helps to build up knowledge without overwhelming the new employee:

  • Pre-boarding activities.
  • Week one: Introduction to the business and mandatory employee onboarding content.
  • Week two: Cultural immersion and system onboarding.
  • Week three: Product training and upskilling.
  • Week four and beyond: Functional lead takeover, e.g. from Sales.

Firstly, new starters are given access to some pre-boarding information, which is accessed through Unily’s own extranet solution, which also houses its customer portal.

On their first day of working at Unily, when a new hire enters the intranet, they are presented with a targeted homepage aimed at new starters. This landing page includes mandatory reading with clear calls to action to access sources such as the employee handbook, information on ISO 27001 accreditation and global data protection, all of which are important areas for Unily. There is also a welcome message from the CEO.

As well as additional news and embedded community information, there is a simple poll asking people to rate their week one onboarding experience, as well as an invitation to make specific suggestions via a comments box. This feedback box is available for the entire four-week onboarding process so that people can keep on providing valuable information and therefore help the onboarding teams make any necessary improvements.

The second week and beyond

For each subsequent week, the intranet new starter homepage changes its theme. The week two homepage focuses more on cultural immersion, with links to content on culture and values. It also links to specific apps and encourages people to personalize their own homepage experience, plus there is an embedded calendar of suggested events, to which new starters are invited to register.

The week three homepage focuses more on establishing a baseline knowledge of Unily products, with links to training videos, a quiz to test knowledge and access to relevant systems.

At the same time, Unily’s engagement automation capability is working in the background, pushing out critical notifications and updates across multiple channels. This might include pushing the new starter homepage live, sending reminder emails to the person’s inbox, and even nudges via Microsoft Teams. There are also conditional notifications that nudge people who haven’t completed certain tasks, for example providing valuable feedback on their onboarding experience.

Our thanks to Kaz for an excellent and highly informative session.

Programme notes

This Technology Exchange was broadcast in April 2022. The recording of the session includes the following items:

  • Introduction and housekeeping
  • Introduction to Kaz Hassan and Unily
  • Automating employee onboarding
  • The positive impact of good employee onboarding
  • Common barriers to good onboarding
  • How Unily carried out internal research
  • Three fundamental elements of employee onboarding
  • Integrations
  • Technology requirements for effective onboarding
  • Example of an onboarding journey
  • Onboarding demo
  • Week one homepage
  • Week two homepage
  • Week three homepage
  • How the engagement automation is working
  • Multi-language and translation
  • Building an employee experience layer
  • Homepage variants
  • Wrap-up
  • Extra time
  • Pre-boarding experience
  • Offboarding experience and future plans
  • Tying the process to start dates
  • Integrating with Workday
  • Using social channels
  • Future plans for an employee dashboard
  • More on integrations
  • Quick demo of main Unily platform
  • ServiceNow integration
  • Wrap-up

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Categorised in: Digital employee experience, DWG Institute, Intranets, Strategy & governance

Steve Bynghall

Steve Bynghall is a freelance consultant, researcher and writer specializing in the digital workplace, intranets, knowledge management, collaboration and other digital themes. He is DWG’s Research and Knowledge Lead, a benchmark evaluator and research analyst for DWG.

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