Onboarding On-demand – Can We Train New Hires in a Smarter Way?

Onboarding is something that all organisations do, yet we’ve seen fairly little innovation in the general handling of it. While many organisations have started incorporating team-building and social experiences to their onboarding processes, the actual training part of it remains relatively untouched. Often, companies still sit their new employees through a large number of training sessions or eLearning modules in a very short amount of time. Naturally, learning retention is low, and most of the training is probably just wasting time. Could we do it a bit smarter though? Let’s play around with an idea of onboarding on demand.

The problems with most onboarding programs

In general, there are different problems that reappear regardless of the organisation. Here are a few of them:

  • Too much training in too little time
  • One-size-fits-all approach
  • Content is irrelevant
  • Content has relevance, but is rarely used on the day-to-day

First of all, trying to train people on a lot of things in a short amount of time simply doesn’t work. You’ll just give your new hires a cognitive overload which will cause them to retain even less. Secondly, onboarding programs may be quite uniform, but the jobs are widely different. That’s an interesting disparity there. Thirdly, a lot of the content on onboarding programs is actually not even relevant, and thus people forget it very quickly. Finally, there’s content that has relevance, but that is rarely applicable on the day-to-day jobs. If you can’t apply what you’ve learnt, chances are you’ll forget it.

How could onboarding on demand solve these problems?

So, what if we took a wholly different approach to onboarding. An approach where the focus is on helping to new hires succeed at their jobs and get quick wins, rather than trying desperately to make sure that they’re “ready” before they start working. Here’s what that could look like in practice:

  1. Instead of front-loading training, shift the focus to performance support resources on demand. This way, new hires can learn on the job and as they encounter problems, they have a resource base to tap into to gain confidence and identify solutions. By doing it this way, they have a chance to immediately apply the things they learn. This increases learning retention for the long term.
  2. Deliver personalised resources. The first 90 days of a newly hired engineer are likely very different from that of a new salesman. People should have access to learning resources that are designed or curated with their context in mind. This helps them to learn the right way of doing things, instead of being responsible for figuring out how to apply abstract concepts to a particular problem.
  3. Learn what’s really relevant through analytics, switch to formal delivery if needed. If you ask subject matter experts, everything is always “must know”. But in reality, most of it isn’t. Learning analytics can help you in identifying the most accessed on-demand resources. If there’s high use for a particular resource, maybe it could be meaningful to design a formal learning experience around that topic.
  4. Don’t bother learners with things they don’t use frequently. Forget trying to hammer some internal procedures (e.g. how to apply for leave, how to call in sick etc.) into employees heads on day 1. Instead, deliver a pool of easily searchable information where employees can find how to do those things. You’ll save a lot of time.

Final words

Naturally, some of the initial training given to employees can be mandated by law, e.g. compliance training. In those areas, it might be difficult to make radical changes in the training approaches. However, a large part of the training that isn’t mandated by law isn’t always really necessary, and that’s where on demand onboarding could save you significant amounts of time and productivity all the while helping people learn better.

This could also provide a way of replacing traditional training with more meaningful experiences, like team building and getting to know new colleagues, without increasing the overall time spent on onboarding. If you’d like to design onboarding programs that really add value, we’d be happy to share some experiences. Just drop us a note.

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