Onboarding matters - it matters to employee engagement and has a huge impact on retention.
Getting onboarding right
Research shows that a well designed onboarding process has the biggest impact on employee retention and sets new employees up for success. A poor onboarding experience can have significant financial consequences for a company.
Gartner finds that new hires are often unsure in their new roles. Their research states that 46% of all new hires would not make the same choice again and 38% intend to leave the new role within 12 months. They also find that the cost to a company to find a new hire has radically increased by 26% between 2015 and 2017, when the overall cost of hiring had already risen by 18%.
A well-designed onboarding programme flips these figures around; recent research by Glassdoor shows that effective onboarding improves new hire retention by 82% and their productivity by 70%.
Glassdoor also found that “the most effective onboarding programs leverage advanced learning tools to enable success on-demand rather than relying solely on classroom learning. These companies are 300% more satisfied than their lower-performing peers with the technology they’re using to support their onboarding programs, which correlates with significant gains achieved in time-to-proficiency and new hire retention”.
eLearning is one method that works. Using eLearning to augment you on boarding process for new employees can help you get it right every time with consistent messaging in content, automated processes and rich data.
6 tips for creating better onboarding using eLearning
Here, we describe six simple tips to make impactful elearning modules for onboarding. Remember that this is only one part of the puzzle, consider social learning tools as well to deliver a well-rounded experience. Tapping into activities outside of traditional L&D, like talent acquisition, helps too. Creative ways to onboard new employees can even extend onboarding to the recruitment and selection phase. Where do potential recruits go to find out what it is like to work with you, for example?
A good online learning course provides the potential for a much more exciting and memorable teaching experience than handing a new employee a bunch of documents or asking them to read the company website. If you want to commission, or are involved in the design of an onboarding programme, let me share the benefit of my experience with these 6 tips.
- Know the bigger picture by speaking with the right people
- Personalise the learning experience
- Tap into existing resources; don’t reinvent the wheel
- Keep it real – encourage storytelling
- Engage the hiring manager
- Welcome new hires with preboarding
1. Know the bigger picture by speaking with the right people
If you're writing an onboarding course, remember that it's likely to be just one part of a bigger onboarding process. It's essential that you find out how employees are onboarded currently; the course may be replacing an existing part of the process or it may be an additional resource. As with any other course, understand the business objectives and understand your audience.
Talk with talent acquisition, hiring managers, IT and anyone else involved in setting up new hires for success. What are new employees expected to know and/or be able to do after taking this course?
Speak to those who are most directly affected by the training. Speak to recent new hires to find out their greatest fears starting out and what they hope to learn from an onboarding course. Find out what part(s) of the process learners like and dislike, and why, and use that information to the benefit of your course.
In short, do your homework first!
At a minimum, an onboarding course should aim to:
- Make new employees feel welcome
- Give a good first impression of the organisation
- Explain the brand, culture and values (reinforced through the tone and visuals of the course)
- Explain what's expected of employees in terms of acceptable behaviour, relevant policies and the fundamentals of the employee handbook
- Explain how things work e.g. Where’s the cafeteria? What's the dress code? How do I book time off?
- Help them understand their place in the organisation
- Make them feel them feel enthusiastic about how their role/input can make a difference
Use these insights to make your own employee onboarding checklist template and make sure you keep doing the right thing.
2. Personalise the learning experience
Those of you with a penchant for ‘vintage’ will understand the joy of getting a 'mixtape' as a gift from a friend or partner. A playlist of songs, each chosen because it means something to you. In the same way, a good onboarding experience should be tailored to the needs of the learner. What is essential information for one new hire may be irrelevant for another in a different role. Everyone needs to learn about the company history and values, but do they all need to know the procurement process? Or more importantly, do they need to know about it during their first few days or weeks of employment?
Only teach what's useful and essential; don't overwhelm new employees with irrelevant or 'nice to know' information. To achieve this, you need to need to find out all you can about them. What roles will they be performing in the company? What information do they need to know to do that? Also try to allow some flexibility and autonomy for learners to dip in and out of the course.
eLearning modules should be sequenced together in learning plans and playlists that are relevant to each role and each individual. Be mindful of the forgetting curve - nearly 75% of what is learned will be forgotten by the next day and onboarding often packs in a lot of information! Use Spaced Practice to spread out learning over time and give your new hires opportunity to apply what they have learned before learning more.
3. Tap into existing resources
Don't reinvent the wheel if you don't need to. Many companies have lots of useful information on their website or intranet that you can reuse, e.g. an animation or company video, or link to common resources like company history or organisation charts.
While you want the onboarding to be a comprehensive reference point for new employees, think about what the essential information is and where you feel you can add most value. Use your time and budget to find creative ways of presenting that information, rather than just reiterating what learners can read on the website. For example, rather than repeat a HR policy on bullying or discrimination in your compliance modules, you could use immersive scenarios to demonstrate everyday examples of how these issues can play out in the workplace, their consequences and impact – and what staff should do to help with prevention.
4. Keep it real – encourage storytelling
Probably the most useful and memorable thing you can provide a new employee is good advice from someone who knows. Existing employees have an insight into working life at the company that can't be gleaned from reading a website. Tap into this resource by including stories or short video clips from colleagues who have 'been there and done that,' be it to illustrate best practice learned from years of experience, or to preach a cautionary tale of 'the time it all went wrong for me!'. It is also a good idea to include a welcome message at the start from a key person within the organisation and finish with a 'good luck' or reassuring message.
One particular example of this that has worked well – set up a ‘Scavenger hunt’ where new team members have to interview and ask certain questions to selected employees. The winner of this game is the best answers in the shortest time. This encourages all sorts of engagement and makes it easy for new employees to get to know existing staff. The questions need to be relatively open and not just black or white answers. For example:
- Find someone in this organisation who has been here more than 10 years and ask them how it has changed in that time
- Find someone who manages the ‘X’ function and ask how them about how they contribute to company strategy and success
5. Engage the hiring manager
The level of engagement from the hiring manager is the most important aspect of onboarding for employees. To retain new talent, the new hire hire feels welcomed, supported and challenged in the first days. This means more than leaving branded water bottles on their desk!
Consider developing online training programs not only for new hires but also for hiring managers. These can be assigned during the interview process. Typically these include soft skills training on bringing the new hire into the company’s values and culture. They should also include practical tools for the hiring manager to use to ensure a good onboarding experience for new hires in their team. These might be an onboarding kit for new employees or an employee onboarding checklist (e.g. “Call your new hire one week before their start” or “Have a ‘buddy’ meet them for lunch on their first day”).
6. Welcome new hires with preboarding
Onboarding can start before Day One. The move from one organisation to another can be a stressful time and individuals need space to decompress and ready themselves for their new role. Often individuals can feel anxious about the unexpected.
You can help with that by ensuring they know they are expected and welcome in their role. Send short, easy and never mandatory content to them in advance. This can be personal emails from the hiring manager or recorded videos from the CEO explaining company culture. Or, with agile learning applications, early access to onboading elearning modules in your Learning Management System or Learning Experience Platform.
Are you onboard with eLearning?
The best employee onboarding experiences are engaging and never-overwhelming. They give the new hire the information they need to perform, the confidence that they have made the right decision and a genuine sense of enthusiasm for their new organisation.
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