If you didn’t know any better, you’d think a spreadsheet or series of calendar invites was a pretty well-structured onboarding process. You meet people, you get to know a bit more about the company for a couple of weeks, but when do you learn the things that help you hit the ground running?
Or maybe there’s a learning management system in place where you tick off the right courses in those first few weeks. The thing is, there’s a world outside those pop-up windows! One where you don’t just complete the generic compliance and onboarding courses, but you’re welcomed by a personalised plan that lasts longer than week one.
That’s the power of a learning platform, you can tailor an onboarding course to someone’s role, add personal touches, track progress and connect them to the right people. It’s structured, but with a personal touch. Somewhere between holding your hand through each task and just leaving you twiddling your thumbs.
Not just the usual stuff about it’s your first impression or engaging and retaining staff (which are absolutely true). But, the thing is that a lot of companies just aren’t doing onboarding right! Only 12% of employees strongly agree that their company does a great job at it, probably because more than half focus solely on process and paperwork. Plus, the vast majority don’t look past week one.
Here’s some of the typical pain points when it comes to onboarding:
We’re starting with the big one! An onboarding course isn’t a restaurant menu. People normally don’t need to see every single dish on offer, especially if their dietary requirements mean only one menu is relevant, and there’s almost no point shoving a dessert menu in their faces when they’ve not even chosen their starter.
And yet you find standard onboarding courses that detail every little thing someone might need to know, regardless of whether they’re relevant to their role or if the timing is right.
Sure, there’s some things everybody needs to know, but for the most part, people benefit from relevant information at the right moments. If you’re going to achieve that and prevent information overload, personalising onboarding is critical.
Imagine someone joins the customer support team to manage accounts for a particular sector. What’s more useful for them in their first weeks, the backstory for every single client or just the relevant history of the accounts they’ll be managing? Or how about a new sales rep for inbound leads, would a long course on the outbound process be relevant as they settle into their role?
As we’ll find out shortly, when you focus on what’s essential you’ll increase likelihood of them retaining knowledge, but you’ll also connect them with the right knowledge to ramp up faster.
Of course, none of this is possible without establishing clear plans and objective for each new employee.
Personalising each onboarding experience takes time, so it’s important to automate whichever standard or mandatory tasks you can. When there’s things each new joiner needs to complete, you’re ensuring consistency as you gain back that time.
For example, in HowNow, you could automatically enrol someone in a course based on their join date – helpful for your compliance, health and safety and the things everyone really wants to know about, like the holiday process and employee benefits.
You could also send them resources based on whether they’re added to a particular group, such as the brand guidelines once they’re in Marketing. These steps give you peace of mind around ‘must do’s’, as opposed to stressing about ‘mustn’t forgets’.
Apply the same logic to the various courses in their onboarding pathway and you’re creating a better pace. When one course is completed, they’re automatically enrolled in the next – cutting down on waiting around and empowering them to move through the process a bit faster but still at their own pace.
Onboarding isn’t a one and done kind of thing. Given the amount of new knowledge we encounter in that period, it’s a bit much to expect people to see or hear something once and remember it all.
The Forgetting Curve is a cruel reminder of this, explaining that after one day we typically recall less than 60% and by day seven it’s below 20%. Luckily, there’s a few ways a learning platform can help you beat the curve.
Firstly, by creating one place for all knowledge, so that people can search for information independently, whenever they need it. By increasing the frequency of encountering that information, they’re increasing the likelihood of retention.
This is often referred to as the spacing effect or spaced repetition. Imagine someone asked you to list every book on a shelf after you looked at it once versus looking at it for 10 minutes every day and being asked at the end of the week. You’ll have gone from hopeless to librarian levels in just seven days.
Sometimes, picking out the important parts of longer written content is a barrier to spaced repetition. It’s fair to expect people to recall the titles and authors of those books, but not the third line on page 39. That’s why we created our Highlight and Annotation tool!
We’re empowering learners to flag the relevant pieces of Nuggets and resources, leave notes and revisit them later. With the ability to easily find these in their Highlights section and frequent reminders sent in their email digest, people can replicate this concept of spaced repetition.
You’ll also notice the bookmarks section next to highlights below, allowing people to flag complete resources as important too. That gives people the option to flag complete content, but as we’re about to find out the format and length matter.
If you really want to get personal, you could always ask your new employee how they learn and where they like to get their information. If they prefer videos because they can visualise ideas or pause at key points to digest information, that’s a string to your bow as you shape their onboarding.
Of course, you might not have the time to do this for every individual, but it does pose the wider question of which content you use in courses. A pain point with the traditional LMS has been the content types you can include, but in HowNow, the world is your onboarding oyster! Podcasts, videos, blog posts, quick Nuggets from team members – take your pick.
Ask yourself questions like:
For example, if you need to talk people through how to use a system or function, a screenshare video could really speed up their understanding. Why? Rather than reading through a written guide and trying to put that into practice, they can replicate the steps in real time and follow along to ensure they’re doing it right.
These might seem like small steps, but little things add up! Without a learning platform or central knowledge base there’s not an easy way to create this on-demand, easy-to-find element. Shared folders are often the limit in those cases!
And that doesn’t mean the end of the ability to ask questions, you can leave comments on the resource or reach out to the person that recorded the tutorial with further questions.
But what if there’s already a video tutorial online from a third-party or the tool itself that does the job for you? That saves you even more time and resources, plus you can sift through and select the one that’s most useful or relevant.
What speeds this up is when your learning platform curates resources from high-quality sources or enables you to quickly embed content in your courses.
What can somebody on the team teach that new employee specifically? Were they one of the driving forces behind a project they’ll be picking up? Are they the subject matter expert when it comes to a particular tool they’ll be using? Do they have a personal relationship with clients and great context to share?
Tap into all of those ideas! Ask them to create short videos, lists of tips, timelines of relationships – whatever’s relevant. Context was the key word in the questions above, because it’s contextual knowledge that these internal experts can share. It’s also a more personal way for new employees to learn because who doesn’t love a friendly face between reading through documents or resources?
We’ve come full circle in many ways, because the key question is how people running their onboarding process through a calendar or spreadsheet understand progress? They don’t. They have no way of knowing how their new employee is getting on. No idea of when they’re ready to take on a particular task, when they’ve acquired the required knowledge and whether they’re stuck on a pain point.
You’ll either end up throwing people in the deep end or leaving them hanging on the diving board, waiting for the go ahead to dive in! What we’re saying is that without structure, you’ve got no idea when it’s time to ditch the armbands or float.
We’ll give you the insights to view how much of a course somebody has completed, which resource they’re up to and add in tests and quizzes to tangibly measure progress! Without those metrics, it’s difficult to know the right points to check in with people or which sections they’re struggling with or exceeding at.
You can’t be all stick and no carrot, and that’s why gamification is such a well-loved feature for learning platforms. Use badges and certificates to give people a little pick me up or positive boost as they reach milestones in their onboarding journey!
What now? Check out our ‘gets to the point’ employee onboarding checklist today, with a PDF version you can download for free.