Transforming your onboarding with digital learning: part 1

Digitalise your onboarding process

There has been a lot of talk in L&D recently about digital learning and the role of technology. You might even have noticed this blog take a tech-inspired turn over recent months, as themes like digital transformation begin to change the role of L&D beyond all recognition.

But, among all this discussion about the rise of digital, we mustn’t lose sight of the practicalities. How can it actually be applied successfully in the workplace?

One of the less glamorous areas that can sometimes be forgotten is onboarding (otherwise known as induction). Traditionally a formal ‘one-size-fits-all’ programme, filled with face-to-face courses and mandatory compliance training, onboarding can sometimes be neglected as a bit of a box-ticking exercise.

Yet onboarding needs to be given the attention it deserves as a critical part of your L&D offering. Your onboarding programme is a new starter’s first impression of your organisation. Starting off on the right foot with a well-crafted, engaging experience will leave them feeling positive and excited about their future with your organisation.

It can even form the foundation for longer-term success and make them more likely to stay with your company for the long-term – particularly younger Millennial and Generation Z workers, who are keen to embrace learning and development opportunities.

L&D plays an essential role, alongside HR, in delivering an onboarding programme that not only prepares them for their new role, but successfully integrates them into the company culture.

So, in this blog post, I want to look at a few of the ways you can reinvigorate your onboarding using digital learning, to ensure it’s setting up new employees for long-term success.

Set clear goals

In this digital era, we can use a variety of technologies to deliver innovative experiences. But, as with all learning, it’s crucial to consider what works for your organisation – and your learners – before selecting the right delivery method(s) for your onboarding programme. This means thinking carefully about your goals before diving in, both for the business and the new employees.

What do you want to get out of the programme? What lasting impression of your organisation do you want your onboarding to give new starters? How will you measure success?

Take some time to review and refresh your current onboarding process, to identify the areas that need improving and work out what success looks like for your organisation. For example, if you find that a large proportion of employees typically spend less than a year in their role, a top-level aim of your programme might be to increase employee retention.


Other objectives can typically include:
• Reducing employees’ time to job readiness
• Encouraging employee commitment and engagement
• Integrating the employee into the company culture

Having done this, you’ll be ready to start planning the tactics you’ll need to achieve them.

I would suggest thinking about what could be delivered before the employees first day. Company background information, health and safety policies and GDPR regulations can be good options to have as pre-induction resources.

Seeing onboarding as a continuous, long-term process that starts long before new employees even set foot in the building will set your programme up for success by reducing new employees’ time to job readiness.

This is where digital learning can come into its own…


Make it personal

As I touched on earlier, of all the different areas of workplace learning, it seems that onboarding is one of the least personalised. Filled with mandatory compliance and policy training, each new starter is given the same set of standardised documents to churn through, often in the form of lengthy, uninspiring PDFs.

But there’s no reason why this part of the employee experience should be like this. After all, each new starter comes from a very different background, bringing their own set of knowledge and skills to your organisation.

So, before you push the same old mandatory content at them, think about how you can get to know your new starters from the word go. A short new starter questionnaire or multiple-choice quiz would be a great way of assessing new employees’ readiness for the role by asking questions that tease out their current knowledge and skills.

The answers can go on to form the basis of personalised learning that addresses knowledge gaps and develops individuals in the areas they need to perform the job successfully. You could segment content based on levels of readiness – ranging from ‘novice’ to ‘expert’ – to send them down distinct learning pathways hosting useful, relevant content.

This will be the first step towards encouraging engagement, equipping the new employee with the knowledge and understanding they need to make a quick start in their new role.

For more tips on using digital learning to transform your onboarding, have a read of transforming your onboarding with digital learning: part 2 which is focussed on experience and retention.