Transforming your onboarding with digital learning
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 onboarding 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.
Create an experience
To take engagement a step further, I’d encourage you to consider onboarding as an experience, rather than a one-off event or process. In the latter scenario, employees are often taken away from their place of work to complete a face-to-face classroom course with little connection to day-to-day work. The first scenario, by contrast, aims to embed onboarding within daily work, so much so that there’s no obvious endpoint for the new starter.
How is this achieved? One way is by bringing the learning to the user, right in the flow of work. Using digital learning tech like microlearning and mobile apps, relevant content is made accessible whenever and wherever it’s needed. Once accessed, the content is well-designed, engaging and logically organised with straightforward navigation supported by signposting and search functionality.
The result is a seamless experience that sets the tone for learning at your organisation. The employee doesn’t even have to think about learning as a separate task in their daily work; it becomes second nature to find what they need on the job without being spoon-fed.
The first few weeks of a job are always going to be some of the most learning intensive, so we need to take a step back from blasting reams of information at employees during week one, leaving them overwhelmed, exhausted, and probably a little daunted. Instead, we need to think about how we can help the newly-acquired knowledge to stick, ready to be applied on the job when it’s needed.
This is the final part of a well-rounded, continuous onboarding journey, where digital learning can come into its own, it’s a chance to be creative within the onboarding process and come up with something a bit novel which will help keep the learner engage!
Let’s say, for example, you have a lot of dense compliance materials that form part of the mandatory induction process. You know the ones I mean: Fire Safety Awareness, GDPR, Health & Safety, Manual Handling.
To reinforce the key points from each module, you could put together a multiple-choice quiz that breaks each subject into more digestible chunks. This could be sent out via a series of daily emails sent over a few weeks, each one having one or two brief questions. To motivate employees to take part (and inject a bit of healthy competition between colleagues), you could introduce badges and rewards for star performers and display results on a leader board.
This type of spaced learning has proven results, so it’s about far more than offering employees a fun ‘distraction’ from day-to-day work. In short, there really is no need to stick to standard PDFs with a tick-box at the bottom to indicate that it’s been read (when it’s actually been scrolled through and instantly forgotten).
What might this look like in practice?
- Forms, profiles, general paperwork: save time by getting the essential paperwork completed in advance. The forms can be downloaded from your LMS or platform, completed, re-uploaded and sent off to HR.
- Background company information, teams, processes: make it fun! Use digital tools instead of just PDFs or slides, by, for example, turning company processes into an animated infographic.
- Meet the manager and team: time is precious. Getting the key people in the room at the right time can be challenging, so instead get everyone involved by filming them using your phone’s camera or record a podcast. These can be shared using your internal social sharing platforms to integrate social learning and collaboration into everyday working life.
- Core values and brand: again, use videos of other employees, perhaps a talking heads video or answering questions about ‘what’s it like to work here’. This will help to make your culture more visible and open to new starters. Why not develop a spaced quiz based on the company values and how they translate into everyday practice? Make it interactive to encourage the learning to stick.
- Evaluation: have the new employees engaged and picked up everything – not just during the opening week, but in the following weeks and months? Are they applying this in their day-to-day work? Use analytics tools within your learning platform to track what employees are engaging with and assess retention with short follow-up surveys.
You can see how taking the time to refresh your onboarding with digital learning can kick-start your new starters’ careers with your organisation. Building positive early relationships and inspiring continuous learning will not only encourage them to be job-ready quickly, but more invested in staying loyal to your company for the long-term.
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