Defining a Successful Digital On-boarding Experience

dreamstime_xs_38288063One of the major issues with a digital on-boarding experience is the fact that it can quickly become a victim of its own success, with the result that it becomes unwieldy.  It seems that every stakeholder in the organisation wants to see something from their part of the business included in the programme and it’s always deemed “mandatory” that every new starter completes it.

The outcome:  new starters and their line managers complain that their first days or weeks on the job are taken up with e-learning – blame is more easily placed on the method and not the content – and stopping the employee getting on with their new job.   You then have to start unpicking it and negotiating with certain stakeholders to remove their content from the programme.  In this second of two posts, I will look at what should be included and how.

From my own experience, I believe there are at least two types of on-boarding content and have tended to treat them differently.

  • The training you need to do for the organisation to remain compliant and where non-compliance could result in formal external sanctions. This will be your usual core compliance training curriculum, including the usual suspects, e.g. health and safety, anti-bribery, money laundering and information security, etc.  In my opinion, these should be the only courses that appear in a list of mandatory courses in the learning management system (LMS).  These should also be the only courses that L&D formally report to the relevant stakeholders and – if needed – nurture full completion.
  • The training that someone needs to do to help them get up to speed with their job. This will, of course, vary and does not need to be seen by everyone, despite what the content owner may think.  And even if it did, it would be much better received if it was tailored for each individual audience.  In my experience, this content need not be strictly “mandatory”, with the closest completion requirement being “strongly recommended”.  So this content should be presented according to the new starter’s role and ideally separated from the compliance training.  The monitoring of these courses should also be handed over to the content stakeholders via, for example, weekly scheduled reporting and not managed by L&D, nor reported as part of any company-wide auditing.  The only risk to the business in this area is not working as efficiently as it should; not facing punitive sanctions.  And you should consider whether applying strict and short completion deadlines for this material are really necessary.  Quite possibly, you could stagger this content over a much longer time-frame, aligned to what the person will need – and when – as they grow into their new role.

You could put forward a third category and that’s more general personal development content, such as the softer skills required in that role or some general IT awareness material.  Again, I would separate these out and think about mapping the most appropriate content – which might well be generic – to each role.  You might also prefer the user to self-select these based on conversations with their new line manager.  Generally, there shouldn’t be any requirement for the central monitoring of this content.

So what should ultimately appear in these digital on-boarding programmes?

Given the scenario that you are looking into this issue as a result of feedback suggesting the current programme isn’t working, I would recommend asking your most recent joiners and including it as question in the exit interviews of those who leave within, say, the first six to nine months, given the research about these leavers.

They will tell you what they were looking for to do their job well and to fit into the organisation and whether they got it or not.  And get them to express any preferences for how they would have liked to have received it.  Seven or so years ago, I was definitely someone who pushed a digital learning agenda when it came to on-boarding, but new starters actually wanted more of a blend.  Whilst – for practical reasons – the mandatory compliance training will mostly likely remain as e-learning, this will still give you scope to create different options for the role-specific content, including combining social and informal learning in the mix.  Given needs change over time too, make a point to consult with new employees every few months to check that the programme is still relevant.

So by asking new-starters and leavers what they regard as the essential elements of their on-boarding and then organising this in an appropriate fashion, you will hopefully address some of the issues surrounding this most important of learning activities.  Remember too that you are creating that essential first impression of your overall learning offer, so you want the new employee to want to return to the learning management system after they’ve completed their mandatory and recommended courses.  This ups the stakes, so it’s important to get this right.


Defining a Successful Digital On-boarding Experience

2 thoughts on “Defining a Successful Digital On-boarding Experience

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