Onboarding: It Takes a Learning Village

By guest expert, Nancy Rubin, Ph.D.

Welcome To The Hood
You just hired a promising new employee. She starts next Monday. Is your organization prepared for the challenge?

You have a folder of HR documentation to pass along. You’ve invited department employees to drop by for a “meet-and-greet” coffee break that morning. You’re all set, right?

Well, not quite. An orientation packet and a welcome lunch are elements of a successful onboarding program — but it takes more than these tools to make a new hire comfortable and effective on the job.

Remember when Hillary Clinton said, “It takes a village to raise a child”? Acclimating new employees is a similar learning process. In a healthy workplace culture, onboarding is a group effort. Everyone should naturally want to play a role to ensure that new hires “stick.” But if your organization isn’t that far along on the collaboration curve, here are some ideas to move the agenda forward.

What Is Onboarding, Anyway?
Meercat onboarding program in social learning environmentFirst, let’s clarify terms. According to Wikipedia, onboarding (also called organizational socialization) is the means “through which new employees acquire knowledge, skills and behaviors to operate effectively as organizational members and insiders.”

Tactics for introducing newcomers to their job and work environment can include formal meetings, lectures, videos and materials in print and online format. However, smart employers supplement these traditional methods with informal and social learning techniques that facilitate knowledge sharing and reinforce common values. For example, peer mentoring, virtual classroom sessions, digital discussion forums, work narratives (blogs/wikis) and on-demand reference resources can accelerate learning transfer and foster cultural connections.

The need for these programs is significant. Wikipedia estimates that, on any given day, 25% of workers are “organizational newcomers, engaged in an onboarding process.” Fortunately, next-generation learning management systems, enterprise social networks and social media tools dramatically reduce the cost and complexity of creating custom portals, applications and digital onboarding content.

What’s The Business Case?
The Society for Human Resource Management estimates that each year, nearly 25% of workers experience some type of career transition. Although any turnover is expensive for employers, it’s particularly important to minimize voluntary departures. This is where focusing on new hire programs can yield big benefits.

According to Aberdeen Group, 86% of new hires decide to stay or leave a company within six months — and employees who participate in effective onboarding programs are nearly 70% more likely to stay longer than three years.

Welcome to the employee onboarding training programThe SHRM report, “Onboarding New Employees: Maximizing Success,” notes that organizations with formal programs are more effective at retaining employees. What’s more, regardless of how long new hires stay, onboarding has been shown to significantly improve employees’ happiness with their organization and their workplace relationships.

Other research shows that indoctrinating employees boosts their performance, increases job satisfaction, reduces occupational stress, and strengthens employee commitment.

Designing an Effective Program
What should you consider when creating an onboarding process? Christina Pope offers this advice:

  • Make It Meaningful — and Engaging
    It’s essential to help new employees understand your company’s mission, but it’s even more important for them to understand how their role contributes to those goals. Focus on purpose and vision — but don’t forget the personality that makes your organization special. Think of fun, memorable ways to build those cultural traits into the onboarding process.
  • Communicate — Even Before They Arrive
    Strive to forge an emotional connection between new hires, their work groups and the organization. This helps newcomers feel more welcome, less stressed and more team-focused. Clear, open lines of communication pay-off in in multiple ways — including lower turnover.
  • Recognize That Recognition Starts On Day One
    It’s never too early or too often to recognize accomplishments during the first year on the job. Employees need to know they’re appreciated, and their work is making a difference to the company.

Leveraging Networks and Social Tools
In Harvard Business Review, Karie Willyerd, coauthor of The 2020 Workplace, explains how social tools can improve the efficiency and effectivness of employee onboarding. For example, integrating ERP data directly with cloud-based social HR and LMS applications makes it possible for hiring managers and employees to track and discuss workflows in real time, as onboarding tasks and learning activities are completed and simultaneously updated in dashboards.

Networked learning expert, Harold Jarche, has explored numerous workplace onboarding practices that can be extended, enhanced or accelerated by social capabilities. For example:

  • Formal introductions to people in an organizational network — especially those at a distance.
  • Reliance upon collaboration platforms to facilitate better communication.
  • Dedicated coaches, available for synchronous or asynchronous performance support.

Several years ago, Kelly Services applied many of these concepts to reverse a serious employee turnover challenge. With a three-pronged onboarding strategy that leveraged social learning tools, the company decreased new-hire turnover from 40% to only 6%, and dramatically accelerated time-to-competency — while simultaneously reducing program and retention costs.

Your Turn
Is your organization working to improve the onboarding process? What results are you seeing? Share your comments below.

Nancy Rubin, Ph.D., Executive Director Distance Education at Columbia UniversityAbout The Author: Thanks to our guest author, Nancy Rubin, Ph.D., Executive Director Distance Education at Columbia University, Fu Foundation College of Engineering & Applied Science. Nancy also serves as Managing Associate Editor of The Journal of Literacy and Technology. This article is adapted from a post originally featured on her blog, Nancy-Rubin.com. Connect with Nancy on Twitter

Editor’s Note:To learn how the ExpertusONE cloud LMS supports next-generation employee onboarding initiatives, please contact us at Expertus anytime to schedule a personalized consultation and demo.

Photo credits: Pixabay


2 thoughts on “Onboarding: It Takes a Learning Village

  1. Pingback: New Hires Need Employee Recognition, Too! - gThankYou! | Celebrating Work

  2. Pingback: Employee On-Boarding: Making it Stick | Learning In The Cloud

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s