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Why Employers Can't Ignore Onboarding with Tech

By Andrew Fayad / September 2014

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Onboarding methods that encourage more interactive, engaging experiences for new hires are becoming increasingly popular and needed in the workplace. First, let's explain what onboarding is. It's simply employee orientation and socialization—in other words, making sure a new hire understands both the work and the culture. The onboarding process is critical to the future of new hires, but most companies stick to sleep-inducing PowerPoints on company history or printouts of the job description. Luckily, there's a solution: eLearning.

By now, you are probably familiar with gamification, the process of using gaming concepts and designs. When you combine gamification with onboarding, the result is a more involved experience that lets employees earn badges or receive rewards to gauge improvement in a tangible way. Deloitte LLP has already taken advantage of this trend by using a game modeled on the popular board game LIFE to teach employees about ethics, privacy, and compliance.

Advances like these provide exciting possibilities that help motivate and retain new talent. A MasteryWorks survey found that 22 percent of staff turnover happened within the first 45 days of employment, which is a crucial period when onboarding should occur. Only 67 percent of respondents to an Impact Instruction survey used tech as part of their onboarding strategy—and only in about 40 percent of their efforts. This disconnect between tech, eLearning, and onboarding could be one reason why organizations are hemorrhaging talent so early.

The Benefits of Onboarding with Tech

Typical new hires are given a one- or two-day crash course in everything they need to know before they're on their own. There's a good chance that they have questions or have forgotten some of what they've learned, but because traditional training is expensive and time-consuming that's all they get. Although in-person contact with these new faces is important—understanding personality and nuance is best achieved face-to-face—there's a fine balance between the personal touch of in-person communication and information overload.

With eLearning, materials are available to new hires 24/7. They're given access to the module and can learn both on the job and at home by combining written material with audio and video presentations. If they have questions, they know where to locate the answers, making them more confident and independent. More importantly, they can avoid feeling overwhelmed by too much information.

There are several other benefits, as well. eLearning helps:

  • Assimilate new employees. Employees from different backgrounds, educational experiences, and working environments can create a disconnected workplace, but eLearning modules can set the tone of an organization and help new hires assimilate to dress codes, protocols, and organizational culture.
  • Retain employees. One of the most common reasons organizations have to replace new hires is a lack of solid onboarding. Whether they're fired due to poor performance or leave out of frustration, eLearning can set clear expectations and arm employees with information and effective mentors during the first few weeks of employment.
  • Make employees more comfortable. New hires always have more questions than they let on, and working face-to-face with a trainer can be daunting. An eLearning module helps decrease that pressure-employees can learn independently by looking up answers, researching procedures, and utilizing resources more effectively.
  • Reduce costs. With traditional training methods, facilitators are required to take time out to onboard new hires. They repeat this process for every new hire in a perpetual start-and-stop cycle that drains an organization's resources.

Plus, onboarding materials can be used repeatedly, which saves money, minimizes disruptions, and provides more consistency. In fact, eBay experienced a 25 percent reduction in administrative costs and significantly lowered operational costs after automating its onboarding process.

While it's difficult to measure onboarding success, it's possible to track key components, such as employee retention, employee satisfaction, and workplace integration. Building analysis tools—such as quizzes and satisfaction surveys—into the process can help organizations quantify their success and retool their efforts.

Implementing eLearning into the Onboarding Process

Effective eLearning onboarding such as "My IBM"—which acts as an all-in-one knowledge base, social network, and feedback machine—doesn't just happen overnight. Here are a few tips for incorporating eLearning into your onboarding program:

  • Ensure that all the right people are on the same page. The transition from traditional onboarding to eLearning can be tough unless everyone is on the same page. Department managers need to support HR to ensure eLearning is supplemented with mentoring, leadership succession, and general support for new hires.
  • Find a great eLearning partner. The right eLearning partner will help make your module as interactive and accessible as possible. The company will be aware of the latest trends and know how to match your training needs with the right delivery system. Your partner should work to answer your questions and make sure your onboarding efforts are on track.
  • Focus on interaction and engagement. According to research from the Aberdeen Group, the top priority during the onboarding process is engagement. Any interactive element that consistently engages new hires is good for the employee and the organization. Chat rooms, forums, and social networks make training a department-wide task and allow new hires to ask questions and receive mentoring in a comfortable, accessible way.

What company wouldn't want to create more capable, confident new hires in a shorter amount of time with fewer resources? eLearning can offer all these benefits, but it takes communication, patience, and a focus on employee engagement.

About the Author

Andrew Fayad is the CEO and Managing Partner of eLearning Mind. He oversees sales, marketing, and strategic growth opportunities. eLearning Mind is an eLearning design and development agency that helps companies transform their existing learning materials into memorable and engaging eLearning experiences. By hiring talented graphic designers and motion graphic artists, eLearning Mind provides seamless project management and a unique, collaborative customer experience.

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