New Hire Onboarding Program

New hire onboarding programs exist to not only orient a new employee with the organization’s resources, structures, and policies, but also with its culture and values. Typically, such programs are required to accomplish these goals within fairly tight time constraints and budgets—all while balancing the needs of the employee and their individual perspectives with the needs of the organization to quickly equip newbies with the knowledge and tools they need to be productive contributors. That’s a pretty tall order for a training program, isn’t it?

So, what are some pro ideas for revamping a new hire onboarding program? That was the fundamental question recently posed by self-described e-learning newbie, Shannon Marshall. Thankfully the E-Learning Heroes community jumped in with some creative ideas to get Shannon pointed in the right direction. I’ve grouped their ideas into 5 common themes, below.

Idea #1: Engage Learners with Scenarios

One common complaint about many onboarding programs is that learners spend too much time reading bulleted lists of company policies and procedures. Not only is reading a bunch of legal mumbo-jumbo uninspiring, it’s also not an effective way to learn about the nuances behind the policies and procedures. 

Instead of lecture, E-Learning Hero, Daniel Brigham, had a few ideas for some more engaging approaches.

“Create a few characters who perhaps go through the training together. What I'll often do is have two characters converse about a subject (in particular the questions they have about it/where they are confused), and then spring into content that answers those questions.

…[or] set up a situation based on the content ("Clara is an employee who...") and then ask, "Given this situation, what should Clara do?"

Idea #2: Encourage Exploratory Learning

People love the freedom to learn by exploring, but when you’re brand new to an organization free-reign exploration can be a little intimidating. That’s where you can provide some structure to guide their exploration and help them learn in a safe, productive way.

Daniel Brigham had this suggestion for providing some navigation assistance: “You often see in new hire training a sort of ‘geographical’ navigation...the learner takes the elevator to various floors for various parts of the training. Or makes progress by hitting various checkpoints on a map.”

Another community member, Alicia Blitz, chimed in with a few more creative navigation examples: “A couple onboarding themes I have seen were quest-based: a passport activity where they collected stamps for each section of content, another was a cruise ship exploration activity.”

Idea #3: Focus on Performance Support

Another common criticism of onboarding training is that the information can be overwhelming to newbies. As you’re designing an onboarding program, try to keep this challenge in mind and consider other options for helping learners adapt to their new environment over time.

Community member, Bob S., suggests focusing more on performance support, rather than training.

“...make liberal use of reference-type materials, checklists, etc that they can access beyond the course itself. For example... don't expect them to remember who to call for what, instead create a reference for that information then teach them how to use it…”

Daniel Brigham concurred with Bob and added, “Do your best to place the material in bite-sized chunks so as not to overwhelm. The job aids, checklists, etc. will also help to this end. You might even state a few times...'We don't expect you to remember all of this, so we've placed the crucial information in the X location.'"

Idea #4: Use Short Videos

They say showing is more powerful than telling, and it’s tough to beat the power of video in communicating the true essence of an organization’s culture and values. If your organization’s spirit isn’t quite coming across, community member Rita Garcia suggests adding some short videos to the mix.

“For topics like presenting the company's story, mission and values a good, short video can go a long way as an alternative to text or PowerPoint presentation. You can make very cool and funny videos using tools like PowToon and GoAnimate.”

Idea #5: Incorporate a Webinar

In today’s world of remote workers and widely dispersed teams, not everyone can be face to face for onboarding. That’s where a blended approach incorporating some virtual interaction (or some face time) can be helpful in building connections.

Alicia Blitz shared her organization’s approach to this challenge: “Our corporate New Hire program is a 2 hour webinar, and it seems to work well providing the basics all employees need to know. We follow up with resources and check in at certain time intervals. Additionally, most of our Business Units have their own ‘Orientation’ to onboard their employees as well.”

Summary & Resources

New hire onboarding gives you a unique opportunity to earn the trust, engagement, and commitment of new employees, right from the start. So whether you’re undertaking the design of a new program, or just looking for more ideas to revamp your current one, look no further than the free advice and resources available on E-Learning Heroes to get you pointed in the right direction.

Need to acquaint learners with the roles of different departments within your organization? Snag this free PowerPoint template or this free Articulate Storyline template from Tom Kuhlmann.

Want to help learners get to know their new colleagues? Check out these beautiful, free “meet the team” templates:

Looking to build buy-in for trying something new or different with your onboarding program? Check out these helpful ideas and articles:

What are your creative ideas for new hire onboarding? Weigh in with your thoughts or ask us your questions by leaving a comment below.

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Rashmi Chandru