Simultaneous Design: Do you design for new and existing employees simultaneously?

May 02, 2016

Hello!  I’m looking for feedback and suggestions for Simultaneous Design; the ability to design content so it will fit into an existing new hire program and meet the needs of the current employees. 

The idea of “getting to it later” can create a heap of trouble if your organization has to manage multiple onboarding programs, resulting in the work shifting to the growing to-do list.

Do you have this problem?  What are some tips that you follow in your work to create content that can be used for both the new and existing employee audience?  Have you created guidelines that can show how content can be created in such a way that it can delivered as an initiative, and later slipped into the new hire programs? 

Looking forward to following this thread!


9 Replies
Alyssa Gomez

This is an excellent question, Heather! One idea to consider is to allow existing employees to skip ahead:

On one of your introductory slides, the user will select a character that aligns with their role, either new employee or existing employee. If the existing employee is selected, allow the user to skip ahead to the new content that is relevant to them. 

I'm looking forward to the responses of others!

Tristan Hunt

I have designed courses which let the learner jump straight to the quiz if they feel they already have sufficient knowledge. If they don't pass the quiz then they can work through the content.

Also as Alyssa mentioned allowing free navigation of the content. Possibly breaking it into sections with a menu so learners can pick and choose which parts they need to view.

I find the biggest challenge is designing quizzes that truly test ones knowledge so that they really have to view the content if they aren't already familiar with it.


Maija Perfiljeva

It's a great question, but it's hard to answer without knowing more details or the context. For example - why are new and existing employees are accessing the module? What is the difference in the learning objectives / course goals / learner needs for each group of users? Also, I would ask whether the tenured employees are revisting this training (e.g. because they already saw it in the new hire training) or do they see it for the first time as well?

My personal lesson learned - unless you actually have time and opportunity to go back to your product, plan any customisation from the start, at the learning needs analysis and design stage, so that any improvements do not end up on the eternal backlog. I know that in my context, whatever product comes out will become more or less permanent (not because it's great, but because there's no time to go back to it  :) ), so if I care about my learners, I have to spend some quality time in the planning stage, gathering all requirements and then sorting the "must haves" and "good to haves". Also, a while ago, I mentally renamed the "backlog" into "lessons learned" and use any ideas (if feasible) in the next matching product rather than try to squeeze them into the existing one.

The situation which is more typical for me is related to future maintenance. We design a lot of "product updates" modules. The content of the modules is always the same for existing and new employees, because nobody knows anything about the new product. The challenge is incorporating them into the existing onboarding training - if we just add each "product update" as is, our onboarding will take ages! In addition, after the product launch, the information gets stored in the internal knowledge base, so it can be retrieved by learners and doesn't have to be presented in the training. So, in terms of new hire training, I try to create activities which ask learners to find the information in the knowledge base, without the need for the training material to present (and duplicate) this information. This way my new hire training is always "up to date", since it contains directions for learning rather than the learning material itself.

For the courses which will be plugged in 'as is' (mostly applicable to brand-new services), we try to design them with this idea in mind in advance, by planning where and how the course would fit into the onboarding training. Depending on the new course, it may become either a chapter in the exising module, or be simply added among other modules in the program. To reduce the need for changing the course, we try to write the text in a way that is neutral, e.g. avoid phrases like "Great news, we now have a new service!" since it won't be great news a month from now. This approach does not eradicate the need for changes completely, but it tends to reduce our workload.

Heather Peppy

Good points Tristan.  That's a good heads up regarding your challenge with the quizzes. 

In my organization, we are often training on new projects or procedures.  For the existing audience, I find the biggest task is to "un-learn" what they know now, so you can teach the new information.  For new hires, they just need the new information.  Sometimes that is easier to learn!

Great insights!

Melody S

I am in the same situation right now. I am training a complicated tool for both new and existing employees. There was a lot of pressure to create two sets of training so I could include context and comparison to the old tool for existing employees.

Here are some of the rationales I used why I am only creating one set of training and why I am not making any explicit comparisons to the old tool.

1. Development and maintenance of two sets of training is very challenging especially in my case where there will be about 10-15 extensive modules and just one person working on it. Looks like you already have this reason too.

2. When you are explicitly training to unlearn something or trying to provide context based on past experience, you are assuming everyone knows everything about the old method/tool/etc. and they may not. Besides  adding more content, you may end up confusing existing employees when you assume they already know something when in fact they don't. (I had a few concrete examples.)

3. Outside of the workplace, when you learn something new, there is no training comparing the old way and the new way. I was training a tool so I gave examples of how people learn tools outside of the workplace. When kids and adults learn video games, when you get a new electronic gadget, when you upgrade to a new computer, etc., there is no context or comparison to the old ways or methods that is provided to you. You make your own past references based on your personal experience and each learner will do that differently.

The key would be to set up the stage for being open to change. Make sure your 'what's in it for me statements' are strong and clear.





Scott Wiley

We have been moving toward more of a focus on "what they need to do" as opposed to "what do they need to know." By creating activity-based training instead of knowledge-based training, it is easier to make a course more flexible and adaptive to individual learner needs.

So now instead of a "tell then test" method, it becomes more of a "test then tell" method. The learner is posed with a challenge, or set of challenges, that closely mirror real-world context, whether new or experienced. The bulk of the "knowledge" content can be available as resources that may or may not be retrieved in order to succeed in the challenge and/or as feedback when making mistakes. Feedback can be in the form of consequences, that again mirror real-world "what if" scenarios.

The course is then much more adaptive because experienced (existing) employees may be able to quickly and successfully meet the challenge, without being overloaded with knowledge they already possess. Also, it can become extremely potent when software changes might possibly change the order of what they used to do, creating a pitfall, that they quickly get the information they need on how things are different.

The course can adapt to new learners by them retrieving the information needed, at the point of need, in going through the steps of "what they need to do" and retain that information much more contextually.

I suggest using a combination of rapid analysis (Action Mapping - Cathy Moore) and agile design/development (S.A.M. - Allen Interactions) to bake in this type of training.

Hope that helps.


Heather Peppy

Hi Melody,

Thank you so much for sharing your insights.  Point #3 actually struck a cord with me - and you're totally right!  We are guilty of trying to show people how to un-learn to re-learn, but no other parts of our life give us this type of learning.  (And I recently upgraded my tablet - and no one was there to show me where all of my favorite HTC settings were on my new Samsung).

Very good insight!

Heather Peppy

Hi Maija,

Yes!  The situation you are in is where I am too.  I work with product related content, and yes!  If we put everything into the onboarding programs, they would be really long!  I like your tips on how to write in a style that is smarter - and allows the content to have a longer shelf life when care is taken to ensure a neutral text is used.

You've given me some great ideas!  




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