by James Zandstra, J.D
Onboarding in a New World
The digital transformation that began not long ago has completely changed our lives, especially in the workplace. However, things changed in early 2020. The Covid-19 pandemic acted like a catalyst, forcing organizations worldwide to rely on digital tools as they had never had before to survive. Remote work became a “new norm.” In fact, 82% of those working in an office transitioned to primarily working from home when the pandemic hit. Moreover, only 50% have even been given a timeline for when they might be able to return to the office.
Organizations around the world have felt these changes, but they have been especially burdensome on learning and development departments. What was formerly done in-person had to switch to a remote/digital environment quickly. Training needs persisted, but learning departments had limited methods for training people. As a result, we’ve seen a massive and swift change in how onboarding has been conducted. Learning professionals can no longer design onboarding in which new hires sit in a room for a day for their one-time onboarding seminar (they probably shouldn’t have been doing this anyway). If organizations are going to thrive in this new environment, their onboarding needs to look different. Onboarding must have digital components, must be flexible to meet an ever-changing world, and it must be ongoing.
What is Onboarding?
Simply put, onboarding is the way you introduce new people to your organization. It encompasses the set of requirements, conduct, and culture of your organization. As you can imagine, onboarding has a significant impact on your entire organization; your onboarding processes permeate throughout your organization and encompasses your people’s entire journey at your organization.
Practically speaking, onboarding is critical to the health of your organization. Studies support this claim. According to Glassdoor, organizations with a strong onboarding experience can improve employee productivity by 70% and retention by 82%. Conversely, those with negative onboarding experiences are twice as likely to look for new opportunities.
In a world in which turnover has been high, and experts predict it will only rise, onboarding is critical to the health of your organization.
What Should Onboarding Look Like?
Learning experts know that digital learning has a place in today’s training environment. Among other benefits, it allows for the efficient use of learners’ time but limits the time spent in a classroom, and allows for more hands-on training.
Digital learning is critical to a practical modern onboarding experience. It will never replace in-person training, but it supplements the onboarding experience in powerful ways. It can be a great tool for introducing new hires to your organization before their first day. 83% of the best-performing companies begin onboarding before a new hire’s first day. Preboarding with digital learning modules allows new hires to gain exposure to your company and spend more time going through basic policies, benefits, product knowledge, and FAQs at home. Plus, digital learning allows you to turn what can be somewhat uneventful (though important) training into something more engaging with things like videos, animations, and graphic novels.
eLearning (or, ideally, blended learning) is cost-effective. Not only does it allow for more efficient use of new hires’ time, but it also is an efficient use of your training resources. Studies suggest that e-learning will enable companies to maximize their training budgets. In a world in which many organizations have seen their training budgets slashed, this is critical.
As we’ve seen over the past 18 months, the world can change fast. However, even without the Covid-19 pandemic, change is constant. Markets shift, competitors release new products, organizational goals evolve, and innovations change how we do business. Learners, and learning professionals, need to be able to adapt quickly.
Remote work, for example, is here to stay. Though the current global pandemic caused an immediate need for almost entirely remote work, most organizations were already moving towards a remote model. Historically, it’s been a great way to attract new talent. 74% of workers say that having the option to work remotely would make them less likely to leave a company. According to Upwork, since 2009, the number of people who work from home has risen by 159%. By 2028, 73% of all departments are expected to have remote workers.
Onboarding programs need to be able to adjust to these realities. Digital training, coaching, in-person seminars, and on-the-job training are all different tools that organizations need to use to meet our challenges every day.
The changing work environment only highlights the need for onboarding to be more than a one-off event. Treating onboarding as such is one of the primary ways in which organizations fail in their onboarding efforts. Effective onboarding programs are ongoing and must seamlessly flow into the other training opportunities at your organization.
Effective onboarding starts when a new hire learns about a job opening at your organization and continues until they leave. This is especially true in a world in which so much is in flux. Remember, onboarding is one of the primary ways you set your corporate culture, layout goals, and build key connections among your team. It may flow into another form of training, but these basic messages must be present in every touchpoint with your people.
Onboarding is and has always been critical to the health of any organization. However, given the swift changes over the past 18 months, learning leaders must adjust their onboarding approach to reduce turnover, improve productivity, and stay competitive in the global marketplace. For organizations to succeed, they need to meet these new challenges with digital, flexible, and ongoing onboarding strategies.