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Connecting Structured Learning To Employee Onboarding For Long Term Success

Structured Learning For Employee Onboarding
Summary: Employee onboarding programs get a boost from structured learning paths to create a more loyal and skilled workforce. Are you supporting the learning needs of your new hires?

How To Integrate Employee Learning And Onboarding

In a time when there have been massive job changes influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic, employers cannot afford to lose their best workers. A job seeker survey conducted by Bankrate in July 2021 indicated that 55% of the US workforce is planning on looking for a new job in the next 12 months. The job market is favorable, with a surplus of job openings. This is an opportune time to evaluate how structured learning fits into your current onboarding program.

There are many ideas about what an effective employee onboarding program should look like. Most organizations have good intentions in maintaining a process for new hire onboarding, yet they fail to identify the key element that can make the biggest difference in promoting employee success and retention.

How Onboarding Programs Fail Without Learning Initiatives

What’s often missing is a clearly laid out structure of learning that begins as soon as the organization establishes a connection with a candidate. From the moment when a potential employee learns of an opportunity, they are already learning about the organization. The description of the job advertisement, culture-driven content on the career website, and reviews posted by current and former employees all provide clues as to what a candidate can expect to learn. These early experiences need to be fostered in order to successfully hire new employees and help them reach their full potential.

According to Indeed, the top reason why employees leave a job is that they no longer feel challenged. This stems from becoming familiar with all the required tasks of a role and not seeing anything else that can be learned about it. Apparently, Indeed explains, this comes naturally. As an employee reaches certain career growth milestones, there needs to be a way to learn new skills and get excited about the job again. Otherwise, a new job with a competitor looks appealing.

The path of a successful onboarding track may be slightly different for each employee, depending on their career goals and level of motivation. But let’s look at the next phases of a typical onboarding process.

As a candidate is officially hired and brought into a team, they are learning their value in an organization. This comes from several areas, including their previous experiences, their best skills, and the role they are now filling in an organization. New hires desire to be welcomed and introduced to an organization and the problems they’ve been hired to solve. This is a teaching opportunity that is often neglected. It is also during this time that most employees quit a new job because it either does not meet their expectations or they feel undervalued.

If the new hire gets through this initial gauntlet of finding their place and value within the organization, they generally progress along a self-directed path of learning. They ask for information and guidance from more experienced peers. They benefit from management coaching. If they find that the job honors their unique skills and interests, this journey continues. If they get frustrated or feel lost, hopefully, someone notices before the employee goes off the rails.

Every career experience is one that can provide access to a wide array of learning from peers, client interactions, and challenges of working life. But it isn't always so clear what employees should be learning along their path. Many just find a way to make it work, depending on their own resources to gain new knowledge.

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The Principles Of Adult Learning Theory

Focusing on the Adult Learning Theory of Malcolm Knowles, we understand that adults have very different motivators to learn than children. Andragogy, "the art and science of how adults learn," should and can be implemented in an employee onboarding process. Given that adults want to work for the specific organization they’ve vetted during the interview phase, they are already eager to learn new things in that specific environment. Knowles’ [1] promoted that "adults are interested in the immediate applicability of what they are learning and are often motivated by their social roles as employees."

The principles that Knowles indicated would influence adult learner success are as applicable now as they were decades ago. Notice how perfectly they can integrate with onboarding.

  1. Adults want to participate in both the planning and evaluation attached to their instruction.
  2. Experiences, both good and bad, serve as the backdrop for all learning activities.
  3. Adults first gravitate toward learning things that are directly relevant to their jobs or personal lives.
  4. Adult learning centers on problems, not subjects.

(Knowles, 1984)

As a former human resource professional, I’ve seen too many new hires fail because they were not provided with adequate learning opportunities. I'd like to suggest that employers place a larger emphasis on giving new hires the best chance possible with structured learning programs. The program needs to include the above principles.

What A Structured Learning Program Looks Like

Employees arrive with a certain set of expectations. Outside of salary, benefits, and challenging tasks, employees want to feel like they are in control of their future. Learning provides this sense of autonomy when a new hire has an opportunity to choose from courses and workshops that are pre-selected for their career objectives. They can plan how and when they would like to participate in learning, and they can share feedback and ideas. But essentially, a career path is laid out for them.

A structured learning program can be implemented in tandem with the onboarding process. Here is a sample schedule you are welcome to take ideas from.


[1] 3 Learning Theories: Understanding How People Learn