3 Tips To Redesign Your Onboarding Process Into A Continuous Experience

3 Tips To Redesign Your Onboarding Process Into A Continuous Experience
Summary: How do you retain the top talent you worked so hard to recruit? Well, you have to start by thinking about onboarding in a different way. Reimagine it as a continuous experience that never stops—instead of a rigid process with a definitive start and end.

How To Redesign Your Onboarding Process Into A Continuous Experience

Microlearning strategies, maximizing learning retention, modernizing the learning ecosystem—this is the type of vocabulary that’s floating around the corporate eLearning space, and for good reason. Employee turnover is a serious issue.

In fact, did you know that the first 45 days are the most important? Up to 20% of employee turnover happens within this timeframe. The average cost of replacing an employee can range between 10% to 30% of his/her annual salary. And this number grows as you start losing mid to senior-level employees. Whether your company is ranked as a Fortune 500 or a modest startup, employee retention is a critical component for the economic and cultural success of your company.

So how do you retain the top talent you worked so hard to recruit? Well, you have to start by thinking about onboarding in a different way. Reimagine it as a continuous experience that never stops. After all, 69% of employees are more likely to stay with a company for three years if they’ve had a great onboarding experience. With the right technology and approach, you can redesign onboarding as a continuous learning and enablement experience that drives powerful results, and keeps employees engaged.

Why The First 45 Days Are Crucial

Let’s take a look at the traditional onboarding process from the perspective of a new employee. Anika just landed her dream job—she’s excited to learn, share her expertise, and start turning heads with new ideas. Dream job or not, most new hires typically share this excitement and motivation to learn about the company.

The challenge is: How do you keep this momentum going?

Unfortunately, the traditional onboarding story is a little underwhelming. New hires are typically bombarded with a mountain of content—ranging from instructional modules, eLearning courses, or even binders—that fail to consider their previous experience or knowledge. After weeks of training, Anika completes a generic assessment required of all new employees and is ready to start her new role. Her leaders expect that she has retained most of the content and is capable of doing her job.

Here’s where those first 45 days are so crucial. The formalized onboarding process is over, the operational period begins, and Anika is immediately in danger of falling into that 20% turnover group.

Why? What happens within this critical timeframe?

As soon as the onboarding process is complete, employee knowledge and confidence can start to decrease. Training materials and facilitators are no longer readily available. Not to mention, the limitations of the human memory. According to the Forgetting Curve theory, memory loss is natural when there’s no attempt to recall newly presented information. So Anika, like her peers, won’t retain most of the information she was bombarded with during the initial onboarding. As the elation from landing her new job starts to fade, Anika can’t recall the content needed to successfully perform her responsibilities. What she and her manager thought she was able to accomplish during training is far different than the reality facing her now.

Does this speak to Anika’s true capabilities or has the one-size-fits-all training approach failed her and her newly hired peers? This lack of confidence and satisfaction can result in those early retention rate problems we see in many organizations.

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3 Principles To Help You Redesign Your Onboarding Process Into A Continuous Experience

We know one-size-fits-all isn’t a viable option when you’re shopping for clothes, so why don’t we have the same mindset for how we train and educate people? The human mind, just like the human body, is always developing and unique to each individual.

A successful onboarding experience should be personalized. It should include strategy, content design, learning and development considerations, plus the individual’s prior knowledge and experience. Ask yourself, “How can we help this unique individual (not this generic new hire) be successful in the role? How can we tailor the learning materials to his/her specific needs, and accelerate learning?”

Here are 3 core principles that can help you redesign your onboarding process into a continuous, and much more effective experience.

1. Prioritize The Right Content

During the first few days of the onboarding experience, focus only on critical topics and information. Remove the expectation that you need to teach employees everything, and zero in on key topics. For example, what are the essential things they need to understand before they interact with customers? Focus on those elements, and slowly build on that information as they progress.

By using strategies such as microlearning, you can effectively fit introductory and continued training into the overall onboarding workflow. If new hire, Anika, needs to learn critical information, blend the experience to include on-the-job training, instead of removing her from the job. With this approach, she will continue to apply the content she learns through a hands-on experience.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, create a strong foundation of resources for your new hires to refer back to. By providing access to on-demand knowledge and learning materials from the first day, Anika is equipped to address issues in areas she may not yet be an expert in. However, by having readily available resources, she feels more comfortable and confident when dealing with customers.

2. Adapt To Your Employee Needs

How do you personalize the onboarding experience to new employees and their needs? By using the right technology to gather knowledge and performance data, you can leverage machine learning to tailor the learning experience to the individual. As Anika answers questions based on her prior knowledge, the training platform should adapt continuously to address the potential gaps in her current understanding and capabilities.

Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach that offers too much content, in too little time, the right kind of technology can also help your new hires accelerate their pace of learning. For example: With a personalized and adaptable experience, Anika is enabled to move at a pace which helps her retain the content more effectively. She can take time to focus on areas where she needs to learn more, and move quickly through others.

All of this data should be shared with frontline managers, so they can help enable proactive support. Managers are an essential part of the transition from initial onboarding to executing on the job. By equipping leaders with employee performance data, they can better address areas that may need further training. With the right information, Anika’s manager can leave false assumptions behind and gain a better understanding of what kind of coaching she may need to be successful.

3. Continue The Onboarding Experience

As we mentioned before, there is no hard endpoint to an onboarding experience because the learning and growth should never stop. To sustain the experience, you can provide personalized content continuously to each individual over a long period of time. This will support long-term retention. It will also help mitigate the forgetting curve and keep them up to speed.

Establish the value and feel of continuous learning from the first day. Continue it throughout the duration of new employee training and, if possible, their entire employment. Anika may have had a good onboarding process in the past, but the same level of support never stayed with her as she began her new role. If you set the tone of what it feels like to learn and be supported by your organization from day one, and continue to stretch it out during the length of the employee’s employment, the changes in employee retention and behavior can be significant.

Lastly, be sure to observe the behaviors of new employees. Behavior observation is a great way to access even more data about your new hires and how they’re performing. Find ways to capture those moments to gain a better understanding of which behaviors are correct and which need improving. You can use this data to further adapt and personalize the continued learning experience.

If the traditional one-size-fits-all approach sounds all too familiar, perhaps it’s time to reassess your current onboarding strategy. Think about whether it’s a process created from the perspective of the company, or if it's an experience designed for continuously developing your individual employees.