Getting employees onboard is much more efficient when they have the right tools in place.
By Debbie Bolla
Aberdeen Group recently published research findings on the impacts of learning during onboarding and the early stages of the employee lifecycle. The report Accelerating Time to Performance by Mollie Lombardi, research director of Aberdeen’s human capital management practice, makes the argument that effectively training new staff members can increase their level of execution, as well as encourage retention.
“Time to productivity is everything in terms of measuring talent acquisition return on investment,” says Lombardi. “When we talk about measuring talent acquisition, it’s about getting a person to contribute quickly, and one of the ways to ensure this happens is a proper onboarding process. If you onboard employees with eye on learning, it lays the foundation for this function for their entire career.”
She notes that companies are investing in talent to power their growth and that effective onboarding is a critical tool to ensure a quick return on the time, energy, and cost of hiring. Organizations are faced with pressure when it comes to onboarding: the need to move faster and develop talent to advance the business (see Figure 1). The report reveals that critical talent is becoming less and less available; so for companies to keep their key employees—or key potential employees—the work environment has to be positive and enjoyable.
Onboarding typically includes a few different elements: benefits enrollment forms, orientation, socialization, and culturalization (see Figure 2). The report notes that forming strategic connections makes onboarding part of a broader learning and development strategy, rather than a tactical state of recruitment. Also becoming increasingly popular, as shown by 64 percent of respondents, enrollment in learning and development programs is making its way into the onboarding process.
According to the report, onboarding typically begins with three top objectives:
• Better assimilation of new hires into company culture
(66 percent of respondents);
• Getting new employees productive more quickly (62 percent); and
• Improvement of employee engagement (54 percent).
Training is a key component to getting new hires up to speed. The more quickly that new employees understand business goals, the happier both hiring managers and customers become (see Figures 3 and 4).
“Learning is an important part of onboarding,” Lombardi says. “Organizations should focus on goal setting and helping employees understand the resources that are available to them to achieve those goals.”
Lombardi reports that while learning can reduce time to performance, it has its own challenges. Clearly defining learning’s return on investment and its impact on business results has always been a hurdle for business executives. She notes that these challenges require new tools to deliver and manage learning. The blended learning model—a combination of formal, informal, and social training methods—continues to expand.
“Two types of learning are critical in the onboarding process: tactical learning and the cultural piece,” she says. “Employees need that learning experience where they are introduced to colleagues, helping them find out where to go to get additional knowledge—who to go to. Organizations are thriving on a mix between those two—the basics, so employees don’t get lost in the office, layered on top with the right resources and connections to help them learn.”
Lombardi says tools that support learning through collaboration, coaching, and working with experts are increasingly important. Social networking tools provide a platform to inform the ins-and-outs of a project, procedure, and best practices. The report explains that social learning isn’t a new concept—its just a way of thinking about how most employees learn on a daily basis—through asking questions, working with colleagues, and problem solving in an open exchange of information.
Lombardi says that social networking tools allow for experts to be identified by the ways they interact with others, the questions they answer, and the types of information they share. Otherwise unknown internal expertise can be discovered in this shared environment. The report notes that participation in cross-functional teams was a top-three method for knowledge transfer by 44 percent of respondents. This type of learning helps companies achieve individual and organizational goals, improve employee engagement, and increase bench strength (see Figure 5).