“Onboarding” 1

So I thought I’d start this article with the title set as it is – purely because of the issues I have with the term. I do understand the logic (well kind of) but I just don’t like the term. I did throw this out to the twitterverse during the Learning Now: Induction strategies that work conference – and got a mix of views back.

Some people, like Kim above, like it (as it makes Induction sound like a process which lasts longer than a day) whereas others highlighted it as being another Americianism which we should avoid. Ironically it was then later picked up by Ben Betts who compared it’s perception on the different sides of the Atlantic ocean (UK people immediately think of ‘waterboarding’ when you say it, whereas American people hate the term Induction) either way – it means the same thing – getting people into your organisation…

The conference

The Learning Now conference started brightly (I’m always impressed by the ruthless efficiency of the people who run conferences in London) and this was no different. Arrive, collect badge, collect wi-fi code, collect drink and pastry – then lets get going! Laura Overton (@lauraoverton) started proceedings with an introduction of to the event – which included a McDonalds commercial which Laura says inspired her to do an Induction event. I’ve embedded the video below for all to see:

Whilst its fair to say that none of us intend our Induction to be like this, for a new starter – this is how it can feel. You have loads of information (and acronyms and abbreviations) thrown at you constantly – and are expected to remember every little detail – without forgetting anything (we all know that they can come and ask us if they forget, but many are too scared to). For me, this video just proved a timely reminder about how other people may perceive our programmes.

From here we moved on to Lars (@larshyland) who talked about why Induction needs to change. Lars highlighted a number of the key issues of induction – one of which really struck a chord with me around the ‘arranged induction day/week’ – where you have prearranged meetings with everyone in the organisation you may ever need to meet. I did get discussing this with another delegate later in the day (as she was considering starting this approach) – but for me – I just remember it feeling like I was being paraded around the whole organisation before I had even had a chance to get to know my own team and the area in which I was going to be working.

The other interesting point I took from Lars’ presentation was about how the ‘timeframe’ for induction is shrinking. Whereas induction used to be something which would last six months or more (as you learned your way into the organisation), now it’s frequently seen as a month long process, or even just a one day event. Lars then expanded on how Epic use the ASPECT model for Induction:

The ASPECT model starts with Attracting the new starter to the company, the Selection process you go through to recruit, Preparing and Engaging with them before they start their actual job, then Connecting them to the organisation and (after 6 months when that part of the Induction completes) Tuning them to be better (continuing development). This complete approach – from pre-application through to six months to a year after the person actually starts is exactly the kind of holistic approach we should all take to Induction. Ben Betts (@bbetts) then followed – he highlighted a really key concept of using games to drive learning (whether it was actual games, or by point scoring based on completing activities which are already in use) – the concept of it being a game made it more appealing, and made more people relate to it.

Aside from the obvious point about what this concept brings – Ben’s opinion that this concept can be applied to all industries (Ben was asked if he felt it could work within the construction industry, as an alternative to the usual PC based worker). Ben’s response focused on the way that games could easily be used across the different industries, but you need to focus the perspective on the learners.

Last up was Carole from Mott McDonald. Carole talked about how she had strived to recreate the ‘water cooler’ moment – using webinars to connect her new starters with the executives:

Carole highlighted how, by seeing these senior staff and executives using webinars as a way of connecting with the staff meant that staff immediately perceived social media and online learning as being part of the organisations culture, and helped to drive the uptake.

The one thing I found very interesting from Carole’s session was that Carole doesn’t record any of the webinars that she hosts. Carole says this is because “if they can’t be bothered to be there, then they shouldn’t have the opportunity to see it”. In this way, Carole is creating an element of exclusivity to the content. I think this approach is very refreshing and a very strong position to take – and ultimately it works for Carole. Personally – I like the thought that people who were unable to attend can catch up at a later date – but this offers an interesting alternative perspective. Following this session – we then broke into pairs to answer some set questions:

      • How can we improve the pre-joining experience?
      • How can we improve the experiences on the first day/week?
      • How can we help staff apply their learning in the first months?
      • How can we measure the success of our induction programmes more effectively?

Now I’m not going to talk about all the discussion which happened around these questions, however there were a few key points I took from them. The main thing I took from these answers was the concept of a “flipped induction”:

As anyone who has read my previous Induction post will know, my key target is about how we can enable people to enjoy induction by removing the “clutter”. So this concept of actually getting the new starter to tell you want they want to know seems perfect to me. However, like most perfect ideas, there is always an effective counter argument – and whilst talking about the idea with Lars, he made the point that the new starter “won’t know what they don’t know” – so essentially they can’t always ask you to tell them everything they actually need. The second interesting point was that a number of people said they were given a “welcome card” or in some cases, a welcome gift from their new manager/team. The concept of a welcome card (much like a leaving card, just the exact opposite) is one which can be easy to provide, at a very low cost – but immediately welcomes the new starter and creates bridges between the new starter and the organisation:

Overall – there were so many different ideas and processes throughout this conference – most of which could be easily applied to any organisation. However they all shared they key concept that if we work better to welcome our new starters and ensure they are appropriately supported, they will become better employees. Then if we combine this with an improved retention scheme – we get a stronger, more consistent workforce.

Key takeaways

  1. Induction should be seen as a process (and a suitably long one at that) and not a one day event
  2. Find out what the new starters actually want and ensure that you’re providing it
  3. Make it personal and welcoming – and involve the existing staff and managers

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