Induction & onboarding

28th Jan 2014

In the blog posts that I have written here I have frequently asked the question "how can an LMS help us?". In this case I'm going to get the question out of the way right up front; so, how can an LMS help us with induction and onboarding?

The temptation, I suspect, will be to say "that's obvious" and to assume that when we say induction what we really mean is compliance training, or at the very least to assume strong connection between the two. There is a link, as we shall see, but that viewpoint risks oversimplifying the purpose of induction, neglects the importance of onboarding and, as is so often the case, relegates the LMS to do little more than 'launch, track and leave'.

To induct someone means to 'admit as a member; receive' or to 'introduce, as to new experiences or knowledge; initiate'. When I worked in HR someone described it to me as a combination of introduction, initiation and indoctrination. Ore more colloquially; once it's over you'll know where things are and what you should be doing.

This, of course, is an area in which the LMS excels. There are many things that a new starter needs to know, and that the organisation needs them to know. Where that knowledge is fixed and factual (for example, policies, locations and service standards) this is a good candidate for elearning content delivered through an LMS. And yes, some of that content will be compliance training.

An LMS is a great way to deliver this kind of material because it can identify which content needs to be presented to everyone and which is specific to a role, department, location or other variable, and then present only the relevant materials. Connecting the right people to the right content gives us a much better chance of reducing the time between arrival and basic competence.

This comes with one very important warning. An LMS does not and cannot replace the human elements of induction. If your induction programme involves sitting someone in front of an LMS to complete back to back elearning modules, it's destined for failure.

You may struggle to find a definitive definition of onboarding, but for me it is a process that begins at recruitment and continues until someone is fully competent in their role. It therefore includes induction, but starts long before, and is likely to continue long afterwards, perhaps even beyond the probationary period. It ends when the employee is fully, ahem, on-board.

As with induction, an onboarding process is not something that should live entirely in an LMS, but there are many ways that it can help.

Employees can be given access to welcome materials before they start. Note that this isn't an excuse to get people to complete compliance training in their own time! Take the opportunity to provide new starters with information about the company, its history and values; things that will help them feel a sense of belonging. Tell them about the location in which they will be working - what facilities there are, what the best ways are to travel there.

Try to address the kind of things that will be worrying people before they start. This is most likely to be the things that directly affect them as an individual such as "where do I park?" and "who do I report to when I arrive?". This doesn't have to be done through an LMS, but why not start recording the employees training activity as early as possible?

Many of the key features of an LMS that we have previously talked about here can be particularly beneficial during onboarding:

  •  Dashboards and other management information can help the learner to keep a sense of what they need to be doing and how they are progressing [see: Management Information ]
  • Access on mobile devices can ensure that they get to the content they need wherever they are [see:Access on the go 
  • Development plans, particularly when they are bespoke to the individual, can ensure that they are following the right path to get then to the intended outcome [see: Planned and Relevant Learning 
  • Well set up set functionality to reduce the time wasted looking for the right content [see: Finding Relevant Content ]

Of course, an LMS needn't be all about content. If you make use of the social features found in today's LMS you can ensure that new starters aren't just connected to the right content, but also to the right people.

I've said before that an LMS is primarily an administration system, so make use of those features too; use triggers and notifications to help learners and their managers keep on track and to remind them when things need to be done. Onboarding needs to be flexible and adapt to the needs of the individual, so surely it is better to notify the manager that the learner is ready for a review when they have reached a certain stage in a development plan rather than when they have reached an arbitrary date. For example, a part time worker may take longer to reach the same stage in the onboarding process than someone doing the same job full time.

As with induction, in fact even more so, an onboarding process is not something to be delegated to an LMS and automated. It requires a great deal of human contact and support, but an LMS can maximise the benefit of that contact time by reducing the time spent on admin and delivering simple fixed content.

In summary, a well planned induction and a flexible onboarding process can give your new starters the best possible introduction to the organisation and an LMS can make it easier for everyone involved.

About the author
Barry Samson

Barry Sampson is a consultant focusing on the use of technology to improve workplace performance. In 2009 he co-founded Onlignment, a consultancy specialising in organisational communication and learning. Previously he worked in a range of delivery and management roles in HR and Learning & Development before becoming Learning Technology Manager at B&Q where he led a number of award-winning elearning and blended learning programmes.

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