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Apr 2015

The top myths and realities of onboarding

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Shaping the future of learning

When your new staff members think about your corporate onboarding program, which of these statements is closer... "What a great experience! Coming to work here was definitely the right decision!" or "Onboarding? Oh, you mean those compliance courses I had to take just before that session I had to go through on how to fill out expense reports?".

I bet most of you chose the second one.

However, there’s a lot that’s good that’s happening in corporate onboarding. Some large organizations have invested heavily in creating great onboarding experiences – many of them presented their strategies at the recent Talent Acquisition and Onboarding Conference. Better yet, all of us can learn from their lessons.

6 onboarding myths your learners believe

Here are some lessons and examples we picked up from the conference that debunk the myths and look at the real state of Onboarding in today's leading businesses.

Myth #1 – Onboarding starts on my very first day

The Reality: Onboarding starts much earlier – as soon as you accept the job.

For instance, if you’re hired at IBM, you create a profile in their onboarding portal to introduce yourself well before you show up on the job. And you meet your new teammates in the same way.

Want to see a great example of how onboarding can engage new hires from Day 1? Check out the easyJet onboarding case study

Myth #2 – Onboarding should be rapid

The Reality: Onboarding can take up to two years.

While onboarding may be lean, it shouldn’t be rushed. Some companies consider the onboarding process to last as long as two years - it’s not over until an employee has internalized the culture of the company, understands how that culture creates value for customers, and understands how to work effectively within it. All of that understanding takes time!

Myth #3 – Onboarding is between you and your manager

The Reality: Of course, managers are a critical component of an onboarding initiative. But onboarding should also expose new employees to a broader network.

For example, Novartis has created a buddy system to help new hires. Some companies even provide mentors for new hires.  

At the same time, the manager’s role remains critical. Several HR leaders report that they train managers how to onboard new employees. Then, they make explicit to new hires what support those new hires should expect, thereby making the onboarding system clear to all .

Myth #4 – Onboarding is HR’s responsibility

The Reality: HR can, and should, play the role of facilitator – but they cannot by themselves make a successful onboarding initiative happen.

Several HR leaders at the conference reported that when they implemented new approaches to onboarding, they intentionally “over-invested” in engaging with the business . They and the business co-created their approaches. Each HR leader also reported that investing this time was key to success and helped the business take ownership when implementing their programs.

Myth #5 – Onboarding is about clearing training requirements

The Reality: Onboarding is much more about becoming woven into the social fabric of the company so as to become productive and realize the employee value proposition.

What was surprising was the level of emphasis that companies placed on using technology to support social integration.  Most approaches involved some form of “onboarding portal” in which new hires posted profiles with their background information, asked questions, made matches with buddies, tracked their progress, and addressed their training requirements (which, of course, remain part of the onboarding initiative).

Myth #6 – Onboarding results are too soft to make explicit

The Reality: A number of companies are generating hard numbers to evaluate – and improve – their programs.

Common metrics include level of participation, retention, and time to productivity. Several companies mentioned that they started simple and then gradually moved towards more complex, business-oriented metrics. 

Onboarding in your business

How do these exemplary onboarding initiatives compare to what’s working (or not) in your onboarding program?

Download our guide, Blended learning that works for onboarding



Shaping the future of learning

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