The Ultimate ‘New Normal’ Employee Onboarding Guide for 2022

Transform your employee onboarding process with these strategies to boost employee engagement and retain top talent long-term.

With the new normal entailing significantly more employees working remotely—and much more geographically spread out—an effective employee onboarding process is more crucial than ever before.

Many companies view recruitment as an administrative process involving offer proposals, contracts, and joining dates. But, in reality, it doesn’t stop there. Companies experience two significant pitfalls when it comes to recruiting and integrating new employees.

A significant 76% of organizations believe the largest induction challenge is the underutilization of employee onboarding practices, while 58% believe it’s a setback to only focus on paperwork and processes.

An effective onboarding process extends beyond paperwork and assists with the integration of employees into their new team and new work environment.

Since this process essentially sets the tone for long-term commitment and engagement, it’s extremely influential in a new team member's employment journey. With the increased prevalence of hybrid work arrangements, adjustments have to be made to both maintain effective employee onboarding and improve it.

In this article, you’ll learn how to transform your onboarding process to boost employee engagement and retain top talent.

What is Employee Onboarding?

While organizations define employee onboarding according to their administrative processes, its true meaning can be more accurately explained by the term organizational socialization.

Let's start by defining the differences between orientation and onboarding. Although orientation makes up a part of the onboarding process, it doesn’t stand alone. Orientation entails integrating new employees into the company culture and helping them understand their role on the team. Onboarding goes further by setting them up for a successful future through comprehensive training and continuous learning.

Orientation is a one-time event that generally happens within the first week of work, conducted by the HR department through in-person or video conference. Whereas onboarding is an ongoing practice, managed by the L&D department. The entire onboarding process can take up to six months, or even a year if your company includes the review and performance evaluation phases.

Whether in-person or virtual, orientation sessions focus on information, procedures, and introductions. This includes things like welcome presentations, a tour of the workplace, and connecting the new hire with key contacts. The greater onboarding process, however, focuses on training and developing a new employee for long-term success. This requires weeks and months of hands-on learning to foster productive starter projects, ongoing feedback, proper socialization, and full engagement.

Why is an Employee Onboarding Program Important?

According to research, 77% of employees who underwent a formal onboarding process reached their performance goals, and companies that utilize an onboarding program report a 25% higher employee retention rate than those who don’t. In addition, 54% of organizations report improved employee engagement as a significant benefit of implementing an employee onboarding program.

With increased hybrid work models as a result of the pandemic, the heightened importance of effective onboarding is evident—as 41% of employees express feeling disconnected from their colleagues when working remotely.

New employees who are engaged from the very beginning quickly integrate within their team and the company as a whole. Engaged employees who understand and share in the vision of the company are more productive, more committed, and more likely to reach performance goals.

However, properly training employees and keeping them engaged isn’t achieved by a few days of orientation. Whether initial training is in-person or online, employees will forget 80%-90% of what they learn in their orientation crash course. This is due to the forgetting curve—affirming that if someone receives heaps of information at once, they can only retain it for a limited time before it dissipates.

Therefore, even if your best employees are taught everything they need to know within the first few days, they may still fail to exhibit full competency after orientation. Tackling the forgetting curve as part of the onboarding process can have a powerful impact on employee performance, as well as their confidence in completing tasks.

Why Beating The ‘Forgetting Curve’ Matters

Within a new employee’s first week at a company, they’re generally provided with the relevant knowledge to execute key tasks and follow company procedures. After the first few days of training, employees may be seen as fully prepared to execute their roles. However, research shows that 50% of the information has been forgotten in the first hour—and after seven days, that number rises to 90%.

This means that if you don’t encourage information retention, you’re wasting time and resources—and unfortunately yielding a poor return on investment.

To assist in information retention and help employees grow in their roles, the onboarding process has to foster memory strength. This is done by presenting information in a strategic way and encouraging consistent long-term reinforcement, via spaced repetition.

Knowledge retention can also be strengthened by including multimedia or visual aids and ensuring that training material is relevant and meaningful. The first reinforcement opportunity should start within 24 hours of initial training and continue for at least 30 days.

Strategies such as microlearning equip employees with precise information at the right time, while continuously reinforcing key learning objectives. This sets employees up for confident task execution with increased efficiency and accuracy, which in turn generates higher productivity and a greater return on investment.

The Problem With Traditional Onboarding Processes

Pre-pandemic, only 29% of employees felt that the onboarding process with their company was sufficient, despite viewing it as essential. With a significant increase in hybrid work models post-pandemic, this number will only continue to decrease if traditional onboarding processes are not adapted to the new work climate.

Here are several traditional onboarding process pitfalls to be aware of and avoid:

Lack of preparation for new employee arrival

When employees arrive at their new jobs, they often have to wait for laptops, work email accounts, and access to applications. This delay negatively affects employee motivation and confidence in the company.

Manual administration

Hiring managers lose a lot of time to manual administrative tasks, filling in employee forms, and creating tickets. A lack of onboarding automation and process digitization steals significant time (and therefore money) that could otherwise be spent engaging new employees or rectifying problem areas.

Poor level of IT assistance and feedback

When new employees are asked to do something that they haven’t been shown how to do, it can be both frustrating and intimidating. It’s inevitable that new employees will require some IT assistance in their first few weeks. However, traditional onboarding rarely provides personalized assistance or even ways to track how effectively new hires are being assisted when needed.

Poor Q&A systems

From company policies to making contact with the right team members, new employees are bound to have questions during onboarding. With no centralized platform for Q&A, employees need to email or call every time they need a question answered. This delays actions and wastes time.

Lack of provisions and protocols for remote onboarding

Without a doubt, effectively onboarding remote employees require new technology and smarter strategies. The traditional onboarding process simply cannot meet these needs, as it was built to serve a bygone era.

Employee trainer speaking to classroom

Employee Onboarding Best Practices

Implement a 30-60-90 Onboarding Plan

Between company processes, unfamiliar technology, and team dynamics, new employees have a lot to learn. It’s critical that companies have an established onboarding plan to make this exciting yet overwhelming time as comfortable as possible for new hires.

New hires who have a poor onboarding experience are twice as likely to leave a company than those who have a positive onboarding experience. Strategically implementing a 30-60-90 onboarding plan will benefit both the employee and the business.

The first 30 days should focus on helping new hires gain knowledge of company systems, policies, communication technologies, and specific tools needed for the job. They should also become familiar with various teams and personnel, and gain a crystal clear understanding of their responsibilities.

Since this first month heavily focuses on knowledge acquisition, digital training tools that provide memorable information and activities are essential. These also encourage continuous engagement and knowledge retention.

During their second month, it’s time to put their skills and knowledge to the test. Although they will still have questions, new employees should be able to independently execute more complex tasks and have a good grasp of the company values and culture. Employees should also continually engage in digital learning to gain expertise in their field.

Each phase of the employee onboarding process should include a comprehensive assessment. A digital training tool facilitates this practice to provide insight into the new hire's progress, experience, knowledge gaps, and confidence in task execution.

Introduce Corporate Culture Through Collaborative Learning

An important part of the onboarding process is adjusting to team dynamics and corporate culture. This can be challenging in a hybrid work environment. Collaborative learning effectively addresses this problem.

Collaborative learning is a training method where colleagues share subject matter expertise with each other. As opposed to instructor-led training that follows a top-down approach with a single person (or team) leading learning initiatives, collaborative learning keeps training in-house and relevant while fostering a culture of teamwork.

As opposed to the information overload and poor retention rates of traditional training methods, the combination of collaborative learning and self-directed microlearning allows employees to learn at a steady pace. Manageable modules and strategic program schedules keep employees consistently engaged, and reinforce long-term knowledge retention. While they grow independently, they can also rely on colleagues to clarify uncertainties and fill in knowledge gaps.

Create a Roadmap for Career Development

Only 32% of new employees say they’re satisfied with the career growth opportunities offered by their employers. In addition, approximately 50% of employees express that their company lacks the training and development opportunities that would enable them to advance their careers.

One reason for this may be that traditional training methods require taking days off from work to attend training sessions or courses, which inevitably means lost productivity and more expenditures toward external facilitators.

Not only does this traditional method of learning limit attendance, but it’s also costly, inconsistent, and yields poor information retention (as everything is crammed into a single day of lectures). However, this doesn’t have to be the case.

Modern, innovative learning tools allow employees to access training and educational programs—whenever and wherever works for them. It divides overwhelming information into smaller, more palatable bits that can be continually applied and built upon.

Employees can choose topics that relate to their knowledge gaps and field of work. As a bonus, they don’t need to take any time out of their workday to partake. Tech-forward learning tools provide reliable information on-demand, boost efficiency, and enable progress tracking for every employee growing in their career.

Promote Knowledge Acquisition and Retention Through Microlearning

With millennials comprising about 50% of the US workforce and Gen Z entering the labor pool, it’s critical to note generational preferences. These generations usually prefer e-learning methods accessible via mobile apps anytime, anywhere.

The age of social media and flashy 30-second videos we’ve come to love have reduced our attention spans and capacity for retaining information.

Microlearning that provides information on-demand allows users to access work-related solutions, solve problems, and discover new skills as needed. It can even be indexed and searchable, allowing employees to engage in learning activities relevant to their career goals. Investing in a microlearning platform leads to stronger knowledge retention, as it promotes focused learning, better multitasking, and immediate application. This training method will ultimately deliver the highest return on your L&D investments.

How Microlearning Improves the Onboarding Experience

Although continuous learning is important at all stages of an employee’s career, it’s especially essential during onboarding. During this stage, new hires are eager to learn new skills, ask questions, and prove themselves.

If you don't incorporate microlearning into this crucial stage of a new employee's journey, it can lead to an overwhelming experience. That can result in poor performance, unreasonable expectations, or a quick exit forcing you to repeat the process with another new recruit. Leveraging microlearning for employee onboarding minimizes the forgetting curve while improving the learning curve. That is a surefire formula for elevating employee confidence, productivity, and commitment.

Microlearning Helps Beat the Forgetting Curve

Mistakes in the workplace can be costly. If employees have access to relevant information at the moment it's most needed, mistakes would occur less often and likely carry a smaller price tag. With busy work schedules, employees have minimal time to dedicate to learning. In addition, remembering every detail needed to complete each unique job task isn’t realistic, especially when employees are new.

Microlearning is also ideal for time-centric job roles by incorporating on-demand learning modules. This knowledge is reinforced in bite-sized pieces that are easy to remember. Video tutorials, quizzes, podcasts, infographics, and simulations all provide information in a way that’s engaging, interesting, and memorable. This interactive style of learning plays a significant role in strengthening knowledge retention.

Microlearning Helps Improve the Learning Curve

The aim of employee training isn’t only to educate staff but to efficiently prepare them for their roles with minimal downtime to protect the bottom line.

Microlearning optimizes information for long-term retention. It’s presented in small chunks to accommodate the average individuals working memory capacity. These bite-sized modules eliminate all unnecessary information, fostering focus. With less clutter and easier comprehension employees are able to address one or two learning objectives daily—all on their own time.

Gamification Makes Learning Easier and More Fun

While microlearning uses multimedia and minimal text to reduce information overload and increase focus, gamification incorporates game elements to make learning fun and engaging. These elements include rewards, point systems, challenges, and competitions. By getting to apply the knowledge both during and right after learning, employees can reinforce their skills without it feeling like work.

Pairing gamification and microlearning yield the most effective outcomes for employee training. It does this by combining video, articles, audio, text, and games with quizzes, assessments, and open response questions to evaluate understanding and progress.

Microlearning is Built for Remote Onboarding

Given these points, it’s clear that digital learning platforms combat the issues of traditional instructor-led training. Microlearning proves to be incredibly effective by beating information overload, maintaining employee engagement, and allowing employees to learn on their terms.

Adopting microlearning should be a priority for all organizations that wish to increase skillsets, productivity, and growth while cutting costs and giving employees the freedom to develop at their own pace. With no geographic or scheduling restraints, digital learning platforms offer the ultimate solution for keeping a hybrid workforce equipped and engaged.

In addition, microlearning allows managers to gather feedback while tracking employee progress—which traditional training sessions often lack. Analytics can highlight the most efficient models and draw attention to topics in need of improvement.

Providing a platform specifically dedicated to learning and development is essential to maintaining the separation of work and personal life. Employees already struggle with this in remote and hybrid work environments. Employees already struggle with this in remote and hybrid work environments, so training should never exploit communication methods that are generally reserved for personal use.

If companies don’t respect boundaries, employees may become overwhelmed and experience burnout.

A strong work-life balance is fundamental to our mental, physical, and emotional well-being. By offering employees a platform specifically dedicated to workplace communication and learning, they’ll be able to focus better and be more productive. Allow them to be fully present in their personal lives and they will return the favor tenfold.

Employee studying with headphones on

Elevate Your Employee Onboarding with Mindmarker

New employees who feel that their employer is committed to walking a long-term career path with them will match that energy with an increased commitment to professional growth.

Mindmarker has revolutionized onboarding for the hybrid workforce. The platform allows companies to transform their traditional training material into multimedia learning activities, that can be accessed anytime from anywhere. It fosters engagement and facilitates integration into the company culture—regardless of how far new hires may be from headquarters. In addition, management can gather data to track employee progress and identify problem areas.

Mindmarker offers an industry-leading microlearning platform to help transform your onboarding programs.

Request a demo today to discover how offering professional development opportunities from day one can transform your workforce, boost company culture, and drive business success.

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