How does your onboarding experience stack up? According to several recent studies, most are slow and ineffective, and companies are spending billions on remedial help for employees who still don’t “get it” after onboarding ends. Yet, studies also suggest that a great onboarding experience dramatically increases retention and productivity.

This research makes it clear: Onboarding matters. So, where are we going wrong, and what do we need to change to get it right?

1. Onboarding that is boring and, worse, irrelevant

New employees tend to be eager and excited, but many of us fail to capitalize on that excitement. We don’t hook them when they are most likely to bite. Instead, we offer the standard boring onboarding package to all, regardless of their existing skills, strengths or weaknesses. Onboarding is viewed as something to “get through” rather than as the opportunity it is.

The solution? Personalize and engage.

Take advantage of your rapt audience. Make onboarding relevant and fun, but don’t think adding a few cute images or videos will do the trick; it won’t. Quickly engage your new hires in learning and, more importantly, in continuing to learn by making onboarding personalized. Adaptive learning technology ensures learning remains relevant to each employee. Content changes automatically as they gain more knowledge and continues to challenge your new (and old) hires to build their expertise. Then, by gamifying the experience with activities, leaderboards and rewards, you can spur friendly competition and help build the sense of community that makes new hires feel they are part of something. They’ll want to continue coming back for more.

2. Onboarding as an event

Sometimes, in our eagerness to move our new hires onto the sales floor, warehouse or desk as soon as possible, we fail to provide them with the confidence they need to do their jobs well. Instead, we roll out the standard onboarding information dump and expect our new hires to process and retain everything and be ready to use it confidently when onboarding is over. The brain science on this question is clear: They can’t.

Illogically, we also tend to pull our people away from the workspace to onboard. They end up learning about their work in a classroom vacuum rather than in a place where they have context and can see learning in action.

The solution? Integrate.

Bring onboarding to your new hires where they work, in the form of daily microlearning that is mobile-accessible. Integrate it into the workflow so employees are learning via training, observation and practice. Back it all up with a sound knowledge base that they can quickly and easily access when they have a question, and you will have competent, confident workers who are ready to hit the ground running and eager to stay with you.

3. Onboarding with an expiration date

We often set an arbitrary date by which we expect our new hires to handle their new roles confidently and competently. Then, we cut them loose.

Your analytics tell you they’ve passed the test and checked the boxes, so they must be ready. Sure, you give them a chance to ask questions, but do you ever ask them how ready they feel? And how often do you check in after onboarding is over? What a person knows a few hours after a training session is vastly different from what they will retain a few weeks later.

The solution? Reengage, reinforce and repeat.

Make onboarding an ongoing experience, not a one-off event. Start with the “must-know” information. Then, use microlearning to deliver easily digested bits of learning every day, so employees continue to learn throughout their tenure. Leverage proven brain science techniques to repeat concepts, build memory and reinforce skills. That way, employees will have the knowledge they need to perform at their best and help you reach your goals.

Continuous onboarding gives you a unique opportunity to re-engage your workers, not just in learning but in your company. It provides a vehicle for continual feedback and assessment of not just knowledge levels but also the behaviors and outcomes you expect from your people.

The bottom line: Stop making onboarding a finite process, and start making it a continual experience.

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