My 4-year-old is a big fan of playing games, particularly ones she has made up. However, she is not very good at explaining the rules to those games, which usually leads to yelling and the occasional breakdown into tears (mostly hers, sometimes mine). We love to play with her, but it’s hard to keep the game going if you don’t know exactly what you’re supposed to be doing. It’s the same for your new hires and existing employees.

Successful onboarding is a key element of keeping the game going. With an increase in remote employees along with many companies returning in person for the first time in years, training and onboarding requires a shift. You can’t keep people playing if they don’t know the rules, and if they aren’t engaged during onboarding, you’re unlikely to retain them for very long.

A New Type of Training

It would be a mistake to assume onboarding employees today should look like it did even five years ago, or that remote employee training should closely mimic in person. While elements can certainly carry over, the approach must be different. Successfully translating what worked well in person versus virtual can be a challenge, but there are certain tools and strategies that can ease the process and increase engagement.

Modern tech.

Whether onboarding remotely or in person, the time to adopt and integrate technology into your training is now. This moves beyond video conferencing technology to tools like learning management systems (LMSs), eLearning and interactive platforms that offer real-time engagement.

Some key elements you should look for in these tools include the ability to not only share your screen but also to see your learners’ screens, interactive surveys or built-in Q&A, the support of multiple learning modalities and support tools such as live chat or help requests.

Consider tools that are traditionally for K-12 or higher education as these often have years of refinement and development, as well as the need to meet high benchmarks for promoting successful learning outcomes. Look for tools that not only have positive peer reviews but also have outside evaluation proving their efficacy.

Skills drills.

If you’ve played sports, you know the benefit of drilling. It improves the skills necessary to your success as a player, often in the context of in game situations so you are better prepared for different scenarios. Building soft skills, such as communication, collaboration, time management and critical thinking may be overlooked in favor of hard skills (e.g., overcoming objections, product knowledge, internal software), but investing time into building these skills can enhance employee performance and show an early investment in their personal and professional development.

To help build these much-needed skills, send your learners emails based on actual customer correspondence and have learners provide their responses to you. It may be as simple as a customer or prospect asking a question or a prospective client throwing out objections. Then have the group meet virtually to discuss different responses so they can learn from each other.

When training on software or internal tools, either monitor their screen while performing the task so you can provide real-time feedback or have employees record their screen while completing the drills for later review together.


Creating opportunities for friendly competition during onboarding can help expose new employees to company culture while instilling a bit of fun. Don’t focus on being first or being the best — focus on growth, building camaraderie and modeling expectations for their roles. Knowledge scavenger hunts are an excellent way to build familiarity with company resources, products or policies and can be completed collaboratively through Google Docs or other real-time document sharing tools.

Have new hires compete against benchmarks set by others or have them compete against themselves. You can also have current employees complete the task first, then use their scores/times to establish a goal for new employees to aim towards. This also can help new hires have better expectations for what they will eventually be capable of.

Detail the Win.

While there are some “rules” that seem to remain consistent regardless of the company you work for, every organization has their own style and approach. Sales is sales, but Company A might prefer their account managers to handle a situation differently than Company B. Without clear expectations, your team members are unlikely to win at your game, and if they don’t win, neither do you. And everyone wants to win.