Imagine a candidate who has just been hired for a role based on previous experience that applies to the open position. Next comes the offer letter, then the start date and then finally, the official onboarding process, which therein entails a condensed, trainer-led orientation regarding company policy, history, benefits, processes and other factors. Simple, straightforward and short, right?

In a manner of speaking, yes. But consider the following: Onboarding offers a unique opportunity for both the new hire and the training leader. The new hire has the opportunity to immerse themselves in the company’s culture and processes. The training leader is a new hire’s first exposure to the company and one of the first contacts a new hire will make. No matter the length of the onboarding experience, the training leader’s presence and guidance can shape a new hire’s first impression of the company. In fact, a successful onboarding can help increase employee retention by as much as 82%.

If the trainer does not consider the new hire’s past work history or reinforce how these experiences contribute to benefit the company, there will be no engagement; there will be no open dialogue, thus a lack of an onboarding experience. It simply becomes a brain dump session without an opportunity to share knowledge. Here are a few tips to optimize engagement during new hire, onboarding training:

1.) Get a True Understanding of New Hires’ Work History

 How? Ask! Take a few minutes to ask each new hire to share their experience and what they want to bring to the table. This not only gives the training leader some insight into the group’s experience level, but also as to whom they are working with, hence creating an engaged, team environment.

A few engagement questions to start with:

  • “What makes you a superstar?”
  • “What is a hidden talent you bring to us?”
  • “From all of your experiences, what is a piece of wisdom you can share with us?”

Through these types of questions, the new hires are able to make connections among one another’s shared experiences, overall encouraging a more comfortable group environment.

2.) Utilize New Hires’ Experiences to Enrich Training

The training leader sets the stage for the onboarding process with internal, company knowledge. However, a great onboarding experience is one that also helps the new hire understand how they enrich the company.

Once the team of new hires has had a chance to learn more about the group, it is time to reflect on how each individual’s experience benefits the team and the company. No one is capable of knowing everything. Diverse experiences and perspectives assist the entire team, including the training leader, with positively influencing the organization.

Tips to Fostering New Hires’ Connections:

  • To encourage a team connection, acknowledge how much everyone has learned about each other so far.
  • Encourage the group of new hires to rely on each other not just as colleagues but as a resource.
  • Reinforce confidence in the group’s expertise and how it will benefit the company.
  • Set the expectation of open communication to help enrich the training process and foster a beneficial, learning environment.

3.) Not Much Experience? Not a Problem

Even if a new hire in the group does not have the company’s industry experience, their former experience can still be applicable. For example:

A new hire, who used to work in the food service and hospitality industry, is now in a sales role in the healthcare industry. From an experience perspective, not only is the hire knowledgeable in customer satisfaction, but in promptly problem solving in the case of a customer complaint. These transferable skills can contribute toward improved, customer satisfaction rates and increased reputation strength within the industry.

Skills can be transferable among different industries. Each team member brings talent to the table. The key is to think “outside of the box” when listening to new hires’ work history.

4.) Never Assume They Already Know

Just because a team member has 25 years of industry experience, does not mean they know how it is applicable to the company. Never skim over valuable information based on a “you already know this” assumption. Forming a team-minded culture during onboarding can help everyone in the group identify how their previous experience applies to their fit in the company.

5.) Foster a Culture of Respect

During onboarding, a training leader is a guide, not a disciplinarian. Being new to the company does not translate to not being aware of how to behave in a professional setting. Despite new hires being green to the industry or to the working world, onboarding is an opportunity for the training leader to model professional behavior. The training professional should demonstrate a culture built upon inclusivity and mutual respect so that new hires’ experiences can bring value to the organization.

Every new hire is an essential part of the team. As straightforward as onboarding new hires may seem, it presents a significant opportunity for the training leader to help new hires understand how their contributions can benefit the company. Starting with these tips, learning leaders can take an everyday interaction and transform it into the company’s culture; one that reinforces the new hire’s reason for joining the company in the first place and facilitates career growth.