Canada Association of Tourism Employees

Constructing An On-line Onboarding Program

The importance of onboarding training

You probably don’t need us to explain why training is an important part of your employee onboarding process – after all, you are here at eLearning Industry. But just in case, it’s important to remember that employees rarely go straight to the start when they are hired. They need time to boot up, familiarize themselves with the tools they need to do their jobs, and become productive.

It is often difficult to demonstrate the return on investment (ROI) of any kind of training, but one industry where ROI can be demonstrated is sales, where work performance is directly related to the bottom line. Research from The Bridge Group found that the average new sales rep would take 3.1 months to reach full productivity in 2021. However, in some industries, it can take up to six months for a new sales rep to come up [1].

Onboarding is critical to getting your new hires productive as quickly as possible. according to The Recruiting Roundtable [2] shows that a good onboarding program can increase performance by 11.5%, according to Glassdoor studies [3] says onboarding increases productivity by 70%. Effective onboarding training will keep your employees on duty longer; Glassdoor research shows that having a strong onboarding process improves retention by 82%.

Despite these results, not all organizations have onboarding training; a survey [4] found that 24% of respondents had no onboarding program at all, a figure that corroborates the 2015 Harvard Business Review findings that 22% of companies are not onboarded.

The only thing worse than no onboarding program? A bad one. According to Gallup, only 12% of U.S. workers believe their employers are doing a good job when it comes to onboarding. That’s a problem; Employees who have had a poor onboarding experience are twice as likely to look elsewhere for work [5] and less likely to recommend their job to a family member or friend.

So you need an onboarding program, and a good one. However, it can also look different from the onboarding that you have done in the past.

What about the pandemic?

In the early days of the pandemic, around 50 million people were working from home [6]. That number of teleworkers has decreased in recent months as workers returned to the office, but nearly 22 million people were still working from home during the summer. They also prefer to work remotely; Gallup found that 35% of full-time employees would stay away if possible. In addition, many companies have begun hiring employees for permanently removed positions; According to a story in USA Today, many companies are allowing new employees to work from home permanently and taking advantage of the larger pool of recruits that remote work enables.

The onboarding for these remote and hybrid workers will inevitably look different than traditional classroom training. Much of this will be online, but you will also need to create a virtual program that will appeal to your newest hires.

Establishing an online onboarding program

No loss of trust, no swagbags and no team meals. How are you supposed to address your new employees without the trimmings of a traditional orientation?

Hold on short

The traditional onboarding mentality is “more is better”. In many companies, their new hires spend a day to a week orienting themselves, and these meetings often last for hours. However, you can’t ask new hires to spend hours onboarding and speaking on their home computers. For one thing, it’s just not interesting to stare at a screen. On the other hand, there may be distractions at home that are not in the classroom (children who need attention, pets, the neighbor who is always working in the garden).

Trainers address this problem by keeping the onboarding short and sweet. Take the example of LinkedIn’s Kelly Chuck, who leads LinkedIn’s onboarding program [7]. LinkedIn usually runs a one-day orientation, but during the pandemic, Chuck cut that program down to a few hours and removed everything that wasn’t related to their core vision of getting new employees excited about LinkedIn’s mission and building relationships that will help them move forward with work. Everything else, she said, can be covered in follow-up emails or videos.

Customize your onboarding

Marcus Nelson, Marketing Director at electric truck startup Xos Trucks, redesigned the online onboarding experience for a new employee after going through a “clunky” onboarding experience himself. Like Chuck, he took onboarding down to the basics and cut it from three days to a few hours, but his onboarding had a very specific audience: a new member of his team.

The new team member met company leaders and team members in just a few hours of video conferencing. He also learned how to find the information he needs for work, guidelines for messaging, and other important information. By providing guidance to just his only team member, Nelson could keep him engaged and give him the exact information he needed.

Use the buddy system

Just because orientation is virtual doesn’t mean you shouldn’t assign training partners to your learners. It’s a great way to break the ice, cultivate relationships, and break up large groups of trainees. Chuck at LinkedIn uses break rooms to connect new employees and interrupt long training sessions. Dom Merritt, Chief People Officer at Buildout Inc., uses a buddy program to match new employees with established employees so that they can get personal advice in the first few months of their job, even if they are working remotely.

Keep in mind that you may get back on board too

After COVID-19, onboarding doesn’t necessarily just refer to your newest employees. If you work entirely remotely, you may also need to train existing employees on the technology platforms they use to do their jobs remotely. According to a study by the Brandon Hall Group, 60% of companies have concerns about training employees in remote work technology.

You can also retrain existing workers for new jobs; Brandon Hall found that 56% of companies were concerned about retraining workers who might return to jobs other than the ones they left, while 43% of companies were concerned about whether employees will return to their old or new jobs change due to new terms and conditions. Ginni Rometty, Executive Chairman of IBM, in an interview with Fortunes Leadership Next Podcast, compared the situation to throwing a game of cards in the air. “They won’t all end up in the same place,” she said.

Virtual and hybrid onboarding is possible

You may be concerned about how effective online guidance can be, and for good reason, because onboarding is the first impression your employee will have of your company. If your previous experience of onboarding was in the classroom, switching to the internet may result in a break. In the past, online orientation was mostly about paperwork. Nobody finds paperwork that exciting.

The fact is, online orientations can stay here. Traditional onboarding has not necessarily been successful, as Gallup research shows. 88% of employees didn’t think much of their company’s onboarding program prior to the pandemic, so it was probably time to rethink traditional onboarding programs.

By going beyond the paperwork and focusing on the person you are onboarding, reducing the time they spend in lectures, and cultivating important relationships, you can deliver an effective and impactful onboarding experience to your newest hires.


[1] This is how long it should take for your sales reps to get the full quota

[2] Extreme onboarding: How to inspire your new employees instead of numbing them

[3] The real cost of bad attitudes

[4] Employers risk crowding out new employees through poor onboarding

[5] What the CIO sees – what other people don’t see

[6] Millions of Americans are returning to where they actually work

[7] 8 steps to creating a virtual employee onboarding program

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