The Best Way to Train and Onboard New Employees

Did you know it can take up to 2 years before a new hire is as productive as the person they’re replacing?

Sounds expensive, right?

A great training program can help speed the employee onboarding process up, making new hires productive faster. But what makes a good onboarding program? 

In this article we’re focusing specifically on the training aspect of onboarding. We’ll share the top 10 best practices for effective employee onboarding training — as well as a handy checklist at the end to help you with planning.

Ready? Let’s get started. 

The Top 10 Best Practices for an Effective Employee Onboarding Program

Often when we think of onboarding we think of paperwork and team lunches. But an important part of onboarding is training. You need to support your new employees and train them not just on corporate policies and procedures — but also the knowledge and skills they need to be successful (and productive) in their new role. 

The success of your training program not only impacts how productive new hires will be, but also their initial opinion of your company, as well as the likelihood they stick around.

Here are 10 onboarding best practices to help your employees hit the ground running.

1. Make it fun

Game-based training can help make onboarding fun for new hires, keeping them engaged and making sure their first impression isn’t “wow this training is outdated and boring.” 

You can also nest your company culture into a game-based program, through the use of narrative. Game-based platforms, like Lemonade, let you customize the narrative through which employees access training. 

For example, if you are a bank, you likely want new employees to understand how important digital is to the success of the institution. Creating narratives around the importance of digital, like a virtual bank that employees can “level-up” by purchasing digital product “boosters,” helps illustrate corporate goals to new employees in a way that’s easy to understand and believe.

Example of a banking narrative in Lemonade.

Example of a banking narrative in Lemonade.

2. Use microlearning to avoid overwhelming them

New employees have a lot to learn. The worst thing you can do is give them all the information they need en-masse during their first week and leave them feeling overwhelmed.

Microlearning is a great way to help new hires learn key information without overwhelming them. Break up your onboarding content into smaller bite-sized chunks so new hires can take courses in a more relaxed fashion. Instead of getting blasted with a ton of information, new hires can focus on a few pieces of information at a time. This helps improve not only their comprehension of onboarding content, but their retention of that information as well. 

3. Structure your program in levels

Another easy way to avoid overwhelming new employees is to prioritize onboarding content into levels.  You can structure your program so employees have a chance to learn the basics, then delve deeper into topics.

For example, you could have an introductory course on product knowledge that covers basic features and benefits. Then after completing that there could be more advanced courses on product details, as well as tips on recommending them to customers. 

The goal should be to prioritize the information new hires need, give them a chance to master it, and then provide opportunities to deepen their understanding of the subject with additional courses. 

4. Train them on the right information

You of course need to train your new employees on company policy and procedures. But consider what else they need to be successful in their role. What topics could you train them on that would make them more productive, faster?

For example, you may want to include:

    1. Product knowledge training

    2. Company or brand information

    3. Information Security training

    4. Soft-Skills training

    5. Sales training

    6. Etc

5. Build their confidence using your technology and tools

Another important topic to train new hires on is the technology and tools your organization uses. Every company uses different tools, and you want your new employees to feel confident using your technology. 

A great way to quickly build confidence using your systems is with product simulations. You can build simulations that let employees practice using your tools in a risk-free environment, where you can provide instant feedback if they make a mistake.  Just make sure your simulations are interactive and help build confidence — and don’t just guide users blindly through an action with a blinking light.

Example of a product simulation in Lemonade

Example of a product simulation in Lemonade

6. Involve management

We’ve talked a lot about e-Learning, but it’s important to note that not all of your onboarding training should happen online. In-person meetings are an important part of onboarding. New employees should meet with their supervisors during their first week to set expectations. 

But just because this part of training happens face-to-face, doesn’t mean it can’t be tied into your online program.  Many systems allow you to reward for in-person interactions, and even program them into courses. Simply add a “Meet with your Supervisor” action to a course, and then reward employees for completing that meeting in your training system. 

7. Give them a clear path forward

Very few employees want to stay in the same role forever. Managers should give new hires a clear path forward in terms of expectations and career path, but you can also use training to help them along. 

Set up “learning paths” around different skills or topics in your training program so employees can up-skill themselves on topics of interest. This not only makes employees feel valued (reducing the likelihood of turnover), but provides you with more valuable employees that are engaged and knowledgeable.

8. Provide on-demand resources

Regardless of how great your onboarding training is, new employees won’t remember everything.  That’s why it’s important to have on-demand resources for new hires to refer to as needed — whether that’s game-based modules, intranet sites, or product simulations.

Remember, repetition = retention, so keep your training available on-demand and encourage employees to retake courses multiple times as needed. 

9. Get their feedback

Wondering if your program is working? Sometimes it’s best to just to ask. Getting feedback from new employees on your onboarding training is an important step to making sure your program is effective.

Some learning systems (like Lemonade) have feedback tools built in, so employees can comment, rate, or send feedback on your content within the platform.  

You can also ask for feedback during in-person meetings — you could even make it a required action in your onboarding course.

The important thing is once you get feedback, to act on it. There’s no use in collecting feedback if you don’t have the capacity to make improvements on an ongoing basis. 

10. Measure, Optimize, and Improve

Beyond gathering employee feedback, you can also use analytics to evaluate and improve your onboarding training. 

Many modern learning systems go beyond the standard pass/fail metrics a traditional LMS provides, so you can identify knowledge gaps and take steps to remedy them in real-time. 

You can also use your analytics suite to spot employees who many need extra help with onboarding, as well as content that is underperforming and could use some attention.

There is a ton of data available when you switch to a modern learning system. So make sure you set aside time to dig into your programs, analyse the results, and take steps to improve your courses.

Onboarding shouldn’t be something you “set and forget.” Regularly evaluate your results and make improvements so you are getting the most out of your new hires. 

The Bottom Line

Onboarding should be more than some paperwork to fill out and a handbook on corporate policies. Done right, your onboarding program can increase employee retention, get employees productive faster, and help you recruit top talent in the future. 

A great employee onboarding program empowers new employees with the skills, knowledge — and most importantly — confidence they need to be successful in their new role. 

Use these best practices to make sure your onboarding training helps employees hit the ground running:

  • Make the process fun with game-based training

  • Break content down into microlearning modules

  • Prioritize content and use levels to avoid overwhelming employees

  • Train them on what they need to be successful, not just corporate policy

  • Don’t forget about tools & technology training! 

  • Include management & in-person meetings; don’t rely on eLearning alone

  • Provide a clear path forward

  • Ask for feedback

  • Always be measuring & improving