Improve production with better induction

by 19 Oct 2009

Inductions and onboarding programs are essential in bringing new employees on board and improving their efficiency, effectiveness and productivity in a short amount of time. HR Leader speaks with experts about how technology is streamlining and transforming this process

Induction programs and onboarding play an important role in reducing the amount of time it takes for new employees to get up to speed and start contributing to an organisation. However, there is significant room for improvement in this area for most organisations.

A recent report conducted by Taleo found that less than half of organisations are satisfied with the onboarding process at their company, while more than half said onboard ing was an inconsistent process across their organisation. Furthermore, the report, Onboarding: Speeding the Way to Productivity, found that more than one-third of companies don’t have a formal process to measure and co-ordinate completion of onboarding activities.

Organisations continue to struggle with effective and efficient induction and onboarding processes, and are cry ing out for ways to fix the problem, according to Tim Legge, director of sales for Learning Seat, a division of News Limited which provides customised online courses, training tools and e-learning resources.

“On day one employees are thrown onto the floor with little or no understanding of the company or their role within it. Most companies have programs in place but these are typ ically held every three months and consist of sitting in a room for a day while a sequence of senior managers are paraded through to present their patch,” he says.

“While these types of sessions are much better than noth ing, it’s a long, tiring, often boring, day for which they may have waited three or four months.”

Technology trends

There are a number of ways technology can streamline and automate the induction and onboarding process to ensure consistency and time savings.

The day an employee starts in a new job is typically the time they are most enthusiastic about their new company and their responsibilities, says Legge. “In fact, a lot of research will tell you that employees make the decision as to whether this is a company they want to be a part of in the first week. This makes the first week a hugely important milestone. As an employer, if you let this pass without properly onboard ing your new employee, you miss an opportunity to make this connection,” he says.

E-learning programs can teach new employees about the history and culture of an organisation, its structure, scope, products and services, policies and procedures, he says, in addition to incorporating messages from the CEO and other leaders in the business. “Importantly, online inductions allow the new employee to digest this information at their own pace,” Legge says.

Jenny Barltrop, director of Savv-e, a firm which spe cialises in custom e-learning content development and intranet design, says many clients are preparing for the increase in new employee numbers in 2010 with the development of onboarding and induction modules now. There has been a trend towards inductions which can cater for diverse audiences, and a combination of online and face-to-face delivery mediums.

“There continues to be strong demand for the use of a variety of media in online modules – such as audio, video and sophisticated photography – in technology-based onboarding,” she says.

“In addition, Savv-e has noticed an increased demand for pre-employment online inductions, delivering messages around brand, culture and expectations. This can be achieved through online modules, especially ones that can be accessed via the internet prior to an employee com mencing at the organisation, but still tracked and man aged at the client end through suitable online learner and content management systems.”

Barltrop also notes a continuing preference for onboarding/induction modules online, which enable new starters to progress through the onboarding process in a structured manner over a period of the first day, first week and first month. “All sectors – whether financial, industrial, com mercial or government – are requesting online learning which enables their people to engage with the onboarding process through active involve ment in tasks and activities they complete at their own pace,” she says.

Business benefits

The direct costs of face-to-face induction pro grams are substantial and easy to calculate, Legge says, who also notes that where a busi ness is geographically dispersed these costs escalate exponentially. “Once an online induc tion program has been developed, the cost per employee can be as low as $10,” he says.

It’s the hidden cost of poor induction and onboarding that has arguably the biggest impact on ROI, according to Legge, who says there has been some compelling new research linking employee engagement and the level of discre tionary effort. “An effective online induction process can have a major positive impact on employee engagement. Obviously discretionary effort is a really difficult thing to measure, but it has to be included in any ROI discussion,” he says.

Barltrop also says that organisations that have implemented self-managed online modules have reported a significant decrease in calls to their helpdesks and a reduction in ongoing support time required of managers. “No longer does a trainer need to facilitate the same content over and over again; they are free for other activities,” she says.

There are also significant benefits in consis tency of message, according to Barltrop, and many organisations are making significant efforts to fine-tune their branding, cultural messages, approach to customers and so on. “Online mod ules can accurately reflect this branding and mes sages, and minimise the differences and convolution of the message that may be conveyed by different facilitators in different locations and at different times,” she says.

Both custom-developed inductions and in- house-developed inductions continue to provide cost benefits to organisations, according to Barl trop. While requiring an initial upfront outlay, both in terms of dollars and time commitment, she says that even a custom-built induction solu tion provides a significant overall reduction in the cost of induction per employee when compared with the ongoing time and cost requirements for face-to-face inductions.