‘Welcome On-board”. The vast majority of us will have experienced these or similar words on joining an organisation, and so often those words are an ominous portent for what follows: a rapid location tour whilst being bombarded with names and job titles, and a day (or more) in a training room with other new starters desperately trying to maintain concentration through a series of very routine presentations.
Conscious that people have put in effort on our behalf and being unsure who is who, we typically respond with effusive thanks and give really positive feedback – and so the cycle continues.
Of course things have moved on, with organisations recognising the contribution that good on-boarding can make to employee engagement.
I’d like to reflect on the enormous benefits that arise from a blended learning approach to induction, with some thoughts on how that can be achieved.
We have to start with a definition of ‘blended learning’.
Wikipedia offers us “a formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through delivery of content and instruction via digital and online media with some element of student control over time, place, path, or pace.”
There are lots of important messages in here about ‘different media’ and ‘student control’ but I’d like to weave in virtual classes, social media, projects and assignments, and stress that blended learning is:
- NOT an online / classroom sandwich
- NOT simply distance learning
- NOT just relocating presentations to the ‘Cloud’
To achieve a blend, L&D professionals must re-think their strategy and be prepared to invest significant time in learning design.
Given that workload, it’s important to consider the benefits on offer. A blended learning induction will:
- Save face to face time for inductees and presenters
- Respond quickly to ‘unexpected’ joiners
- Save you numerous battles over room availability
- Simultaneously reach and train staff in various locations
- Give you central control to maintain accurate, up to date and correctly prioritised information
- Embed mandatory and compliance training
- Let you get the most out of the face-to-face time you have
- Provide flexibility to create different induction processes for different roles, working patterns, grades and departments
- Give flexibility to your new staff to (with assistance) select learning topics they need
- Let people learn at their own pace (with guidance) within agreed timeframes and objectives
- Provide a repository of learning that can be revisited and ‘interrogated’
- Help your starters understand that future learning will be blended and appreciate their own role in managing their learning
And most importantly of all, will:
- Help inductees learn more effectively and make them feel more engaged.
As we commented in our recent series about Employee Engagement, every strategy needs to be unique and that same message applies to blended learning. Having worked with many hundreds of clients over many years, we know that no two strategies are completely identical; however, based on initiatives we have observed we offer the following ideas for consideration:
- A classic eLearning solution - given the wide variety of organisations that are using this as part of their ‘blend’, there are many examples but most provide an organisation overview covering aspects like organisational history – perhaps even a timeline. Typically this information includes a structure diagram and biographical information about key personnel. It’s a great place to provide narrative about Mission Statements and values with lots of opportunity for illustrations to bring ‘Values’ to life and values. When those ‘values’ are predicated on a policy like Valuing Equality and Diversity, the policies can also be made available or linked.
You may wish to consider a platform like our vLearning platform that can give people trackable access to this kind of information even before they join. This is definitely a way to kick start engagement.
- Other organisations have opted for some form of ‘Intranet’ repository of Policies and procedures. Often these include case studies and even tests of learning, especially when they relate to complaints handling or Health and Safety, Safeguarding or similar.
- It seems that however uniform and intuitive IT systems have become, training on ‘our’ systems is still very prevalent. This presents a classic opportunity for blended learning with System-Based Information Technology manuals (supported by curated online guides) or embedded eLearning.
- There is a real divide between some organisations avoiding and others embracing social media. For those where it is appropriate, social media communities for new and recent starters, with oodles of information, source signposting and opportunities for involvement and feedback are really powerful.
Some organisations extend this by setting up peer-to-peer new joiner social media support and networking sites, and some are starting to involve senior leaders in the social media interaction too. This certainly helps to flatten hierarchy.
It is easy to see the benefits of new joiners being linked to organisational Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts as a first stage of building online, connected global communities.
- But what about the possibilities offered by new media - branded podcasts made into a series available for downloading to a computer or portable media player and automatically received by new joiners?
And virtual platforms on which you can provide interactive webinars, facilitate discussion groups (which can be recorded for subsequent access by those who couldn’t attend) launch videos, offer tutorials and much more.
By truly blending induction, you’re not only inducting people into the organisation, you're inducting them into your modern world of gaining knowledge, networking and learning.
If you’d like more help in developing a blended learning induction programme to make your new starters feel genuinely ‘welcome on board’, please give us a call.
Nigel Walpole, MD, Bray Leino Learning
In my series of blogs I’ll talk through my thoughts on some of the key issues facing managers in the workplace - lessons learnt, tips for success and general musings.