Modern Training

How to get buy-in for your new onboarding vision

Posted on: October 20, 2017Updated on: April 16, 2024By: JD Dillon, Chief Learning Architect

We’ve been talking about a reimagined approach to onboarding for about six months now. We’ve covered a range of related topics, including:

Our hope is that you can leverage this information to assess your current onboarding practices and begin the transformation to a continuous learning and support experience that will drive capability, confidence, engagement and results. But there’s one BIG piece of the puzzle missing. As we mentioned in an earlier post, L&D (learning and development) doesn’t own onboarding. Onboarding is a collaborative effort that involves everyone who touches the employee experience—before and during their time with the company. Therefore, to facilitate a meaningful change in the organization’s onboarding approach, you must be capable of selling your vision and influencing key stakeholders to play their own roles in the reimagined experience.


Influence isn’t a new competency for L&D. However, unlike many programmatic offerings, onboarding is a constant demand on your organization’s resources. People are always being hired or transferred into new roles, and their support needs don’t stop once they transition into the operation. The onboarding vision we’ve presented serves to kickstart a continuous learning experience. Therefore, rather than simply address what people consider as “new hire training,” you must influence your stakeholders’ larger conception of workplace learning.

Here’s a set of critical tactics that will help you gain buy-in for your reimagined onboarding experience:

Start Small

We’ve set out a grand vision for a new approach to onboarding. You shouldn’t try to implement this entire vision right away—even if you REALLY like it. Your organization is likely tied to your current onboarding approach, whether it’s super-structured or almost invisible. While you should have a grand vision in mind, start with specific tactics that can enable incremental improvements in your strategy. For example, assess the role of shared knowledge in the onboarding experience and augment the employee’s ability to access resources on-demand to drive autonomous learning and problem solving. Introducing this tactic, which aligns to our fundamental onboarding principles, will lead to additional adjustments and provide a practical demonstration of the potential value of your overall vision.

Speak in Business Terms

Throughout our onboarding blog series, we’ve tried our best to write in practical terms. The goal isn’t learning. The goal is performance and everything that feeds into it. Your stakeholders aren’t looking for improved learning theory. They want accelerated speed to capability and better business outcomes. These objectives should be the foundation of your case as you attempt to influence and gain buy-in. Of course, you must have a solid learning and support strategy behind your business focus. But it’s your understanding of day-to-day operational needs that will justify your desired changes in the minds of your stakeholders. How will this idea make or save us money? You need to be ready to answer this question.

Stress Simplicity of Experience

You’ll be suggesting the organization moves from just seating a person in the back room for eight hours on their first day to a continuous, manager-supported, resource-enabled onboarding experience. That sounds hard. Even though the results fully justify the increased complexity, your stakeholders are likely to balk at anything that sounds like extra work (and less productive timewise) for their managers and employees. Therefore, you must make the effort to integrate the necessary components of your onboarding strategy into the existing workflows and expectations of your audience. This is where concepts like microlearning, on-demand resources, adaptive learning and coaching become extremely important. By no means should you proclaim the transition to a new approach to be a piece of cake. However, you must acknowledge the needs and limitations of the business and architect a simple experience that fits into the day-to-day for all those involved.

Leverage the Voice of the Employee

We know the traditional onboarding experience is missing the mark. But our opinion isn’t enough. What are your employees saying about it? Are they expressing frustrations with the lack of engagement and value in the firehose approach? Do they feel under supported in their early days on the job? If you aren’t collecting anecdotal feedback on your current onboarding program, get started! Leverage the voice of your employees to shape your reimagined strategy and sell the idea to your stakeholders. Then, as you make incremental changes to the experience, collect hard and soft data to validate your approach with the organization.

Don’t Do It Alone

Get your ducks in a row before your attempt to influence senior stakeholders with your new vision. Ensure all critical partners are on board with your plan, and invite them into the conversation to add weight to your case. This includes IT, HR, legal/compliance and (especially) frontline management. Make this a conversation about the needs of the greater organization, not just ideas from L&D. Your partners will also appreciate early involvement as opposed to feeling top-down pressure from executives who bought in before they knew something was up.

This is our sixth and final #OnboardingSoS post. After 7000 words on the subject, we’re still nowhere near done. That’s because onboarding—like most learning and performance topics—is complicated in a modern workplace. While we’ve published a full series on the subject, there’s still A LOT more we could address. These posts are simply conversation starters meant to help L&D shift mindset and focus greater attention on a critical component of their continuous learning experience.

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JD Dillon, Chief Learning Architect's Headshot

JD Dillon, Chief Learning Architect

JD Dillon became an expert on frontline training and enablement over two decades working in operations and talent development with dynamic organizations, including Disney, Kaplan and AMC. A respected author and speaker in the workplace learning community, JD also continues to apply his passion for helping frontline employees around the world do their best work every day in his role as Axonify's Chief Learning Architect.

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