Modern Training

Why are organizations so bad at onboarding? (#onboardingSOS)

Posted on: April 7, 2017Updated on: June 29, 2022By: JD Dillon, Chief Learning Architect

Onboarding is important! I don’t think it’s necessary to argue that point. If you need validation, check out this Forbes article. It comes down to the simple reality that we’re all trying to attract the best talent. We’re all having turnover problems. We’re all hiring new people. So why are we all so bad at getting those new people up to speed in their new roles? Why are we still doing things like throwing people into the job without support or shoving them into back rooms to gorge on 20 hours of eLearning? Onboarding is one of those corporate concepts that everyone acknowledges as critical but no one seems to really take seriously.

It’s not like we’re wanting for resources on the subject, either. There are plenty of articles out there about improved onboarding practices. Here’s one from When I Work. Here’s another from Glassdoor. And searching Amazon for books about onboarding yields 230 results. Some of these resources include great insights. Others just repeat the same tired ideas over and over to get some site traffic. But, if there’s already so much information out there to help us, why do we continue to fail our new employees by providing inadequate onboarding experiences?

Our inability to support new employees can be fixed with 3 words …

Onboarding never stops!

Even the best tactics fall short when onboarding is structured like a “program” that has a pre-determined start and end. The organization’s relationship with a new employee begins well before they walk in the door on the first day, and the journey to become a 100% capable employee never ends. Sure, people who are new to the company have certain needs that are likely irrelevant to established employees, but the ways we support those needs don’t have to change radically just because a person just got hired. Therefore, rather than build onboarding programs, we must foster an ecosystem of continuous enablement that always provides the right support at the right time for our employees, regardless of their tenure.

That sounds great! How do we do that? Well, that’s a lot BIGGER question than I can address in a single blog post. Since no one has offered me a book deal yet (cough cough), I’ve decided to cover this extended topic in the best way I know how: BLOG SERIES!!!!

I’ll be publishing 1 (or maybe 2 depending on how busy things get around here) posts every month exploring the shift from onboarding as a “program” to onboarding as a “continuous experience.” Yes, I’ll be talking a lot about learning, but helping someone become successful in the modern workplace requires a lot more than just training. I’ll be exploring a variety of ideas and tactics, including (but not limited to):

  • Before employees walk through the door
  • On-the-job on Day 1 (What the heck?!?!)
  • Mandatory boring stuff that’s gotta be covered (but in a better way)
  • Culture = show > tell = immerse > show
  • You hired them because they already know stuff so …
  • Helping managers manage
  • Shifting from “ready” to “never finished”

I’ll also share stories from organizations that have been able to get their new employees up to speed more quickly, realize awesome performance and sustain their development by shifting their onboarding mindset. I’ll also share a few anecdotes from my Disney decade, some magical and some not quite up to Mickey standards.

I hope you’ll follow along as we work together to reimagine the concept of onboarding within a modern workplace. Our goal will be to make sure your employees feel just as supported on their first day on the job as they do right now (because they’ll be more likely to stay with you if they’re well supported)!

Want to keep reading! You can find the #OnboardingSOS post 2 here.

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.