Onboarding: The Link between Recruiting and Learning

onboarding missing linkThis week I had the opportunity to speak at the Alabama SHRM State Conference, and I talked about the changing social nature of the workplace. The topics ranged from social’s impact on talent acquisition and learning to talent management and leadership, but the area that received some of the most interest was onboarding. After the session one attendee pulled me aside to ask if onboarding was solely a recruiting function or if it fell into the learning realm. If we’re going to be honest, it should be a bit of both.

A separate conversation with SilkRoad this week as we explored their Recruiting, Onboarding and Learning tools made me consider just how linked these disciplines are. Let’s hear arguments for both sides and then look at the value of an outlook where both are equal owners of the practice.

Onboarding as a Recruiting Function

In many companies onboarding takes the form of a closed-ended orientation session where new hires are educated on policies and not much else. My fellow analyst Kyle Lagunas has published research about high-performance talent acquisition practices, and onboarding is a key piece of a strong TA program.

We’re not just talking about handing out some forms—this is about ensuring they have the right tools and technology to do the job, assimilating the new hires into the culture, and connecting them socially with others in the workplace. Friends at work are powerful leverage to retain employees, so the more connected we can make our new staff, the more likely they will stick around.

All this points to onboarding being an essential element of talent acquisition.

Onboarding as a Learning Function

On the other hand, a key component of how we prepare our new staff for the work ahead of them is via learning. New hires worldwide are subjected to training of various types as a way to get them up to speed quickly. However, my colleague David Wentworth discusses in this article how learning is, for the most part, an informal activity. The 70:20:10 model tells us that all but 10% of learning should be accomplished through on-the-job experiences and interpersonal interactions.

While we’d like to believe that our formal training and onboarding programs have a significant impact, it can be difficult to see how that plays out. Fortunately I was able to find an example of how one company accomplished this task.

The Opportunity for Synergy

The best possible solution would be to link the two practices so that even in the early recruiting stages, the company has identified training needs to ensure that new hires are successful on the job.

A short while back I published a case study about the onboarding program at Philips Healthcare. The organization was looking for a way to revamp its new hire training because it was unwieldy and inefficient. I selected this specific case study because while it focuses on an award-winning training program, it also incorporates the social elements of our High Performance Talent Acquisition Framework, such as connecting new hires with peers to strengthen the socialization aspect.

From the case study:

This [original] program wasn’t designed to meet the conditions and needs of the business or the learner. It had to change. Philips had to create a program that met the needs of the learner, the business conditions (which included learner-driven, leader-led, fit-to-the-needs learning), and business goals (high customer service levels, increase productivity soon after hire, and first call resolution rates).

Click here to get a copy of the Philips Healthcare case study

I’d love to hear from some of the organizations out there about how you structure ownership of your onboarding process. Does your learning team help to establish the learning objectives? Does your talent acquisition team get a say in how the process is designed?

Ben Eubanks, Associate HCM Analyst, Brandon Hall Group

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