Using Onboarding to Drive Company Culture For New Hires

For many organizations, onboarding programs are siloed affairs. New employees come in, fill out the necessary paperwork, meet who they need to meet, have their technology set up through IT and they are finished with “onboarding.” Top-performing organizations, though, provide role-specific technology and training to be role-proficient quickly, which requires more than just paperwork. It means connections to other employees and to the learning and development resources available to them.

Brandon Hall Group research has shown that while many organizations make use of some aspects of L&D, many others do not, and there is a steep drop-off once the most common types of learning occur in the onboarding environment.


The top challenge most organizations face is that learning and onboarding are wholly separate departments. Adding to that is the pressure to show immediate results, which is not always the case with other learning and development initiatives, especially those dealing with broader people skills.

There is also the often-overlooked role technology plays as a roadblock in these efforts. If the LMS and the onboarding platforms are not integrated at the systems level, it will strongly hinder efforts to connect learning with onboarding, as the data will not smoothly transfer and the ability to connect the dots with data points from both systems (to see what is working and what is not, for instance) will make the onboarding-to-learning transfer untenable.

For most employees, the pressure is high to be productive right out of the gate and many organizations use quality-of-hire and time-to-full-productivity metrics to determine the strength of their TA teams. But without proper onboarding, employees cannot reach their potential.

Ongoing training must start at Day One, especially for remote employees, those who work from home or have irregular schedules. Regardless of employee type, onboarding is usually the first learning experience an employee has. If the experience is boring, hard to use or irrelevant to their job, that sets the tone for how they will perceive future learning experiences. It puts adoption and engagement at an immediate disadvantage. Without a connection to learning during the onboarding process, employees miss out on career development and employers fail to truly understand the effectiveness of their onboarding and training efforts.

For an organization to find the connection between onboarding, learning and business outcomes, they must first determine their specific needs.

Key questions organizations should address include:

• How many different ways does your organization communicate your corporate culture?

• Who is accountable for connecting onboarding to learning or who should be?

• How will you measure the impact of tying onboarding to learning at your organization?

• What constitutes onboarding at your organization, and what falls under learning? Where do they naturally connect?

• What are the technology constraints that may impede your efforts to connect onboarding to learning?

• What will the ultimate business impact of integrating onboarding with learning activities be, and where in the organization will that impact be the most immediate?

The first step should be to evaluate your HR business partners to ensure they play a strategic role in the business. They should be the ones to bridge the gap between learning and onboarding as they support both departments, and workforce development is really their purview.

The next step is to examine current onboarding and learning workflows, policies and SOPs to see where natural synergies exist. From there, it should be an easy transition to see what systems integration already exists and analyze what possible barriers might occur down the road.

Start with onboarding, because every organization is different in terms of whether they want onboarding to be uniform across all units or highly personalized dependent on location or function. Knowing the differences between a centralized versus decentralized approach will help tailor the learning intervention accordingly.

When establishing a true onboarding-to-learning connection, ensure to have at least one new employee provide honest feedback. With eLearning, always-on mobile learning and other personalized tools, it can be easy to blur the lines between work and life, which could lead to burnout if those behaviors are being implicitly condoned during the onboarding phase. Be mindful of the needs of the business and the needs of the workforce


Brandon Hall Group Strategy Briefs answer the critical questions learning, talent, HR and business leaders must address to manage their human capital. To tackle these critical questions in more detail, we built tools, frameworks, research summaries and business builders based on up-to-date research and case studies for you to implement best and next Human Capital Management (HCM) practices. To gain access to these valuable resources, contact [email protected].

Leading minds in HCM choose Brandon Hall Group to help them build future-proof employee-development plans for the new era. For more than 27 years, we have empowered, recognized and certified excellence in organizations around the world, influencing the development of over 10,000,000 associates and executives.

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Mike Cooke

Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company’s growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company’s global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike’s tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.

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