The way I look at the process of InductionIf you look at the picture above, you'll see that I consider Induction to be a multistep process:
- Orientation - which covers the standard stuff for people to understand the ecosystem of the company; people, policies, benefits, systems, etc.
- Context Setting - which helps people understand the culture and identity of the company; history, values, USP, brand image, business model, etc.
- Competence Building - which helps people pick up the technical skills they need for their jobs.
- Project Onboarding - which helps people ease into their specific team, department, section or project.
Idea #1 - Try an Induction PortalIn July last year I was on a webinar by Lars Hyland of Brightwave showcasing the induction portal (or rather the pre-induction portal) for Sky - a major home entertainment provider in the UK. The portal allowed new hires in various roles to start their induction even before joining Sky and they could go through self-paced elearning courses on company values, organisational structure, core product knowledge, health and safety in an environment that was engaging and representative of Sky's brand. There are some obvious advantages of the approach:
- Your new hires have an opportunity to interact with your brand much earlier than the date of joining. With an intelligent application of design thinking, you could have inductees salivate at the prospect of their first day at work!
- You can ensure that new hires complete certain elements of training even before they join the company. As a consequence, you can reserve the time you earlier spent in induction, for more valuable activities which perhaps can happen only in a face to face environment.
- And most importantly, you reduce time to competence in many areas -- people can get up to speed with the requirements of their job much faster than in the case of classroom only education, given the unbridled access to these tools.
Idea #2 - Provide your New Hires with continuously Reference-able Material
"And it’s easy for them to revisit things if they want. By design, the training doubles as a reference tool for all 4,500 of our North American employees. In fact, 61% of our trainees use the course after their initial training, to look up information as needed."
Bill's work is an example of simplicity in action. You'll notice that none of the materials would have taken too much programming skill to create. On the other hand the skill required was that of resourcefulness and content aggregation. If you take a look at the video above, you'll see that the program is designed with a very personable feel to it. People have videos of real people introducing the topic, the content is simply presented and it's no surprise that the number of learners who are confident they can find the HR info they need has jumped from 59% to 90%. I look at it as an excellent way of making your new hire orientation extremely effective.
Read the case study here.
Idea #3 - Give them Learning Paths to chart their own Learning JourneyWhile it's legitimate to ask people to learn on their own, it's tough for new hires who don't know what they don't know, to seek how to know what they don't know! Confused? Let me try again. It's fair to ask people to take charge of their own learning. That said, new hires are really keen to do well in their new job and get through their probation with a sense of success. Without a sense of what people expect from them in their jobs and what skills they'll need to meet those expectations, self-learning can become similar to a wild-goose chase. To tackle this, we're using an approach driven by Learning Paths. Very simply, a learning path is nothing but a chronological representation of an individual's learning journey from Novice to Expert in a specific job role. The idea is that you can hand a new hire their learning path at the start of their job in the company. From that point on, the electronic version of the path can be their entry point to seek out learning resources on the LMS, the organisational wiki or social learning platform. So yes, learning remains self-driven but has some tangible outcomes that the new hire can work towards. In coming weeks, I may just publish a case study that will illustrate real life examples of Learning Paths in action.
Idea #4 - Provide them a Career CoachWhen you're new to a company and you need guidance on what your career should look like, it's never enough to look at a microsite or a set of documents or even the very engaging elearning module. You need someone to talk to; someone who can guide you through your career moves in the company. In your initial days at the company, this could be the person that makes you feel comfortable in the organisation. As you go on, this person connects you to others in the company, guides you through your learning journey and help you deal with the feedback you're recieving. As time progresses, this person can be your guide and advocate for career movements in the company and can again guide you to find the right people and resources to help your learning in your new role. In general, we call this role the career coach or the personal development coach at ThoughtWorks. We've had this support for quite some time now at the company and most people tend to swear by the support they get from their coaches.
Idea #5 - Strengthen your Project Onboarding ProcessesLastly, I come to the oft-neglected aspect of Project Onboarding. We need to remember that people can't know everything before they come onto a team or a project or even a department. There are many things that we learn only when we see them in a performance context. This is where project onboarding is crucial. According to my colleague Pat Kua, "The main goal of a new person is to learn about the larger context. They seek out things they should know about, start to understand the domain specific vocabulary, and begin to work with the team and the work culture. The more complex the project is, and the larger the number of people who join, the longer this phase can last."
Pat is someone I consider to be an expert on the topic of onboarding people. As with many other things, his skills are experiential and he knows about this having practiced it on many different teams. Take some time to look through the various onboarding strategies on his blog and his related article on InfoQ. I find all of them to be extremely lightweight, yet practical methods of getting a new person to be comfortable with the context, practices and the working of a project.
Yet again, the ideas on my post are limited by my own experiential wisdom (or the lack of it). What ideas are working for you in your own induction context? I'll be hugely obliged if you shared them with me on the comments section of this blogpost. At ThoughtWorks, we're currently working on a new and improved model for induction and your experiences will help us greatly in our own approach. When we do get done, I'll do my best to get a case study out as long as I can get legal approval.
(A quick clarification -- the career coach role in ThoughtWorks has till date been known as the sponsor. We're in the process of changing the nomenclature, so that it reflects the true purpose of the role.)