Overcoming the Problems of Onboarding

December 15, 2021
Overcoming the Problems of Onboarding

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Onboarding is one way to spend money to make money. Your new recruits are an investment, the longer they stay, the more competent they get. A case study found that successful onboarding increased the employees’ chance of staying with a company by 69%. It also goes without saying (but still it is being said), swifter integrations of newcomers produce worthwhile results - up to 70% more productive employees

Still, most of you are doing it wrong.

Hate to be the bad news bear(er), but there is much room for improvement. Doing improper onboarding decreases morale, lowers productivity and causes all sorts of messes. Also creates a risk of losing the employee. Finding a replacement is expensive - estimated to be 16-20% of that employee’s annual salary. There are a lot of banal and ineffective methods that are far too common when it comes to onboarding. Give newcomers some stacks of documents to read and sign. Make them interact with a few multiple choice checkboxes, because why not? Easy enough to create but, come on, checking boxes does not produce value. Does it feel good when a stunning 100% of your onboarded employees score an even more stunning 100% on your checkbox test? 

<input type="checkbox" id="vehicle1" name="vehicle1" value="Bike"><label for="vehicle1"> I abide by the checkboxes</label><br><input type="checkbox" id="vehicle2" name="vehicle2" value="Car"><label for="vehicle2"> I love ticking boxes</label><br><input type="checkbox" id="vehicle3" name="vehicle3" value="Boat"><label for="vehicle3"> Checking a box makes it real</label><br>

Code of Conduct: What should you do when a customer yells at you?

<br><input type="radio" name="fav_color" value="Red">Yell back<br>

<input type="radio" name="fav_color" value="Blue" checked>Offer them a 85% discount and beg them (on your knees) to stop<br>

<input type="radio" name="fav_color" value="Yellow">Try to analyse why they are upset and see if you can correct what is bothering them.<br>

Wow. Sure we get it, a box is easy to create and scalable to any-sized organisation. However, did it feel like the learning expanded? 

Although you still want to scale that onboarding, scale that to the size of Mt. Everest (or the size of a small to medium sized business) without ticking boxes. You would have to allocate an employee’s or consultant’s time to get it rolling. In other words: expensive, and not a guarantee to improve the situation. So to cut costs of onboarding we have a few suggestions.

Make it:

  • Automated (requires less human resources). 
  • Scaleable (to the size of your organisation)
  • Flexible (to the specific situation, timings and needs of the role)
  • Retentive (the employees remember what they been taught)
  • Fun (increases morale, employee satisfaction and creates a positive relationship to the company)

If you cross out automated from the list, you might as well cross out scalability as it entails having a certain employee to onboard staff, which cost goes up the higher you scale. With only the three bottom items you will end up with a high price tag the bigger of an organisation. Automation and scalability is essential to cut costs.

The popular learning model, the learning pyramid, outlines what enables retention and breaks down learning into two types: active and passive. Passive is when the learner is passive in the learning process and simply absorbs the information in a curated format - like reading or listening to a presentation. Active is when the learner makes active decisions throughout the learning process and absorbs information dependent on choice and consequence - roleplays, simulations or even real-life practice. Only 50% of possible retention is achieved through passive learning and deteriorates without the active dimension of learning. While actively engaging it is possible to achieve the full scope of learning retention. Any decent onboarding has to be active to produce desired effects, customisable to the specifics of the company and be exciting so that it portrays the company in a favourable light. The combination of customisability and automation is something that has been difficult to achieve in the past, accounting for different roles and levels of knowledge within the organisation. 


How Mäklarhuset overcomes the headaches of onboarding

Mäklarhuset is the largest privately owned real-estate company in Sweden and employs over 550 people. The company has several branches throughout the country and is governed both locally and centrally from headquarters. The local manager/owner is responsible for onboarding the local staff and does it with few or no apparent external guidelines, it is up to the manager to decide individually, ad hoc. Centrally, however, all new brokers are gathered twice a year for two days to onboard properly. Apart from that the brokers are provided digital support in the form of CRM and E-learning. 

However they run into some apparent issues with their onboarding. One of the big ones is to ensure that the brokers get to practise the communicated material, simply being told is not enough to retain. There is a great amount of knowledge, competence and willpower within Mäklarhuset, but to dedicate time and effort to space out efficient onboarding is challenging. A lack of active learning is evident, although there are some branches that dedicate time for roleplay and workshops it is far too seldom and resource intensive. 

Due to the semi-autonomous nature of the different branch owners it becomes difficult to retain and communicate the best practices from one office to another. As the skill sets vary a lot between offices, some are better at training sales staff, it creates disparate levels and their standard E-learning platform proves not to be sufficient to mend the gap. By the end of a webinar most, if not all of the information is gone. Poof.

Mäklarhuset uses Fictive Reality, a roleplay simulator powered by AI, at their local offices and creates a quick break-even on new recruits. Integrating active learning into your LMS makes a crucial difference on retention levels. Fictive Reality then becomes a cherry on top, the icing on the cake, the final touch that complements the easy-to-get passive learning in the LMS with practise-makes-perfect learning available anytime and anywhere. Once the learning material has been created it will always be there, and can be modified to optimize the experience. Best practices are then shared between the different branches with a click of a button. And the trouble of finding allocated spots to practise is not a problem anymore, the brokers pick it up on their own time and not only when the managers have organised training. Fictive Reality solves the most common issues of onboarding by being scalable, retentive, fun, automated and flexible. 

Fictive Reality is an application that makes onboarding participatory through AI-technology. Whenever and wherever, available on desktop or VR by talking with virtual avatars. Scenarios are easily created by anyone - managers, educators and HR.