ONBOARD TRAINING: Is it Time to Consider Blended and Continuous Learning Approaches?


Over the last few weeks we have been working with several companies in helping them move their onboarding training from legacy approaches to more blended and continuous learning programs. Considering that where there is smoke, there is usually fire, we got to thinking about why we are seeing such a trend and came to the realization that onboard training may just be the best way to really embrace new training approaches and will likely offer the most significant return to the business. Time and time again, research shows us that if we can bring employees up to speed quickly and completely, the impact to the business can be considerable.  So the topic is worthy of consideration.

Let’s start by listing some of the challenges with traditional onboard training:

  • Each individual largely goes through the same content regardless of existing knowledge and skills
  • Individuals can go through the same content regardless of the role they are being hired into
  • There can be significant time gaps between the onboard training and when the individual will actually get to apply the training
  • Content may be out of date at the time of is delivered or may be out of date by the time it is used
  • The training is all focused into the first period of time after hiring and then diminishes rapidly
  • Often the content that various stakeholders want to include in the program far exceeds the time allocated to the training
  • The traditional ILT components can be very “lecture heavy” with liberal use of PowerPoint as both the visual support to the speaker and serving as the detailed content for the participant

Now let’s look at some of the basic rules of architecting a blended and continuous learning program (using the TEBLAT™[1] methodology).

  • Break the overall content into small segments
  • Move any content that is simply about the delivery of information to a participant out of the formal learning and to the place where that individual can best access it when and where they need it
  • Thread the segments of learning together so that individuals with different needs can travel differing learning paths and thus gaining just the content that they require
  • Fragment the learning over time and include the application of the learning into the overall program
  • Learning segments should include on the job coaching, cohort learning and sharing of challenges and best practices
  • “Instructional” learning should be delivered asynchronously leaving “live time”, no matter if it is physical or virtual, for discussion, exploration and facilitation
  • Learning segments should also include master classes and “ask the experts” where learners can share experiences and gain access to subject matter experts (not to listen to presentation but to engage in rich dialogue)

 A Vision for Onboard Programs

Imagine starting a new position, perhaps with a new company, and on day one you either meet with an individual or perhaps complete an online assessment that reviews your existing level of pertinent skills, knowledge and competencies and then maps out those that you will need for success in the particular role you are moving into and perhaps even the longer term. From the assessment you are provided with an individualized Learning Journey that details the learning experiences that are required and those that you may want to consider as options to help in your success. Also, on the first day you join the internal networking platform registering for several special interest groups. The platform, looking eerily like LinkedIn, also recommends additional groups you may be interested in, and even starts connecting you with other individuals across the company that share a level of affinity with you.

Your own learning path continues as you undertake the required learning segments for week one. These include participating in a welcome webcast and then viewing a number of short orientation videos that seem full of useful information. You are also introduced to the company knowledge platform which reminds you of Wikipedia – simple to use, always on and seems to have the answers to most of your everyday needs. You also complete short online tutorials on a number of the internal systems and processes, and unfortunately there is a short test after a few of these to ensure compliance and understanding.

The learning path continues with a number of assignments and during the course of these you get to network with other folk in the organization. During the course of the first few weeks you are also invited to a number of live virtual classrooms that enable you to review and discuss some of the basics with other individual and subject matter experts. You note that sitting in a classroom or a webinar simply listening to presentations does not seem to be part of the culture of this particular organization.

You’re learning path continues with your immediate manager checking on progress and offering coaching and support. The assignments blended into your job so that the line between training and doing is not only blurred it disappears. You feel equipped for the role you have taken on, supported by peers, experts and your management, and are confident that the information you need is available to you when and wherever you may be.

If that vision was a reality in your own company, what would such on onboarding program say about the company and its culture, and how prepared would individuals be to be successful in their roles? Now think, what’s stopping that vision from being a reality; the technology exists today and people work that way everyday with tools like LinkedIn, YouTube, and SMS. There is little standing in the way of making this vision a reality aside from the change management required to let go of legacy approaches and embrace the future.

[1] 3GS’s methodology for architecting high impact blended and continuous learning programs

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