By Robin Nichols
Reading Time: 5 minutes
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Onboarding new hires takes significant time and energy. Yet, it’s a crucial step in the employee lifecycle: According to a survey by BambooHR, 68 percent of employees leave within the first three months. If you want your company to grow, keep recruitment costs down, and maintain a healthy company culture, you’ll need to master your onboarding process.
So how can learning and development (L&D) teams balance creating relevant, engaging, and comprehensive onboarding with the other tasks on their plate? More often than not, the answer is collaborative learning.
In most organizations, L&D teams are charged with managing onboarding from A to Z: They source and create all content, devise programs, manage enrollment, take feedback, and make sure everything stays up-to-date. That’s a lot to manage, especially if their company is scaling up.
A collaborative learning approach to onboarding helps these teams decentralize much of the process, saving them time. It also leads to more relevant, engaging onboarding courses. Let’s dive into the five main benefits of using a collaborative learning approach to onboarding.
First: What is collaborative learning?
Broadly speaking, collaborative learning is a training methodology in which employees share their subject matter expertise with one another, and colleagues teach and learn as a group. This is opposed to more traditional, top-down, or centralized approaches in which one person or team drives learning initiatives, often relying on outside experts and long, synchronous training sessions.
We can compare a bottom-up, collaborative approach to learning with a more traditional, top-down style.
When it comes to creating onboarding training programs collaboratively, the benefits are numerous:
1. Onboarding content is contextual
With collaborative learning, course content is created by internal subject matter experts, not external sources or off-the-shelf content. That means courses are 100 percent contextual to your organization, and up-to-date at the time of launch.
For instance, let’s say you’d like to include a course on how to get started with your company’s payroll software. Instead of including a generic tutorial, your HR team can create a course that’s customized to your workplace. They can include how your organization has set up their platform, with reminders about how far in advance to book time off or run-throughs of the corporate parental leave policy.
This kind of relevance will help new hires get operational, fast.
2. Saves your L&D team time
Because internal subject matter experts are the ones creating content, your L&D team is freed up to concentrate on other tasks. They still stay in the picture as facilitators, but they can spend more time on things like understanding learning needs, talent management, or other strategic questions.
Collaborative learning is also heavily reliant on feedback loops, both between multiple course creators and learners and instructors. Collaborative learning platforms like 360Learning have built-in Reaction features, much like social media emojis, that allow learners to flag if a course is in need of an update. This makes it a lot easier for L&D teams to prioritize which courses to refresh and when.
Feedback loops help L&D teams save time on updating onboarding content.
3. Helps newcomers get to know people
One of the toughest things about starting a new job is that you don’t know anyone. Especially in a remote setting, breaking the ice can be tricky and take longer.
With onboarding based on collaborative learning using multiple online collaboration tools available for teams, new hires already get to know their new colleagues and can start matching faces to names, and names to job titles. Since courses are created by internal subject matter experts, every time new hires complete a program, they’ve also been introduced to their peers.
This is especially true if course authors use interactive formats like video, screen capture, or voice recordings. If you include discussions taking place in chat forums, new hires can start to get a feel for who’s who.
Discussions during onboarding programs let newcomers get to know their colleagues.
4. Allows new hires to go at their own pace
Team-wide communication tools send a lot of alerts — so many that it’s hard to enable employees to focus on one concept exclusively.
One solution is to snooze or mute notifications on Slack, Outlook, or other communication apps. Another is to encourage asynchronous communication. It can alleviate the pressure to respond instantly, promote thorough work, reduce meeting fatigue, and prevent overworking.
Collaborative learning is largely based on the idea of asynchronous learning. Instead of a series of live, synchronous sessions, collaborative learning proposes employees complete self-directed modules at their own pace.
This approach is more flexible than traditional onboarding, and many L&D teams are making the shift. For example, Spendesk’s people and operations teams decided to embrace a more
collaborative approach to their onboarding process, in part because of the issue of “workshop creep.” Tom Morisse, Knowledge Manager at Spendesk, explained the problem and how it impacts their process.
“Okay, we have workshops, and workshops, and workshops. Onboarding means workshops. There was both this format problem of having just workshops, and the fact that we just added other workshops without thinking about the coherence of the whole experience,” said Morisse.
By overhauling their approach and incorporating more asynchronous formats, Spendesk was able to create an onboarding process that could keep up with their fast growth.
5. It’s more engaging for learners
What all of this adds up to is that a collaborative approach to onboarding is more engaging for new employees. Interaction is built into the process — both between learners and course creators (through feedback loops), but also between the new hires themselves, through discussion forums. Interactive course formats like quizzes and clickable media makes for a nice change from mile-long PDFs or dry lecture-style Zoom meetings.
The first few weeks and months of a new employee’s job are crucial. New hires are feeling out if this new environment is right for them, just as much as their new manager is deciding if they made the right choice. Providing onboarding training that’s relevant, engaging, and helps newcomers make social connections is a crucial step in sealing the deal — and collaborative learning is a great way to do just that.
6. It’s remote-friendly
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s that employees like flexible working. Most companies are continuing to offer some type of hybrid or remote work options to those that want it.
For onboarding employees remotely, onboarding with a collaborative learning angle is ideal. Firstly, the focus on asynchronous learning makes differences in time zone irrelevant. It also ensures onboarding content for global employees, since colleagues from any department can chip in to build courses that are relevant to that department or geographic area.