Onboarding

Onboarding Training: How to Transfer Knowledge to New Hires

"Onboarding" is one word that covers an entire process — the most important being onboarding training. Here's how to build a knowledge transfer program that helps everyone succeed.

Introduction

Onboarding training familiarizes new hires with their new workplace: people, workflows, expectations, values... all that good stuff. Companies that actively do new employee onboarding training can see a rise in employee satisfaction and improved employee performance.

But it’s important to note that onboarding training for new hires is more easily said than done.

It might be easy to encourage team members to welcome new hires and get to know them, but when it comes to actual knowledge transfer, most onboarding training programs fail. With so many initiatives to take care of for so many people, the process takes more time than expected — and your veteran employees can lose time adn miss their regular workflows. 

This is why half of all senior outside hires fail within 18 months in a new position, and half of all hourly workers leave new jobs within the first 120 days.

Training isn't just a priority... it's the priority for making sure current employees continue to succeed, and new hires get into the fold.

In this guide, we’ll take a look at what onboarding training is and how to develop a program that maximizes knowledge transfer, increases productivity and (most importantly) keeps employees happy.  

What is onboarding training & why is it important?

Onboarding is a process through which new hires get familiar with a company’s people, culture, procedures and expectations. New employees need to go through a proper onboarding program to adjust themselves to their new position and align with the institution’s expectations.

Successful knowledge transfer improves employee satisfaction and retention, and skyrockets team productivity.

Onboarding training helps you stay transparent, conveying your expectations and goals from the get-go. As an employer, this is perhaps the most crucial phase when expanding your team. You need to make sure new team members understand what you expect from them and what you’ll provide for them.

It’s the only way to reach a mutual understanding and align your goals.

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What knowledge should be transferred during the onboarding process?

To identify what kind of knowledge you want to pass on to new hires, think about:

  • Company culture and brand values: What are your team's shared values? How do you celebrate success or approach failure? How does internal hierarchy impact decision-making?
  • Shared strengths and improvement goals: How does your team as a whole stand out from competitors? What are the position-specific and collective short- and long-term goals?
  • Standard operating procedure: This is about how you conduct business — your guiding principles. For instance, whether you’re using Slack for internal communication, versus Intercom for urgent issues. Or even what corporate email signature you use in emails.

Clearly, your team’s input is critical. Take some steps to create an environment where your team feels confident and comfortable enough to share knowledge. An agile work environment can promote collaboration and flexibility.

Brainstorm your core values, goals and problems, and talk about your company vision, mission and principles. Encourage constant learning, initiative-taking and collaboration.

Once you start generating knowledge, document every interaction, deliberation, and results.

Neal Taparia, who runs the gaming company Solitaired, explains:

“We document all new processes and insights about our games in a searchable and organized knowledge base. Then new employees and existing employees can readily have this information available if needed.”

It might sound a little challenging, considering it’ll take time to build the infrastructure and create the culture. But don't worry: there are brilliant technologies and proven strategies to make it easy — both for you and your new hires.

Let’s see how to develop a successful onboarding training program.

How to develop an onboarding training program

Here’s a standard procedure for developing an efficient onboarding training program. 

Use learning and productivity software

Automate anything and everything you can to streamline your training process. Productivity software platforms make all the difference when creating a repeatable, easy-to-follow onboarding process.

Scribe, for example, is a step-by-step guide generator that cuts your documentation time in half. Quickly create, share and embed training materials, and document your:

  • Tasks.
  • Processes.
  • Workflows.
  • SOPs.

... and any other onboarding effort. Scribe is a training and process management hub, letting you create, store and organize onboarding materials in seconds.

Along with the ease of managing onboarding training from one dashboard — Scribe offers major efficiency. When transferring knowledge to new hires, team members only need to click a button and run through their process. The tool automatically creates step-by-step guides without interrupting your work.

Here's an onboarding Scribe in action.

The software follows your process to auto-generate steps, including text and annotated screenshots. And any Scribe is just as easy to edit as it is to make.

This way, new hires gain a holistic approach to what needs to be done and how. And with several integrations available, you can embed any of the documents and walkthroughs into landing pages, knowledge bases, wikis, collaboration tools — like Monday.com or its alternatives — and LMS platforms like Thinkific.

And with Scribe's newest feature, Pages, you can now add Scribes to larger process docs with text, media and more. Check out this onboarding guide for Acme Corp. It outlines everything a new hire needs for week one, including the Scribe we showed you above!

Establish measurable goals and build learning paths

Before anything else, decide where to start and end your employee training.

Create an onboarding training schedule based on role requirements and individual need.

First, identify the knowledge gap. What qualifications do the new teammates have? And where do they need to develop further?

This helps you figure out what kind of learning material and instructions will be the most effective. If, for instance, an employee needs more hours of training than others, you can schedule their onboarding program with that in mind. This prevents adaptation problems and dissonance between team members.

Some HR software tools can help you in the process of knowledge gap analysis, talent management, analyzing KPIs, etc. Like we said before: automate anything and everything you can!

Onboarding training can be internal, or you can outsource. Just keep in mind, onboarding training consultants have extensive knowledge on how to adapt an individual to an organization, but they don’t know much about your company. Usually, businesses transfer their knowledge to new hires internally. It’s much cheaper and sensitive information stays inside.

External training is more plausible in cases where your team has a knowledge gap. For us at Scribe, onboarding training mostly concerns internal knowledge, so internal training is the best.

Most importantly, you need to track several KPIs to assess learner’s progress and collect feedback. It’ll show you how successful your onboarding training program is, and where you can improve. Here are the essential KPIs you need to track:

  • Training completion rate: Simply divide the number of new workers who finish training by the total number of new hires to measure the completion rate. If few people complete the training, it suggests that you have to consider changes.
  • Retention rate: Retention rate is the number of employees who choose to stay in your company for a predetermined amount of time. Calculate the number of new hires who stay for say, a year divided by the number of new hires in a year. The timespan can change based on your industry’s standards
  • Time-to-productivity: It’s a KPI that measures the time passed between an employee’s date of hire and the day they actually achieve productivity. Tracking this KPI will help you identify and efficiency losses, and rearrange onboarding training duration and material if necessary.
  • New-hire satisfaction: Employee interviews and anonymous surveys, two essential components of a roadmap for improving the employee experience, are typically used to gather data for assessing new-hire satisfaction levels.

Pair up experienced team members with new hires in a mentorship program

One of the oldest yet most effective methods of onboarding training is assigning mentors/buddies to new hires. Mentorship programs involve 1-1 guidance, exposure to real life cases, and feedback to develop job-related skills. They are super effective for several reasons:

  • Experienced employees easily transfer invaluable knowledge that would normally be kept to themselves.
  • New team members don’t struggle finding a contact when they have a problem or a question in mind.
  • New team members find it easier to bond with existing employees.
  • Cross-departmental communication increases.

Create a mentorship program where you assign buddies to new employees. Make sure they’re from different teams — it’ll be a great team bonding opportunity.

Start by setting some guidelines for the mentors. Clearly state the purpose of the program, and their role in it, like:

  • Getting in touch with new hires before their start date, which will help them feel less distant when approaching their new team.
  • Setting up the new hire's workspace and material, giving an office tour, providing essential first-day knowledge like the dress code, office rules and communication channels.
  • Conveying information about the mentorship program.
  • A brief introduction to the corporate culture, core values, company mission and vision.
  • Going over the employee handbook (if you have one).
  • Making a positive first interaction.

You can add almost anything you think is important to the checklist above. If, for instance, you’re using a software development platform, it might seem overly complicated to a marketing member or a sales rep. They might not fully understand the ticketing system in the first place, or the hierarchy of tasks. So if the systems in use call for technical knowledge, your mentors should spare some time to explain those systems.

Keep in mind that in order for mentors (or any peer) to spare time, they need support from management. You want to build a culture of learning that prioritizes taking the time to support others. That's easier to do when you take advantage of tools that make it faster and easier to share what you know.

Create spaces for deliberation and collective work

As a leader, one of your essential duties is encouraging team members to bring in their authentic self. They need to feel like it’s okay to ask questions, participate in discussions and brainstorming sessions, and create a backlog of business ideas.  

Create spaces — both virtual and physical — where new hires can find knowledge, start or join conversations.

If you’re using Slack for internal communication, for example, create a variety of channels to discuss matters. A "How-to" channel for asking common questions, an "Event" channel for team event planning or a "What’s up" channel for sharing industry news and company news.

You can also use an idea management software platform or a visual collaboration platform where brainstorming sessions come into a digital whiteboard everyone can contribute to.

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Doing this will help new hires better capture how your team ideates and executes projects. More importantly, they’ll feel encouraged to make their unique contribution.

Also, make use of coordination technology, which integrates both teamwork and taskwork functions. Online calendars, time trackers, project management tools, ERP, and a lot of other coordination technology facilitate interpersonal connections between people and groups. This type of technology is crucial for a new employee to keep track of their work and understand workflows.

Onboarding training: How to prioritize employee experience

A successful onboarding training program should cover two aspects of company knowledge: company procedures and company culture. This means that apart from expecting new employees to learn the technical side of your business, you should encourage them to be part of your community. Employee experience plays an important role here.

What are some of the characteristics of a good company culture that you should promote to new employees? Here are some of our favorites.

  • Caring and mutually trust-worthy.
  • Purposeful and contributing to a better cause.
  • Prioritizing learning and creativity.
  • Fun and exciting.
  • Results-driven rather than process-oriented.
  • Gving authority to employees rather than micro-managing.
  • Providing protection and safety in the work environment.
  • Structured. 

Onboarding is just the beginning of your employees' ongoing education. Everyone wins when informal learning is encouraged and supported. Key word here: supported. Take advantage of the tools that can help employees help each other. Scribe helps you save time, build extensive (and beautiful) onboarding training materials, and show your employees just how much you want them to succeed.

Build a better program today — check out Scribe for free!