Faster Onboarding with Microlearning
With the current economy facing an unprecedented shift to remote work, a big focus is now on tools to enable remote teams to work effectively. However, not discussed as often is the increasing need to effectively onboard new employees with tools that don’t depend on being in the same physical location. A tool that is increasingly gaining momentum and capability in this space is microlearning – a type of platform that delivers small chunks of media, information, and tests in easy-to-consume bites. Microlearning can be used for many things, but organizations are finding how powerful it can be for onboarding workers as a supplement or replacement for traditional handbooks, welcome messages, and meet-and-greets.
Location and Device Independence
Traditional onboarding usually assumes that new employees will be in the office with everyone else where they can receive orientation materials, attend onboarding events, and ask questions of coworkers. There is also an implicit requirement that onboarding will happen concurrently with normal working hours as part of the ramp-up process during a new employee’s initial weeks. Microlearning turns these assumptions around entirely since content can be delivered to any device at any time, anywhere with an internet connection.
For example, we often see organizations that have embraced microlearning use SMS-based notifications to link new employees to helpful content. In this way, everyone can participate regardless of whether they are in the office, on the road, or working remotely. This also has the benefit of allowing new employees to read and interact with onboarding content when it is convenient rather than in strict accordance with calendar invites. And with restrictions on in-person interaction, microlearning onboarding allows zero-touch education and content delivery.
Another win for microlearning is that new employees don’t even need a company-issued laptop to start their onboarding. As many people have experienced, getting up and running with company-issued equipment and credentials can take weeks, but microlearning content generally runs on any phone or computer with no need for new software. This allows organizations to truly start onboarding with valuable and practical information on day one regardless of IT-assigned device status.
Spaced, Scheduled Content
As many foreign language learners have discovered, spaced learning with repetition is a key aspect of truly internalizing new material. Traditional onboarding approaches have generally been more akin to textbook cramming than to modern learning that takes into account limited attention spans. Microlearning, in contrast, is ideal for delivering easily-digested content in chunks over a timespan that results in improved understanding and retention. For new employee onboarding, this often takes the form of microcontent campaigns that span a week or more, covering content like policies, benefits, and help resources on a daily basis rather than all at once.
The biggest benefit of this approach is that rather than overloading new employees with more information than they can realistically handle, microlearning can highlight the most important points of common onboarding topics while still linking to the full documents and intranet-based guides that contain detailed information. In this way we see organizations getting the best of both worlds – new employees actually read and understand key points in the content relevant to them, but have access to the 100+ pages of typical HR documentation if they want or need to dive into the details.
Part of this benefit is the opportunity to schedule onboarding content ahead of time and then trigger campaigns to new employees when they start. We generally see microlearning onboarding campaigns with the greatest success start with daily messaging on key topics like payroll, benefits, vacation/leave policies, and mentoring/help programs. Each of these is usually accompanied with more in-depth content via email to get employees started quickly. This content is then usually paired with a short follow-up campaign the second week to reinforce key points and ensure new employees have the chance to ask questions as needed.
Interaction & Follow-up
Traditional “read-only” onboarding materials have an often-overlooked downside: zero interaction. Without in-person or scheduled meeting reviews, it’s very difficult to know if new employees even read all the provided content, let alone understand the key points. Microlearning provides a solution to this issue since the types of microcontent that can be delivered include naturally interactive materials like quizzes, surveys, and feedback forms. This means that organizations now have the opportunity to get better results and preemptively answer new hire questions as they move through the onboarding process.
We have seen many organizations take advantage of quick quizzes to test knowledge of training-oriented content via microlearning, but now some organizations are also starting to apply this option to onboarding. One way this manifests is in gauging new employee interest in different benefit types via survey-style questions so that they can be guided to appropriate content or sign-up forms. We are also starting to see some organizations use questions to ensure new employees understand the key aspects of corporate policies and know how they may differ from other places employees may have worked.
Additionally, we now see companies that have embraced microlearning using microcontent follow-ups to both remind new hires of important information and preemptively reach out for additional help. With scheduled follow-up content, HR and IT teams can make sure new hires remember key data like pay periods, benefits enrollment, and credentials policies. Open question and feedback-based microcontent also gives new hires the opportunity to ask for help without pressure and makes them feel like they are part of the team from day one, especially when working remotely.
Bringing It Together
Microlearning is an exciting new tool that many organizations are starting to use to streamline and improve onboarding. When implemented correctly, we see benefits ranging from increased knowledge retention and faster ramp-up to more positive interaction with HR teams. At Concannon Business Consulting we use microlearning on the ConveYour platform to help onboard our own new hires as well as to provide continuing updates to employees of all tenure levels. As more and more companies embrace remote-conscious work environments, we expect microlearning platforms and strategies like this to become the norm.