Here's an article I've written for publication covering the benefits learning technology offers in bringing new employees up to speed. Your comments are welcome, especially on the ideas around making use of the pre-joining period.
E-induction: Save time, reduce costs and improve quality with e-learning
While the headlines are dominated by job losses and uncertainty, it's easy to forget that for the vast majority of organisations, there is still business to be won, customers to serve and employees to manage. Indeed some sectors are doing well in the downturn - examples include Sky the satellite TV broadcaster, Aldi the discount supermarket chain and Admiral Insurance - all announcing growth plans.
For large segments of the economy there remains an ongoing requirement to attract, recruit and retain staff. However, there is increased pressure to make this process more efficient and effective. It is more important than ever to ensure that new and existing staff are up to speed and fully productive in as short a time as possible. So how do you save time, reduce costs and improve quality of inductions all at the same time?
Too little, too late
The far too common experience for a new joiner is to be thrown into the deep end, relying on colleagues around them for immediate support. Then, if they are lucky they'll attend an induction training course three to six weeks after their start date. The training at this stage is largely a waste of time and the productivity of those initial weeks will be unnecessarily low, not just for the new starter, but for those colleagues around them.
This approach may not only lead to potential regulatory risks, but there is also a high chance that poor customer service or mistakes on the job could lead to lost business and sales - something no business can afford in the current climate.
Where induction training is provided, it is often delivered in highly compressed classroom formats with little opportunity for staff to fully remember and practice new knowledge and skills in preparation for use in their job role. Not only that, with even more pressure on existing staff, finding the time to provide adequate support to new employees becomes increasingly difficult.
It should come as no surprise then to learn that 90 per cent of employees decide whether to leave their new employer within the first six months (recently voiced by Gretchen Alarcon at Oracle). When staff leave early, all investment made is lost.
The overall costs of induction are therefore unnecessarily high. Measuring time to full productivity of new staff reveals it can take anything between six and twelve months for them to reach the required levels of competence and confidence to deliver at expected performance levels.
In areas where there are naturally high levels of staff turnover, such as contact centres and retail, this can amount to very large sums of money spent on training and re-training without ever truly improving overall performance. The Call Centre Association (CCA) claims a failure to retain employees is costing firms up to £1 billion per year, with employee turnover rates as high as 30 per cent.
E-induction is the answer
Using technology to support the timely delivery of core induction training answers many of the traditional problems described above. A well designed e-learning experience that covers key topic areas - company values, organisational structure, core product knowledge, health and safety for example - can engage and inform employees. And engage them at a time that suits them, all presented in a consistent and persistent manner.
Staff can also review and refer back to the e-learning as required, thus providing immediate remedial support and improving long term recall. New joiners are more self-reliant and do not need to interrupt colleagues for help on the basics. Managers and colleagues are liberated to provide essential coaching and localised support.
Faster completion times and more flexible delivery can also be achieved by introducing e-learning into an existing planned induction programme. For example, we recently worked with Bupa Healthcare on re-designing a five week induction programme to include e-learning on company policy, regulation, IT systems training, and simulated customer service calls.
This programme with Bupa led to an immediate saving of over two days in training time. And even more importantly, new inductees completed the learning experience more confidently and competently leading to a full two weeks saved in coaching and observation prior to being released into their job role. Time to full productivity can be greatly reduced with effective e-learning, all of which saves time and money, as well as improving the quality of the learning experience.
The rise of pre-induction
Some organisations are going further by using learning technology to support the recruitment and pre-joining phases of new starters. Not only can e-learning be used to test and assess applicants, providing a highly efficient filtering mechanism, it can also capitalise on the early enthusiasm and motivation of new starters from the moment they receive their Welcome Letter.
In the weeks running up to their first day, staff can access a secure induction portal via the internet to complete aspects of their induction in their own time ensuring they hit the ground running. By integrating the processes of attraction, selection, pre-joining and induction an organisation can make significant cost savings while also presenting their brand more consistently.
As working practices become ever more fluid with increasing numbers of contract workers, deep restructuring of established industries (banking and automotive sectors for example) and the increased availability of broadband internet access, it is clear that e-induction should be at the heart of the learning and development experience.
This is the future of real employee engagement as a next generation reared on the internet and digital communication comes into the workforce. Traditional trainers will need to move to a more consultative coach/mentor role rather than delivering standard knowledge heavy classroom sessions. That can only be a good thing for all concerned.
By harnessing technology in this way, very significant cost savings can be made. An increasingly effective and speedy path to full productivity for each new employee means an organisation can be more agile, responsive and deliver better customer service. This is crucial to survival going forward.
Implementing e-induction - top tips to get new recruits up-to-speed faster
To get started, try looking at your current induction practices and explore how you can implement the following:
- Measure the time it takes for a new joiner to be recruited, start and then reach full productivity in their role. Then measure the associated costs, including salary, training costs, potential lost sales etc
- Develop an Introduction/Welcome e-learning module for your organisation. Representing your brand and culture, this can cover your mission, values, organisational structure, products and services. Your employees will have something of quality to engage with immediately they start
- Identify regulatory training and deliver this using e-learning that also tracks and records completion - this will save time and provide a compliance tool for all employees going forward
- Launch a pre-induction portal to support the selection process and also to enable new joiners to complete elements of their induction before Day One.
With these facilities in place, measure the time it now takes for new joiners to reach full productivity. Expect to see significant improvements.