Onboarding happens in a harsh communications environment. The new employees don’t know you; you don’t know them, and they have a bunch of conflicting priorities (they want to look good, they are worried that they won’t be able to do the job, did they make the right choice, etc.).
Knowing that your organization still needs to pass on a significant amount of information that will impact the newbie’s ability to do their jobs, whether or not they stick with you and ultimately, your company’s overall success.
We see a definite trend toward well planned, appropriately pitched onboarding, however much of it has a simple problem (the information horizon).
Orientation or workshops can be structured to meet the information needs of this population based on their information horizons. — Jill DeMarco
Without making this too long, the concept of the information horizon and its impact on communication is well documented. Metaphorically speaking, you and your team have a complete sight of what you already know (your horizon). The learner is not able to see that view. They can see only what you show them (as in pass over the horizon to them).
This implies that if you don’t take extra care to ensure that you provide complete information the learner may never be able to grasp your point, except, that is, by taking an intellectual leap (and who knows where that’s going to land?).
A simple, practical example might be a checklist for a task. It appears complete! You have explained the why and how, and now it’s down to the guide for doing it. But what’s missing are the items that you barely have to think about because you can see them. “Clean the printer with a soft cloth…” Where does the cloth come from? Do you use a cleaner, if so what? Every step creates an expanding wave of unknowns.
If you are tempted to dismiss this thought, you should know that I have found that almost all training contains numerous open questions. Often because it is partially intended for current employees, who already know the answers.
People who don’t share the same horizons with you will stay in your life only for a while! — Mehmet Murat ildan
This problem most often arises when you try and stuff too much into the onboarding. By definition, explaining the little details takes more time. And “don’t worry, they can always ask someone,” doesn’t cut it.
This is what makes onboarding special – those earnest faces in the onboarding training can barely find the bathroom, and everything else is on you.
Next week number 3: Teach them to fish don’t feed them.