A common approach to onboarding is to attempt to follow the old adage “Teach them to fish don’t feed them.” This idea often misunderstood and hides a very subtle but effective way to ensure increased employee retention and improved job satisfaction.
It’s become fashionable to onboard heterogeneous groups, for example, a bunch of engineers, some HR staff, accountants and production specialists.

Purity and simplicity are the two wings with which man soars above the earth and all temporary nature. — Thomas a Kempis

This inevitably leads to the training not working for some of the group some of the time. The accountants probably don’t need the 101 finance stuff, and the engineers came to make a product not be told about it.

The overarching skill needed by every employee is to be able to navigate your organization’s people, processes, and procedures. Let’s face it if you “knowledge checked” everyone after an 8-hour onboarding session you’re going to be embarrassed at how little they retain (remember the knowledge horizon). It’s all new to them or irrelevant to their preconceived role. A knowledge check would demonstrate just how little of what you are trying to tell them sticks (that’s why so few organizations seem to do it).

Simplicity is an acquired taste. Mankind, left free, instinctively complicates life. — Katharine Elizabeth Fullerton Gerould

Of course, you will have follow-up training using whatever methodology you use, so does any of this matter? Yes!

Sometimes I think onboarding would be better if it was four hours long and consisted of an org chart with pictures, how to access your computer systems, the location of the employee handbook and a two hour “get to know you” session with potential mentors and coaches.

Of course, you shouldn’t serve fish!

Next week number 4: Onboarding as propaganda