Leadership Development Training Starts on Day One. Rethinking the New Hire Onboarding Process.

By Christine Rasch-Chabot - August 02, 2017

A question I often ask friends and colleagues is “What do you remember most about your first day at your job?” I enjoy asking this question not only because I am an onboarding facilitator turned leadership development training consultant, but because the responses are vivid and genuine.

For better or worse, the first day at a new job is certainly memorable. It is also a tremendous opportunity for organizations to engage employees immediately and set the stage for the future benefits of learning and development. Corporate leadership training professionals who deploy successful onboarding programs recognize how much value can reside within the initial experience and they design accordingly.

The Regis Company assists clients in creating leadership development programs, business simulations, and onboarding programs. On their first day, employees often get information overload in a super-sized slide deck with very little actual engagement. Back to my opening sentence, this creates a less than memorable first impression, at best.

Conversely, by designing experiential learning activities that focus on relevant content and high employee engagement, The Regis Company creates solutions that result in new employees leaving their first day with confidence, excitement, and confirmation they made the right career choice.

Recent onboarding programs we’ve developed have focused on the following principles:

  1. Evaluate the program’s content and eliminate information that is not timely for a new employee.
  2. Create rich, visually impactful artifacts and media, and use slide decks only when necessary.
  3. Include simulation training and other gamification elements in the program’s design to encourage System 2 thinking on Day 1.
  4. Keep word counts low and the information relevant. Focus on quality over quantity.
  5. Design an impactful, immersive experience that supports learning and networking.

For example, we recently worked with a client to develop an onboarding program where new employees are introduced to an escape room-like experience. Of course, our goal was not to make new employees want to “escape” their first day, so our design focused on applying the team-oriented, thrilling, and System 2 thinking elements of an escape room to leverage the benefits of experiential learning in an onboarding program.  

What resulted was a program where teams of new employees worked together to solve problems and challenges, accessing content that is packaged in dynamic and easily consumable formats. A few noteworthy elements of this custom learning design:

  • This content was highly visual and provided new employees with the foundational knowledge they needed on their first day.
  • Content artifacts were timely and meaningful when teams received them, and many content artifacts were designed to be referenced later in the program as well. This encourages teams to review the artifact repeatedly and immerse themselves in the most pertinent information they need on their first day.
  • Group discussions rounded out the experience so that new employees could share insights, ask questions, and personalize the content to their role and experience.

Rethinking an onboarding program with new employee engagement in mind is an innovative way to transform business and improve an organization’s leadership development training process.

By taking a fresh approach to onboarding, organizations allow new employees to drive their own experience and ultimately, engage at a level that even the world’s best slideshow can’t achieve. How’s that for a memorable first day?


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