The Role of eLearning in Onboarding to an Organisation

The Role of eLearning in Onboarding to an Organisation

6 March 2017


Traditionally elearning has suffered from the stigma of being unexciting and used to ‘tick the box’ when it comes to meeting regulatory standards especially when it comes to onboarding new employees.  Many of us still think of it with dread rather than enthusiasm. Elearning has traditionally been the way of making information available to a multitude in a cost-effective way – it was never really that important if it was interesting, as long as it was out there!

I’m not afraid to admit that, until a few years ago, the opinions above were my own.  I’m a people person so the idea of putting an individual in front of a screen and asking them to complete multiple elearning modules defied logic as it had to be boring for them, right?  Well what I now know is that depends on the individual and the learning provided.

I’ve now experienced elearning from both sides where I’ve completed many course on line, some of them better than others and I’ve created many elearning modules, some better than others!  I’m happy to say I’m a convert and recognise the role a well-designed elearning module, as part of a larger programme, should play in organisational learning.

A focus on onboarding...

ELearning has probably most widely been used for onboarding new employees as a way of communicating lots of information in a standardised way. Once written and made available through a learning management system (LMS) it’s less of a drain on company resources as you don’t need a person to deliver elearning, the individual could do that themselves. 

Be wary of taking this logic too far though. Companies that invite new team members to join and, on their first day sit them in a room with 17 elearning modules and tell them to complete them are missing the point of elearning and ruining its reputation for all future training that they provide. Anytime a person thinks of elearning, they’ll think of this experience and just how boring it was. 

The individual takes the whole day to complete the modules and we know it’s not very exciting but we need them to know this information and complete the test to prove they understand.  How many of them know the information at the end of that day?  Probably very few, they’ve done enough to pass the test but they haven’t engaged with the learning as they just had to ‘get it done’.

If you take those 17 modules (really, do you need 17!?!?) and create a larger onboarding programme where you can slot them into relevant places and reduce the potential for death by elearning, then you can significantly improve the overall experience. 

The trick then, is to find the right place for your elearning in your onboarding programme so that you ensure you can still interact with the new team member but that you also take the opportunity to give them some individual learning and reflection time to consolidate their knowledge.

The alternative to an employee handbook

You know that employee handbook that you have that you print off and give to everyone to read? Why not create an interactive elearning module that engages the individual with your policies rather than just reading the manual to them or asking them to read it?  Let’s face it, most of us assume that no one ever really does read it but we know we have to give him or her a handbook…

Creating an elearning module that asks them to think about how the policy applies to them or puts them in situations where they must decide what to do and giving them feedback about those decisions is surely a more interesting way of helping them understand the practical application of your bullying and harassment policy.  You can even link to sections of the handbook throughout the module and ask them to complete a test to record compliance if you really must.  If you’re clever you can turn your elearning module into a game so that those who are used to Candy Crush rewards based gaming don’t just complete your module but enjoy it too!

Elearning is an integral part of any onboarding programme (or learning programme come to that!) but you must get the mix and the content right.  If you find yourself just writing all the information that you have in a policy into an elearning module and asking the new employee to go through it and complete the test at the end have you really given them an opportunity to engage with that policy?  Make it a rich experience by including video, scenarios, decision-making and gaming principles where possible so that they have a positive experience and don’t dread hearing the words, “there’s an elearning module I’d like you to complete to learn about our new policy”.



Vicky Connor (Chartered MCIPD), MA (Hons)

Managing Director of People Learn Ltd

Guest Blogger & Customer