Onboarding

Context

How do you start with an “e-learning for the newcomers” and end up redesigning the full newcomer welcome and training process? This is what happened with the “Onboarding” project.

My clients came with an idea in mind, the idea of a fun and appealing e-learning module that would teach the newbies all the basics they need to know about their new company.

Turns out the real objective of this project was in fact far broader. I helped them nail it and focus on finding the right solution to solve what they were actually trying to point out. 2 big iterations were needed to push the boundaries of this project towards a sustainable and corresponding solution. Here is a digest of the design process we went through.

An e-learning module is a very practical and tangible solution to a straight-forward training issue. It is, generally, a simple piece of a much wider puzzle, be it a course or a training program. But in and of itself, an e-learning module is not sufficient to solve issues such as the one we had. And unfortunately, they are sometimes perceived as not very useful by employees, or tedious and boring. We wanted to avoid a “Next, next, next” effect at all costs.

With the help of a design thinking inspired method and a few design workshops where the client team and I worked hand in hand, I was able to expand the initial project’s perspective and point out what the real objective was.

From

“an e-learning module to give new hires the basic data that we think will help them take their new position more efficiently”

to

“Redesign the new hire arrival process to make newcomers feel expected, welcomed and helped, to fasten their efficiency at their position, ensure their longevity in the company, make them feel empowered and reduce turnover, keep their initial motivation intact, eventually change how employees experience their 6 first months, stand out as a great employer.”

It is impossible to feed any newbie in any major group with all that she needs in 30 minutes. No e-learning module is able to come across this.

We had to push the concept a little further. Keeping in mind the idea of a "path" that each new hire has to go through, we chose to develop the hypothesis of a "log book", a tool aimed at supporting and informing people through their journey.

During the design and realisation of the first iteration, we quickly realised that there was a gap between what the client team thought was necessary as a first knowledge set and what any new hire could actually need and use during her first few days up to her first few months. Of course, our aim is to deliver the specific piece of info the newcomer needs when she needs it. But how can we know what she needs, when she needs it? It is only possible?

I had to manage the change in the client team’s perspective: instead of giving content to new hires, we had to accept that new hires pick what they need and might miss what the client team thinks is important for them. Accept that the temporality is different for each newcomer. Thus we needed to design a system which would subtly drive the newcomers while letting them use it as they want, according to their own pace and their own needs.

We have put ourselves in the shoes of the newcomers. Came out there were 3 big types of newcomers:

  • explorers,
  • socials,
  • builders

Explorers like to roam through content, they enjoy being given markers and points of reference, they systematically build maps of the knowledge they need, they like their independence, they appreciate being offered options.
Socials rely on their peers: they are reassured by the presence of a real interlocutor, they are not afraid to ask questions and use the phone, they want immediate feedback.
Builders like to decide what they take and what they don’t. They need to store their knowledge, they analyse and build overviews, they use notebooks and sticky notes, they need to feel they are moving forward through their ToDo list.

By taking the seat of newcomers down to the very questions they can ask themselves during their first few weeks on the job, we discovered that a single tool was not enough to answer all their needs. With my fellow designers back then, we designed a full system of options, all coherent and interconnected, but manageable as a self-service environment. With this system, newcomers would be able to pick whatever they find relevant and matching their timing and pattern:

  • A communication set, consisting in emails personally sent to every new hire by the Head of HR, with a specific timeline (3 weeks before arrival, one, two and four weeks after arrival, each email delivering a piece of information or unveiling access to one of the next tools)
  • An information platform aimed at content search and frequently asked questions, containing a primary set of data about the company, the support functions, the assets that newcomers can use, all available through search, exploration or gamified quiz.
  • A tutor system designing an experienced employee as the referring contact for any newcomer in need of help
  • A monthly virtual chatroom based on the company’s IM system, with a few key participants available to answer any newcomer’s question in real-time.
  • An online community group and forum on the company’s internal social network, animated by specific HR contributors to answer newcomers questions and ensure their sense of belonging in the community.
  • An enquiry at the end of the first month, allowing every newcomer to review their first month of presence in the company and if the integration process was efficient according to them.

Along with a proposition for a communication plan, I designed a clear workload sheet helping the client team to be aware of the work needed to sustain the initiative and to properly allocate resources within their staff.

The tool that we built is made around a full back office linked to the company's HR data through a webservice. Every week, the tool identifies newcomers and pulls them into the application. Each newcomer's progress is recorded and available through the back office interface.

Realisations

  • project and teams management
  • definition of the objective and needs
  • design workshops with the client team
  • reporting and minutes, communication between team members
  • content collection, complete rewriting of it
  • project pitch so that the client could advertise the project internally
  • user research
  • user tests: scenario creation, management of the user tests
  • ideation and design of a 2nd iteration based on the findings of the 1st
  • presentation of the new iteration to the client
  • management of the tech / front-end dev team, technical schemes, tests
  • Graphic design
  • visual identity of the project
  • wireframes and prototyping
  • team and user training

Outcome

  • My first big scale project: I had to deal with all aspects of this project, from data management to graphic design, through research, change management and my clients' expectations all along the project.
  • A big challenge was to deal with the client team's worries towards agile project management: it is not easy to deal with the feeling of "throwing away" all the work done during the first iteration. In this context, how to maintain a sufficient level of trust and clear expectations?
  • Guide the clients team towards a user centric design and keep this direction during a 6+ months project
  • Deal with time and management constraints: the delivery date of the first iteration was set before the project even started and top management expectations were strong.