Onboarding Vs. Waterboarding: Is There a Difference?

Yes, this post is likely to morph into a rant; the first clue is in the title. Is there a difference between your onboarding process and the process of waterboarding? One uses water…and the other holds the new hire down and administers enough information at a continuous pace so they get the overwhelming sensation of drowning. Which one do you put your new hires through?

Personally, I’ve been “boarded” multiple times in my career, as have many of us. Upon surviving the experience, I wonder how many of us would want to go through it again? How many of us came out of the experience and felt like we were at a state of readiness to perform in the role we were hired to do? Do we consider ourselves capable of performing our assigned job function?

Interview your freshly “boarded” graduates and ask those last two questions. I always do when completing a client readiness assessment. You might be surprised by what you hear.

Let’s look first at who we are hiring. Given the current workforce pool of candidates, I’d be willing to guess there are more Millennials than Boomers in consideration for hire. What is their potential reaction to onboarding?

Millennial: “OMG, what have I gotten myself into?”

Boomer: “Here we go again!”

The problem in those responses lies in the fact that we never really hear them articulated. And yet we keep pouring on the water/information and then get ourselves ready for the next flock of new hires. If our objective is to create workforce capability…make that sustained workforce capability…the first impression of how the organization plans to ensure “my success” determines how motivated new hires are to continue on the journey. If we truly have one chance to make a first impression we know for a fact the “boarding” process is going to leave a mark…and it has to be a positive one…not a scar.

Paradigm Shift?

Here’s a thought…could performance support and the associated technology change the face of the “boarding” process? You already know my answer…Absolutely!

The onboarding process would be more impactful if it were unique to the roles being “boarded”. Certainly, there are components common to all roles, so parse them out into learning experiences early on and utilize media the audience can digest…and ACCESS…after the fact. Role-specific learning experiences could be served up with a more task-centric flavor.  That suggests utilizing the PS technology safety net that provides ACCESS to performance support [PS] assets. In fact, the content to serve both venues could be supported with PS assets intentionally designed to build competency, confidence, and nurture early job satisfaction.

Obviously, competency is what we’re after, but we have to ask ourselves, “Where do we want competency to show up?” That would be Point-of-Work. That “Point” would be found along a continuum from Point-of-Entry [onboarding] to Point-of-Work [competency on the job]…and… at Moments of Need that are as diverse as the new hires taking the journey. That diversity implies that one-size-fits-all training ain’t gonna cut it!

Sure, company history and vision and corporate strategy will be common…but will it really? What does the company vision translate into for someone working on the loading dock? How about someone who is a manager in accounting? The messages are the same…sort of…but different when you consider the work contribution and work context that defines their respective Points-of-Work. That’s where intentional design kicks in…when discrete PS objects are built to satisfy Moments of Need unique to different roles.

“Holy curriculum redesign, Batman! That sounds like a lot of work!”

I have only one response: “Bummer!”

We should have been doing this kind of thing all along. We should’ve been equipping new hires with the ability to know:

  • What tools are available to ensure their success
  • When to use them
  • Where to find them…and
  • How to use them effectively…from day one.

And the best way to do that is to introduce the tools/technology/assets day one…before we start dumping the “water” on them as they try to figure out how to set up their 401K and nail down their benefits using Employee Self-Service. That’s a perfect example where PS technology usage and PS assets baked into the effort [a.k.a. intentionally designed] are core to a performance paradigm.

Performance Support is NOT just a post-training application; rather, it is a discipline based on intentional design queued up as a business-critical driver to ensure sustained workforce capability @ Point-of-Work.

Why not make a first impression that demonstrates that the organization is not only talking about “my success” but enabling me to go hands-on day one? Why not start with embedding the “70” of 70:20;10 on day one as we pour on the “10”?

Closing Thoughts

As rants go this was a mild one, and this snapshot of onboarding is superficial at best. BUT…we cannot take a superficial approach to creating sustained workforce capability. Being intentional about how strongly the organization has taken a stand on ensuring individual success should be visible and practiced front and center on day one. Throw in the towel…stop waterboarding…and start building workforce capability on day one using a performance paradigm to “onboard” your new hires.

Gary G. Wise
Workforce Performance Advocate, Coach, Speaker
(317) 437-2555
Web: Living In Learning