3 Ways To Use Instructional Design Best Practices In New Hire Training

Once you've identified the challenges to learning created by technology, it’s time to talk about how we can take advantage of technology and use instructional design methods in new hire training and the employee onboarding process.
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How To Use Instructional Design In Your New Hire Online Training Strategy

As we discussed in the previous article, it’s important to understand that learning methods must change due to changes in attention spans, learning styles, expectations around information gathering and new learning habits, as well as how instructional designers are using technology to create successful learning strategies in the face of change.

Moreover, corporate training comes in a variety of flavors. Systems training is essential for improving employee performance, sales training is key to boosting revenue to the next level; and in highly-regulated industries, compliance training protects a company from the existential threats posed by legal restrictions and massive fines.

3 Ways To Apply Instructional Design Best Practices

Here are three ways, based on instructional design best practices, to make sure your onboarding process is making the biggest impact for your employees:

1. Plan For New Technology And Processes

We’ve seen an unprecedented growth in technology adoption, and the corresponding business processes are changing faster than most L&D groups’ training production – and in some sad cases, new training development takes so long that systems have been deployed without preparing employees beforehand.

Over the last year, the move to a remote work environment enabled by technology only accelerated this issue. Many employees made the jump to use of VILT and other new technologies to stay connected, while HR departments juggled enablement of work and the need to onboard employees in virtual interviewing, hiring, and onboarding.

This creates an obvious problem: If employees aren’t well-equipped to use their new business technology, then employee behavior is likely noncompliant to both existing and new processes. Depending on the complexity of your training, a quick review might suffice, or a thorough audit may be required. Either way, your subject matter experts should evaluate the training’s accuracy on a regular schedule. And, to future-proof your training, make sure it’s easy to update in-house, or verify that your vendor is responsive to ongoing maintenance requests.

2. Follow Up With Employees After Training

If you have plenty of confidence in your training and in your employees, then a comprehensive mock audit might be more trouble than it’s worth. But, for a low investment in time and effort, brief quizzes on critical subject matter can indicate how well the program is working. Though quizzes can verify that the training is understood, that’s not nearly enough. Consider surveying employees to make sure their job duties are aligned with the training content. Then, you can ensure employees are spending their time to train on the regulations they need rather than wasting time learning things they don’t need to know.

3. Personalize Training For Your Multigenerational Audience

Though the demographics of the modern workforce are shifting to be predominantly Millennial, there are currently four generations in the workplace. With this age diversity comes differences in leadership styles and learning styles. So, designing training that will resonate with each generation may prove difficult. But that is essentially the goal of personalization: to match training content, method, and modality to your learners.

Research in education shows that personalized learning significantly improves educational outcomes. Consider taking audience data before generalizing about your workforce.

  • What devices do your employees use?
  • How and when do they access training content?
  • Which motivational factors are most impactful?
  • Which recreational platforms do they use most frequently?

Asking these kinds of questions can help determine user interface preferences, course length preferences and motivational factors – all of which have an impact on training engagement. Relevance goes beyond content and includes presentation of material, training methodology, and modalities.

When done right, employee onboarding is an incredibly impactful process that can improve retention, shorten time to competency, and increase performance. As employees become better equipped to excel in their new role through engaging training and internalizing your training narrative, it will show in all their interactions, and not just those directly related to their job. They internalize your narrative and pass it on through social modeling. And, while great corporate training is certainly much more than a Net Promotor Score campaign, the word-of-mouth effect is a notable bonus.

Making A Lasting Impression

So, how can you redesign an employee onboarding program to have greater impact? One way is to reframe and expand on our idea of onboarding. New hire onboarding should start earlier and continue later into the employee experience. For example, our onboarding model describes a phased approach:

  1. Preboarding – Forming Connections
  2. Onboarding – Building Confidence
  3. Continuous – Making Contributions

Instead of focusing solely on the initial training event, start building professional and social connections as soon as an employee accepts their employment offer. Provide continuous support as employees apply training to their new roles. Ultimately, speed to competency, engagement, and employee performance will improve as we provide more effective employee integration and support.

However, learning and development teams often struggle to accurately measure the effectiveness of their onboarding programs. The Kirkpatrick Model describes four levels of measurement: 1. Participants react favorably to the training; 2. Participants acquire the intended knowledge, skills, attitudes, confidence, and commitment based on their participation in the training; 3. Participants apply what they learned during training when they are back on the job; 4. Targeted outcomes occur as a result of the training event and subsequent reinforcement.

How To Measure Success

A 2019 study by The Brandon Hall Group found that only 33% of L&D teams can measure all of their learning programs at Level 1, and only 3% measure at Level 4. This presents some startling challenges, when the success of corporate training is grounded more so in enjoyment than behavioral change. How can we accurately measure ROI, and are the standard measurements truly informative?

Measurement is difficult, but it’s possible. So, what is that 3% doing differently? Measuring the impact of corporate training is much more manageable when:

  • Content management systems (i.e., Learning Portals or LMS) integrate with performance management and business intelligence platforms
  • Knowledge base and behavioral outcomes are tied to well-establish Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
  • Time and resources dedicated to follow up training with data analysis

If you can manage to design your employee onboarding with those KPIs in mind, then you can begin to address some of these challenges and measure ROI. At the very least, it will be easier to measure performance pre- and post-training.


Whatever your strategy, now more than ever it’s important to ensure a successful onboarding experience. “Employees with a solid onboarding experience are 69% more likely to stay for at least three years.” SHRM saves on time, investment, and grows your culture.


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