Blog Article

Don't have an onboarding process? Try peer-to-peer learning

Did you know that employees who feel welcomed warmly at the time they joined an organization are later on twice as likely to feel a sense of belonging?

September 21, 2022
November 11, 2022
 | 
Author: 
Kadriye

You don't have an onboarding process? Let your new hires learn from their peers.

Did you know that employees who feel they have been welcomed warmly at the time they joined an organization are later on twice as likely to feel a sense of belonging

We have already discussed the crucial difference that a sense of belonging can make within a team. 

As for new hires – a warm welcome can help assure them they have made the right choice by joining the company. Furthermore, the welcoming effort predicts a number of “positive outcomes for new employees, including greater: role clarity, self-efficacy, job performance, retention, perceived fit, and job satisfaction,” according to Belonging At Work, an in-depth report on positive management practices. With all these reasons to do it right, why ignore the welcome, right?  

Well, the reality is many companies do. A new member of staff may join at a particularly busy time of year, the company could be expanding quickly, or there could be ambiguity over who oversees the onboarding process. Regardless of the reason, there are plenty of instances when those critical first few days and weeks are ignored.

While peer learning in itself is not a replacement for a well-structured onboarding process, it is a great tool for integrating new hires. Pairing a new employee with experienced colleagues helps transfer knowledge and skills quickly and effectively. More importantly, it is a great way to socialize the new person – within their department and across the whole company – and to introduce them to the subtleties of a company’s organizational culture. Read on to find out how to integrate peer learning within the onboarding process and how to achieve great results not just for the new employees but also for the people helping them. 

What are the key steps in the onboarding process?

The decision to hire someone means the employer is convinced that the person has all or most of the technical skills and knowledge necessary for the respective position. What a new hire misses, though, is the company-relevant context – the specific information, relationships, and tools necessary for them to do the job right. When executed successfully, the onboarding process helps to transform a promising candidate into a well-adjusted member of the team who contributes fully to the company’s success. 

HR experts agree that onboarding should start the moment a formal job offer is accepted. Below are some key steps in the onboarding process:

  • Virtual welcome: Besides sending a congratulatory email, HR managers could also provide the new hire with a welcome pack containing items like relevant forms and documents, an employee handbook, a company structure chart, information about training services, and, possibly, a survey form. 
  • Preparation: The time between the issuance of the offer letter and the actual joining date should ideally be used to set up the new employee’s workstation, taking care of all technology needs such as email and software accounts, equipment, authorizations, and so on. Another thing to do in advance is to decide who will be the person welcoming the new hire during their first day on the job and who will be their onboarding buddy.
  • Introductions and orientation: The day that the new hire joins the company they are typically introduced to the people in their department and other colleagues they will be interacting with frequently. Orientation includes reviewing company policies and physically showing the premises. As this article suggests, many companies end the onboarding process with orientation, missing on important steps that could make a real difference in the way the new employee perceives how they have been welcomed and also in terms of their productivity and loyalty later on.
  • Pairing the new hire with a colleague: Peer learning is a quick and easy way to provide new employees with the company-specific knowledge they need in order to succeed. Some companies even engage existing employees for some or even all of the initial specific job training that they provide for new team members. 
  • Regular checking-ins: Asking new employees how they are settling in can help make them feel appreciated, in addition to helping identify and iron out any issues early on. A quick email, a chat, or even a spot survey can all provide information on how included and supported the new team member feels.

What is peer learning? 

As the name suggests, peer learning engages an employee’s peers in the process of helping them acquire new skills and knowledge. The exchange of expertise and information goes both ways and, usually, both parties benefit. 

The above is also true in situations when an experienced employee is paired with a new hire. Much like a mentor, the seasoned employee will be there to answer questions and provide support. Through the interaction, the new person can find their ground within the new environment with less stress and within a shortened time frame. The other party in the relationship gains a valuable opportunity to practice their communication and leadership skills, while they may also be able to learn some new job-relevant skills from their colleague, too. More on the power of peer learning is available in this post.    

How peers can support new hires during their onboarding

With peer learning, like anything, the devil is in the detail. A number of things must be taken into consideration in order to reap all the benefits that this approach could bring. 

One of the most important factors is how to match people for success. While all new hires need an onboarding buddy, not all employees may have the capacity to help others just yet. Therefore, the chosen employee should have all the necessary technical skills and knowledge for the role and should know very well what it takes to do a great job. Perhaps even more importantly, they need to be enthusiastic about the company – since they will be acting as a company ambassador – and have a great performance track record. 

The peer buddy helps welcome the new hire on their first day. They are also expected to make some of the team introductions and to be there as and when their new colleague has questions. As mentioned already, there are companies that assign some or all of the initial specific on-the-job training to designated peer buddies. 

The onboarding process is a stressful time for new hires. They are in an unfamiliar environment among people they do not know yet. For some, this could even bring up insecurity or anxiety. An open and friendly attitude on the part of the peer buddy will help the new colleague relax and feel supported, making their transition smoother.

Tips for new hires learning from peers during onboarding

HR managers should encourage new hires to make good use of peer learning, asking their peer buddy as many questions as needed. Sure, they should also respect their colleague’s time but the main point here is to encourage them to open up about the things they do not know. Many people may be hesitant to show vulnerability since they may feel obliged to only show their best self to their new colleagues and to management. Such an attitude, however, will only slow down their progress. The first few days and weeks on a job are the perfect time to ask as many questions as necessary.

In addition, the focus of the peer learning relationship may be the needs of the new employee but this does not mean that their buddy learns nothing at all. New employees should also be open and generous, sharing their experience and knowledge where relevant. Ensuring reciprocity in the interaction is one way to turn it into a productive and satisfactory professional relationship long after the onboarding process has been successfully completed.

To sum up, a well-structured onboarding process has tangible benefits for employee morale, loyalty and productivity. A successful onboarding program includes peer learning as a simple, yet powerful tool to transition and socialize new employees, while honing up the skills of their colleagues, too.

To see how you can successfully integrate peer learning within your onboarding process, schedule a free expert consultation here. 

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