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User onboarding

Five biggest barriers to user onboarding

Seamless, successful user onboarding is a struggle. And not just for the trainer – or the more skilled coworker who is forced to pick up the slack when onboarding fails their new deskmate. Ineffective employee onboarding programs hurt the organization as a whole.


Most businesses recognize that a successful onboarding program can improve employee productivity and engagement. In fact, industry studies indicate it can improve new hire time-to-productivity by one third. These same studies also report that effective employee onboarding can reduce employee turnover from 44% to 14%.

The positive impact on turnover alone has cascading cost savings when you consider these statistics:

Clearly, a strong onboarding program can deliver a great deal of value. But the path to successful onboarding is not without its challenges.

Five biggest barriers to user onboarding

Here is a look at some of the biggest barriers to user onboarding – and ideas and tools for eliminating them.

1. The forgetting curve

No, the problem is not that your employees weren’t paying attention. Often companies put a lot of time and resources into an all-day training event or a front-loaded user onboarding process. But then, not long after, they find they are answering questions – or correcting mistakes – related to exactly the business process they thought they thoroughly covered.

The issue isn’t the employee or the training per se. It is a well-researched phenomenon: the forgetting curve. Our memories can have a short shelf life. And if we don’t recall or engage new information in a new context, up to 90% is forgotten in a month.

This is where blended learning models for onboarding come in. This means leveraging a multi-faceted training strategy that incorporates several tools and practices.

For example:

  • Training events can introduce the context and value of new concepts and skills.
  • Web-based courses can offer spaced learning opportunities with scaffolded skills and concept repetition.
  • Digital adoption platforms can offer guided practical application and point-of-need business process support.

A blend of these more effectively onboards users and sets them on the path to achieving proficiency.

2. Varied technical skill of users

Business process improvement

How often have you sat through a lecture-style, instructor-led training? Chances are it was a part (and potentially a large part) of your onboarding experience and program.

As discussed in the previous section, this type of training has its place. But when it comes to onboarding users to new enterprise software, it misses the mark.

Employees come to the table with a variety of previous experiences and existing skills in technology. And each employee engages new concepts and skills in different ways and at their own pace.  A one-size-fits-all onboarding process ignores these facts and leaves behind a lot of users. And in the past, even when trainers and support staff recognized this, they did not have a lot of other options.

But today’s digital adoption solutions offer a better way to onboard new hires on the technology they use in their jobs:

  • They are designed to meet users when they hit a roadblock, offering process-specific walkthroughs.
  • Their instruction is on-demand and provided in digestible steps, so users can engage them at their own pace and when they are ready to learn.
  • They also digitize and centralize training content and streamline its development. This means effective onboarding of new enterprise software users can be achieved at scale, for even complex processes.

3. Always-changing processes

Here’s something that should go without saying: organizational change is constant in enterprises. And each business process and technology you trained your employees on yesterday is going to change tomorrow. This common knowledge means onboarding programs need to be designed to adapt.

But instead, managers, trainers and support staff struggle to keep training content and references up to date. If they are able to at all.

  • Enterprises are fraught with outdated business process documentation and processes that lack standardization.
  • Without the right tools, continually revising training content can easily commandeer an entire team’s to-do list in perpetuity.
  • This leaves little room for pursuing innovation or executing value-added projects.

As more enterprises embrace an agile approach to product development and service delivery, they need a similarly agile approach to onboarding and end-user training. Because processes are always changing, any time and resources devoted to static training approaches are time and resources misspent.

Instead, these teams should rely on tools that enable agile training content development like digital adoption platforms. The same types of software that propel this constant organizational change can also be harnessed to improve user adoption and support evolving onboarding needs.

4. Overburdened managers, trainers, and support staff

Training and support staff are stressed out. And that makes sense.

Whether an enterprise has to onboard a steady stream of new employees, or to upskill its entire existing workforce in the wake of an enterprise software rollout – those in charge of getting these large groups up to speed often feel they lack the time to do the job sufficiently.

This time-crunch has several aspects and causes:

  • The absence of a formalized onboarding process
  • Inconsistent or uncoordinated onboarding program administration
  • Doubling-back on onboarding material that is not standardized or up-to-date
  • No investment in technology solutions that can support and centralize the onboarding process
  • The fact that managers, trainers, and support staff have other responsibilities besides onboarding

So what can help ease the burden of onboarding?

Learning management systems (LMS) and web-based courses are common technological approaches to formalizing and centralizing user onboarding. However, developing training content for these tools is still time-consuming. It can take up to 40 hours to create 1 hour of training.

Other solutions like the digital adoption platform OnScreen work to minimize training content development time. Their step-by-step process guides for SAP onboarding take only minutes to create. And in some cases, these on-demand, in-application user walkthroughs can replace in-person training. The right mix of tools can lighten the load of training and support staff.

5. Buried references and resources

Here is a familiar scenario: your new hire is trained and working independently. They are competent in their day to day tasks and well on their way to the same level of productivity as the rest of the team they recently joined.

Inevitably, employees will come across a business process or task for which they did receive helpful onboarding – but that was months ago. Remember the forgetting curve? Often, companies do anticipate this need and create reference materials, but even this safeguard has its shortcomings.

In many cases, the applicable resource is couched in a dense library of other resources. But is it on the company intranet? An ad-hoc catalog created by the employee’s department? It may be on the LMS – but do the naming conventions used for the relevant references match the employee’s conception of their roadblock? Statistics show that employees spend 1.8 hours a day in this pursuit of the information needed to do their jobs.

And once they’ve located the relevant resource, depending on the platform it is on, users must strive for productivity while context switching. This means toggling back and forth between the reference document and the environment in which they are completing the task.

All of the above is as laborious and inefficient as it sounds. Which is why many in this situation fall back on a common shortcut: interrupting a coworker to enlist their help, compounding the loss of employee productivity

How a digital adoption platform can improve the employee onboarding process

A digital adoption platform (DAP) offers an alternative solution for this issue. DAPs like OnScreen provide the reference at the point of need and in the application. With DAP, the guides that have been created by trainers or super users are easily accessible and quickly address the employee’s needs.

And the coworker who would have had to help in this scenario? They can go about their business, uninterrupted.

OnScreen is the agile digital adoption platform for SAP and web-based enterprise applications that boosts process efficiency and employee productivity by empowering any user to become a subject matter expert. Schedule a demo to see how OnScreen can help optimize your enterprise software onboarding process.

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