Why Hands-On Learning is Critical to Your Onboarding Formula

You probably participated in some type of science experiment in middle or high school. Under the watchful eye of your teacher, you donned a pair of goofy goggles and an apron. Then using test tubes, beakers, and a Bunsen burner, you and your lab partner got to play mad scientists—hopefully without setting your eyebrows on fire.

Surely you could have learned the principles of chemistry from a lecture or textbook, but rolling up your sleeves and engaging in the work yourself is a more fun and memorable way to learn.

Hands-on learning takes your experience from passive to active, stimulates multiple senses, and nurtures curiosity and questions.

The same is true with onboarding. (Sidenote: if you haven’t read our post on “Employee Onboarding: How to Fuel Your New Hire’s Success” start there.) You can stick with the tried and true, and generally uninspiring, PowerPoint presentation or you could simply hand your new hire a manual to read. (Truth be told, this traditional approach might still fly with Baby Boomers, but you’ll lose GenXers and Millennials.) Sure, your new employees might gloss over all of the material but since today’s generation scans a text more than they read it, the most important information will get lost.

There will always be documentation to complete, expectations to be set, and reading that is required to be finished as a part of the onboarding process. However, that doesn’t have to be the exclusive formula for new hire onboarding.

A considerable portion of your onboarding program should be engaging, experiential, and most importantly hands-on, especially for millennials.

Want to create an electric onboarding experience for your new hires? Here are some innovative tactics to experiment with:

  1. Be our guest. Allow your new hire to go through the entire guest experience at your restaurant, hotel, or spa as a first-time customer. For restaurants, this includes everything from making a reservation, checking in at the host stand, ordering a meal, and dining with you. This enables your new hire to learn what you’re doing well and where your service gaps are—from the perspective of a customer. Make sure to solicit their honest feedback about their experience. Their fresh eyes are an asset. (Ideally try to pull this off with them acting as a mystery guest so your team is unaware this is a new hire, which will provide a more accurate reflection of your typical guest experience.)
  2. In the shadows. Allow your new hire to accompany one of your best employees during client interactions so they can see your process first hand and better anticipate client questions. In a restaurant, it may be helpful to have your new server shadow one of your veterans for a few shifts.
  3. Stay the course. A study by the Aberdeen Group revealed that 86% of new hires decide to stay or leave a company within the first six months. If your onboarding process is limited to a half-day “new hire orientation” and you don’t have post-onboarding period new hire check-ins, there is a good chance you’ll be refilling that position again in the not-so-distant future. Check-ins scheduled at predetermined intervals (e.g. 1 month, 90 days, six months, and one year) are ideal. Also consider a mentor or buddy program where a more seasoned person at your business has coffee meetings with your new hires periodically to help their professional development and nurture their engagement. This puts relationships, not an information dump, at the heart of your new employee’s experience.

In Your Corner

At Patrick Payroll we love helping our clients discover the best ways to neutralize their payroll and back-office stress and streamline their processes. We’re sort of like payroll and HCM chemists—without the messy laboratory. If your back-office is blowing up, we’d love to talk to you about how we can help. Let’s set up a time to talk.