You’ve likely heard the statistic that it takes 3-4 months for a new sales hire to be fully up and running at their new job. However, on average, most new hires are only assessed for productivity after six months. Waiting six months to start evaluating a new hire seller is too long when you need to meet annual targets.
Onboarding an employee is not just about giving them a user manual and letting them learn by failing. It’s about developing a program that ensures they feel welcomed into the organization, get off on the right foot, and start contributing as quickly as possible.
While every seller is different, there are six key steps to consistently improve the onboarding experience to get new sellers running full speed right out of the gate.
Assess the Current State of Onboarding
You’ll have a much better understanding of where to start if you start by assessing the current state of your onboarding program. A robust assessment means gathering feedback from recent onboarding graduates, new hires currently enrolled in the program, sales managers, and mentors about what’s working and not working with your existing program. It also means being a student: taking some of the courses and participating in some synchronous training yourself.
During this process, you should also identify an executive sponsor who can help prioritize updating onboarding, among other business initiatives.
Determine the Objectives of Your Onboarding Program
The next step is to determine the objectives of your onboarding program. These objectives should include business objectives for the onboarding program, such as improving new hire retention or reducing time to performance, and learning objectives, such as building specific competencies needed to succeed in the role. You should also set performance objectives, such as time to completion, knowledge retention, learner experience, and manager perception of the onboarding program.
Design Key Activities and Select Key Milestones
As you think about the onboarding process, it’s crucial to pick key new hire milestones and design learning activities. Key milestones are the steps in the sales process that new sellers need to reach during the onboarding process. For example, they could include milestones such as a first client call, first meeting, demonstration, proposal, and win. You should pick six to eight key milestones that align with your sales cycle and create a learning plan for each.
Next, you want to create activities that support learning retention, such as project-based learning (PBL), self-paced learning (SPL), and Instructor-led training (ILT). These approaches, when blended, allow for a more engaging learning environment than traditional classroom-based training. Finally, think through what skills the seller can apply in their job in their first week, first month, and first quarter. Then, build content that supports the learning objectives while aligning with the seller’s ability to apply the learning.
Develop Support for the New Hires
A new hire seller’s ability to navigate the internal organization and quickly find answers to questions is as important, if not more important than giving them the skills they need to sell your offering. You can support your new hires by doing the following:
- Stand up a formalized mentor program that aligns with the onboarding process.
- Enable a new hire communication channel that allows new hires to interact with other new hires from around your company.
- Provide sales coaches or, at a minimum, a new hire onboarding program manager that can serve as the first point of contact for typical new hire seller questions.
- Be sure to have “Where do I go for help?” resources available at the end of every module in your onboarding process so that when people have questions about how things work, they have someplace to go for answers quickly.
Deploy the New Onboarding Program to Your New Hires
After you’ve built the onboarding program, it’s time to launch and begin offering self-paced and synchronous learning to your new hires. As with any enablement program, change management is essential to the program’s success, and effective stakeholder communication is critical as you launch the new program. In cooperation with your executive sponsor, communicate program details and expectations with new hires, managers, and mentors.
Where necessary, provide awareness and training on any new apps, tools, or resources that differ from today’s onboarding program.
Measure Onboarding Effectiveness and Continuously Improve the New Hire Experience
Finally, the best way to get continued buy-in from the sales leadership is to show them the value of the onboarding program; decisions about how you measure onboarding effectiveness will play a significant role in demonstrating the program’s effectiveness. Here are some standard methods for measuring new hire experience:
- Surveys: Ask your sellers what they think of their onboarding experience. Use surveys at three points during the process: right after concluding the onboarding program, six months later, and 12 months later.
- Assessments: Use assessments to gauge learning retention by comparing current answers with that given pre-training.
- Field feedback: Ask managers and mentors for their thoughts on the new hire’s performance.
- Identify ways to measure impacts, such as time to performance or confirmation of behavior change.
Show these metrics in dashboards so everyone can see how well they’re doing—and keep improving over time.
Communication is key to success, and your onboarding program is no exception. Without effective communication, new hires can feel lost and confused about what it means to be successful at your company. In addition, while onboarding doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, it does need to be well-designed and integrated with the rest of the organization. By following these six steps, you can create a new hire experience that helps sellers hit their goals more quickly and strengthens engagement across all functions supporting new hire sellers.