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Inductions in e-learning: How does it all work?

As the celebrated lyrics go, June is now ‘bustin’ out all over’. For those less au fait with the genre of maritime musicals, but who still fancy a nautical jaunt, it’s worth a quick look at Sophia’s recent post on onboarding. This will set you up nicely for the theme being explored in this month’s blog post, namely that of ‘inductions’.

But what’s the difference between onboarding and induction?’ It’s a good question, and the answer may well be ‘nothing’. The terms are used by many interchangeably…so it really depends who you ask. With such a fluffy distinction then, it seems fair to take the liberty of defining in Red Mirror terms, and for the purpose of the task in hand, let’s differentiate as follows:

Onboarding: The conveying of organisational expectations, knowledge, behaviours and skills that staff may need to become acclimatised to – at any given moment in their employment – in order to contribute effectively to the organisation.

Induction: The overall process of formally introducing new members of staff to an organisation at the start of their employment, to set them up for effective contribution.

So, the key Red Mirror differences would be:


Onboarding can happen at any time as the
need for it arises – for instance if a new manager starts or a new system comes
into play. Induction, however, happens primarily when (or just before) a new
employee joins an organisation. That being said, induction isn’t necessarily
confined to the very beginning of a new role, and could last for weeks or
months – after all, the ‘newness’ of an employee is all relative in terms of how
long they stay with the organisation and the comparative lifespans of their
peers’ jobs.

of formality

Onboarding tends to be more informal in
nature, whereas induction has more formal connotations – there’s a sense that
it is official and necessary, rather than desirable. Induction also stems from
a more holistic viewpoint, in that it incorporates all aspects of joining a new
organisation, including the more concrete elements, such as paperwork, legal
requirements and so on – every part of it is essential. That’s not to undermine
the notion of onboarding, nor to imply that it doesn’t follow a systematic
approach, but more to say that induction must do.

With all that in mind, then, let’s think about
how we might approach induction through an e-learning lens. Going back to the
importance of taking a holistic approach when it comes to induction, it’s
useful to weigh up the benefits of e-learning against methods of a more traditional
variety. Why choose e-induction as opposed to ‘what we’ve always done’? If it’s
not broke and all that…or so you thought…

So, in keeping with current gastro-trends,
let’s deconstruct the pie a little…

We’ll begin by looking at the clear win
categories for e-learning induction. We’ll then think about the categories in
which traditional methods may be viewed as preferable, and finally, we’ll look
at ways of navigating those in an online sense to demonstrate why e-learning
wins hands down. 


However non-e-learning induction is carried
out, over time it will incur significant costs. Whether it’s a matter of the
good egg on the team taking time out their diary to run through the essentials,
or a case of engaging an external speaker to run a session for multiple new
starters, it never going to be cheap. And, granted, neither is decent
e-learning. However, the one-off payment for a package which can be used
repeatedly soon pays for itself.


We’ve already alluded to the time it takes
others to induct new staff, but if training is required prior to starting, this
could be the thorn in the side of organisation when it comes to getting the
ball rolling with new staff. With larger cohorts, intakes need to be staggered
to be logistically manageable, and with smaller ones, it may be necessary to
hold fire for a quieter period before the ropes can be shown. Yet with
e-learning, induction can start immediately and at the convenience of the user,
setting them up for a swift and well-informed kick-off.     


Most people can recall enduring dire
training at some point, but when it’s done right it’s memorable for all the
right reasons. With e-learning, you can guarantee consistency across the board.
Clients can be sure that all new members of staff have been provided with the
same content, which not only takes the unpredictability out of it all, but
enables conclusions to be drawn about an employee’s ability to assimilate
information, rather than the quality of training they received.


How well we retain information depends
largely on how well we engaged with the content at the time of learning. Yet
repetition is also key – without it (and even with it in some cases!), it’s
easy to let certain things slip, and specifics can easily be forgotten.
E-induction provides new staff with a point of reference moving forward, again reducing
reliance on their more experienced counterparts. It empowers them to be
autonomous and find solutions for themselves.


For induction training to be really
worthwhile, it needs to completely embody the values and mission of the
organisation. The bespoke e-learning packages we create at Red Mirror do
exactly that. We tailor the learning activities so that they are entirely
relevant, and present new employees with tasks that will set them up with a
mind set that is fitting for the organisation and the role they are to perform.
Scenario-based interactions work brilliantly to get the prospective employee to
see things from the perspective of an actual employee, and make authentic
choices about how they might respond when faced with a realistic workplace
dilemma. This can be far less daunting than having to make those calls in ‘real
life’, and is a good way to pre-empt common slips that new employees make, and
tailor supportive feedback accordingly.


A certificate of attendance proves you were
there, but does it go further than that? Does it enable employers to determine
the level of engagement or provide evidence of learning? Not only does
e-learning clearly indicate ‘who’s done what’, but it can give a good
indication regarding the level of involvement a user has with the content.
Settings can make it impossible for users to progress until the task in hand has
been completed, and initial, formative and summative assessment can be used to
demonstrate the learning that has taken place.


It’s every learning designer’s responsibility
to understand the needs of their audience and deliver content in accordance
with this. E-learning provides the perfect vehicle to cater for a diverse range
of learners and maintain their engagement. Making content available across a
range of devices is just the beginning. Other strategies include incorporating
engaging voiceovers; providing a variety of delivery formats (and an
alternative for each – for instance, providing a video with a transcript, or an
image with an audio description of it); using high-resolution images and audio
which can be zoomed in on/amplified without losing quality; providing the user
with options in relation to font/colour choices; ensuring functionality with
screen reader; adhering to the recommendations of the Plain English Campaign, using design
principles to ensure a clear layout.


We might claim that, because the e-learning
environment is fully determinable by e-learners themselves, it couldn’t be more
fitting to their personal requirements. However, the issue here is more to do
with the expectations of prospective employees about the context in which they
receive training, and the fact that certain learning content requires a
face-to-face setting.

Breaking down prejudices about the value of
e-learning compared to a more ‘old school’ approach isn’t difficult – all it
takes is for learners to be willing to have their thoughts challenged and
approach e-learning with an open mind. However, we would agree that there are
certain practical elements of an induction programme which simply must be
conducted in person. A recent example we encountered would be that of a unit on
restraining techniques. Until such time that VR can simulate a situation which
would require physical intervention – and assess a learner’s ability to handle
it accordingly – we wouldn’t recommend tackling this kind of training in a
virtual sense. But that doesn’t mean that e-learning needs to be abandoned
altogether in relation to it – in fact the ‘real time’ learning can be
bolstered by prior focus on the theoretical issues surrounding it. Blending
learning like this can actually increase it overall impact.


It’s the warm smile of the person who shows
you around; the slightly stained coffee mug you’re lent until you bring in your
own; the ‘to get it to work you need to balance the button like this’ tour of
the photocopier – all those things about induction which give you that warm,
fuzzy feeling of ‘at home’ during the bedding-in phase of a new role. The human
touch. Arguably, a computer screen is no match for this. And actually we
wouldn’t challenge that. What we would say is that the more of this that can be
achieved online, the less needy new members of staff would be. This would
increase the chances of them getting a good reception from existing employees –
who are likely to be working to capacity already and might not have the time to
show people the ropes, however willing they may be to do so.

Welcome videos, testimonials and case
studies work really well in an e-learning package to convey a sense of
community, and a pin board comprising of real staff members’ ‘top tips’ for
working at the organisation give content a personal feel.

A blended option is to set up a workplace buddy
system to welcome new staff. Rather than leaving it to chance, and a new
employee approaching the office equivalent of The Office’s Gareth,
task the right person with the job of spending time welcoming newbies into the
fold. This person should be familiar with the induction e-learning content, so
they can use the time they spend in a constructive and efficient way, embodying
all the values and behaviours promoted in the e-learning!

So, what might a typical induction package
include? Here’s a suggested checklist:

High-level organisational

  • Welcome video(s)
  • Mission, values, vision
  • History of the organisation
    (timelines, milestones, contextual factors)
  • Photos/bios of exec team and
    any other key organisational figures
  • Organisational news – how it’s
  • Future plans/ developments


  • Central services team – support
    with IT, marketing, HR
  • Guide to LMS/internal
  • Virtual tour of main
    setting/affiliated locations
  • Facilities – e.g. parking,
    smoking, designated eating/drinking areas
  • Fire procedure


  • Safeguarding
  • Equality and diversity
  • Important policies – e.g.
  • Data protection
  • Expectations
  • Key documentation/paperwork
  • Health and safety
  • QA standards and procedures
  • Recruitment processes
  • Pension scheme
  • Holidays/breaks
  • Absence/illness/sick pay
  • Grievances/complaints
  • Rights of employment – e.g.
    parental leave
  • Data protection

Next steps

  • Signposting to further training
  • Organisational commitments to
    employees in terms of training/outcomes
  • Probation period
  • Performance reviews and
  • Organisational recognition –
    how positive behaviours are acknowledged/rewarded
  • Training/ongoing professional

Learning Design elements

  • Interactions to include:
    reflective quizzes, scenario-based learning, sequencing tasks,
  • Animations to bring complex
    ideas to life
  • Case studies – to demonstrate
  • Success stories – to inspire
    progression within the organisation
  • Capturing learner feedback on

Have we missed anything?! Let us know in
the comments below…


The Red Mirror team did what they said they would, when they said they would and the finished product was EXACTLY what we had in mind (and more!)

Clare O Supply Desk

[Red Mirror] have ability to find a creative solution for every question we had. I feel so lucky to have such a business partner working on my side to be better each and every day.