Employee Training, Employee Onboarding

What to Do When Employees Are Disengaged During Onboarding

by Debbie Williams

A highly engaged workforce can make all the difference in helping a company reach its goals. Teams who land in the top 20 percent of engagement have 41 percent less absenteeism and 59 percent less turnover.1 But while employee engagement is critical to a company’s success, it eludes many organizations: just 15 percent of employees consider themselves engaged with their job.2

Disengagement starts early, in many cases, as soon as a new employee is hired on. They accept the position, come in excited, and are quickly overwhelmed by work or bored by a long, tedious onboarding program. That disengagement can follow employees throughout their tenure at a company, hurting productivity and increasing turnover.

Want to increase employee engagement during onboarding? These 3 tips will help.

“Employees who have negative onboarding experiences are eight times more likely to be disengaged at work.” -- Glint3

The good news is that disengagement - at least the type that starts when employees first begin work - is easy to solve. By onboarding workers effectively, employers can promote employee engagement throughout their time at the company. A Brandon Hall study indicated that over half of companies that onboard new hires see improvements in employee engagement metrics, such as productivity and worker satisfaction.4 However, for onboarding to improve engagement and maintain the interest and participation of learners, a program must deliver an exceptional learner experience. Here’s how you can improve onboarding and re-engage new hires who have lost interest.

3 Tips for Promoting Employee Engagement During the Onboarding Process

1. Eliminate information overload

If workers are disengaged with the onboarding process, it could be because they are overwhelmed with information. If this is the case, administrators should consider removing some content from the course or lengthening the program so that learners have time to integrate the information.

If you can’t remove content or increase onboarding time, consider creating a drip program. Drip programs teach employees skills in small batches in between time spent in their full-time role. New hires may learn the baseline skills as soon as they join the company then transition to their full-time position. After a week of work, they’ll take a break for more training before returning to their position. The training intervals and drip cycle continues until employees has all the skills and information they need to succeed.

Drip programs are successful because they avoid giving employees too much information at once and provide ample time to put training into practice before learning additional skills.

Another way you can alleviate tension and information overload for workers is by taking employees outside for a group discussion to help them decompress from training. This strategy is especially helpful for those in stressful onboarding processes, such as workers in a customer service role that requires daily interactions with upset customers.

2. Find out where new hires disengaged from the course

Understanding where and why learners disengaged from an onboarding course is key to helping them re-engage with it. By using LMS reporting tools, administrators can gain insight into when learners stopped participating in or understanding aspects of the program. Administrators can also find out at what point learners became confused with or disinterested in the onboarding program by taking a look at their areas of inefficiency.

What is an LMS?
To re-engage learners with onboarding, answer any questions they may have about past or current training modules. Also, using in-person games with prizes or rewards to motivate learners will create a fun learning environment that encourages participation.

You can also consider presenting the information in a different format. If the previous course used written documents, try videos or podcasts. By varying content types, you’re more likely engage a large workforce with different learning styles.

3. Align onboarding content to employees’ positions

If your learners are disengaged, onboarding content may not be fully relevant to them. To promote employee engagement, update training content to ensure it directly relates to employees’ jobs.

The point of onboarding is to introduce employees to your company, helping new hires understand what is expected of them and how to perform their tasks. A contributor to SHRM wrote, "If you aren't communicating what new hires are supposed to be doing and arming them with the tools to do it properly, you're setting them up to fail.”5

While keeping content updated and relevant is important, it can be equally helpful to not immediately put employees into training. For example, allow new hires to sign the necessary paperwork and shadow an experienced staff member instead of starting a course on their first day. By shadowing an experienced staff member, new hires can better understand the position and how onboarding content is meaningful to their role.

Set New Hires Up for Success by Optimizing Onboarding

When employees disengage from the onboarding process, they’re more likely to join the 85 percent of people who are chronically disengaged at work. Optimize onboarding and promote engagement by lessening a new hire’s stress and information load, determining when they became disengaged with training, and keeping onboarding content relevant.

what is an lms


1. Forbes. 10 timely statistics about the connection between employee engagement and wellness. https://www.forbes.com/sites/nazbeheshti/2019/01/16/10-timely-statistics-about-the-connection-between-employee-engagement-and-wellness/#733b5a0522a0.
2. HR Morning. Re-energize your workforce: 13 easy ways to get employees engaged. https://www.hrmorning.com/articles/easy-employee-engagement/.
3. Glint. Glint study reveals new hires with poor onboarding experiences are eight times more likely to be disengaged with work. https://www.glintinc.com/press/glint-study-reveals-new-hires-poor-onboarding-experiences-eight-times-likely-disengaged-work/.
4. Training Magazine. New hire onboarding as a driver of employee engagement. https://trainingmag.com/new-hire-onboarding-driver-employee-engagement/.
5. SHRM. New employee onboarding guide. https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/new-employee-onboarding-guide.aspx.

Debbie Williams

Debbie Williams

Director, Marketing