How to create onboarding experiences that engage when deploying your workforce

Are you responsible for the deployment of a workforce to projects or locations and need to ensure that everyone, including contractors and visitors, meet required project or location standards? If so, it’s likely that you’ve been involved in the creation of an onboarding experience.

In this article we examine the role of onboarding as part of your workforce deployment and how to fundamentally change the experience to help ensure the learning “sticks”.

The challenge

When deploying your workers and contractors, it is necessary to onboard them in terms of safety, site rules, location requirements and client requirements.

Great onboarding can:

  • Reduce risk in new environments
  • Reduce time to mobilise
  • Boost productivity
  • Improve retention in your workforce (important in a tight skills market)
  • Be highly cost effective in terms of training efficiency
  • Manage large volumes of people without proportional administrative effort.

What does effective onboarding look like?

Effective onboarding that delivers the best outcomes for the employer, employees, contractors and other stakeholders should be:

Paperless and mobile-first where possible
Self-service with a single interface for the worker/contractor
Engaging to ensure the information “sticks”
Portable, with trusted data that tracks individual progress
Automated and can integrate seamlessly with other HR/Safety/Operations systems.

Don’t be boring

As an ongoing compliance exercise, it’s likely that your workers and contractors will have to undertake multiple inductions every year as they are deployed to different sites.

This can result in a similar situation to that found on commercial flights where passengers have to watch compulsory air safety videos every time they fly. The repetition means workers and contractors think “I already know this”, and will become less attentive, less focused, and subsequently retain less information if they are disengaged.

Some airlines, however, are thinking creatively to keep people watching. Air New Zealand created this Hobbit-themed safety video that still manages to convey all the usual messages around seatbelts, oxygen masks and life jackets. In fact, there’s a whole slew of engaging #AirNZsafetyvideos on Youtube featuring everything from the All Blacks to Richard Simmons, and their cheeky bare essentials campaign.

Clearly, organisations need to do everything they can to keep focus levels and engagement as high as possible during the onboarding experience.

Tips for making inductions less boring

Engage workers and contractors when they are deployed to new projects or locations through the use of video, bite-sized learning, humour, and storytelling.

Use video to boost information retention

Videos take more effort to create than simply presenting information to workers and contractors in text format, but research has proven that they are definitely worth the extra investment.

According to, the average worker will have forgotten 65% of material they’ve learned within just seven days. After six months, the average employee forgets around 90% of the same content. However, video-based learning can improve information recall by up to 83%, with the human brain able to process imagery 60,000 times faster than text.

Make it mobile

Don’t make the mistake of creating an induction program that isn’t mobile-friendly or mobile-first. Employees and contractors shouldn’t have to find a desktop computer to watch a training video. A study on the benefits of mobile learning found:

70% of respondents report improved motivation to learn when they were able to use their mobile devices.

72% of participants reported increased engagement with mobile learning.

Smartphone users completed courses an average of 45% faster than those who completed modules on their computers.

Make it bite-sized

There’s not much we can do to lengthen short attention spans, but we can adapt our content to match. Use bite-sized learning chunks (known as microlearning) to increase engagement by 50% and information retention by 17%. Keep your induction modules between three and six minutes in length, and limit each module to one learning objective only.

Use humour and real employees

Safety is a serious matter, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use humour in your induction material. Just make sure that the humour doesn’t obscure the messages you’re trying to get across.

Why not embrace the cringe and make a song out of it? Check out this slip, trip and fall hazard video titled I can’t get no traction, or the Safety Rap.

Finally, using employees instead of paid actors can make onboarding videos feel a lot more authentic and give you an opportunity to demonstrate your workplace culture.

Make it emotional and relatable

On the other end of the spectrum from humour, it may be appropriate to use emotional storytelling to create cut-through with important safety messages.

Optimism bias happens when people know the facts but believe “it will never happen to me”. This can make it difficult to get the message across about the likelihood of serious injury or death in the workplace.

Don’t rely on statistics. Use induction videos as an opportunity to show relatable stories – somebody talking about their workplace injury, the impact on their family, or the tragic loss of a colleague.

Heathrow Airport produced a powerful example of a training video where workers recite a poem by Don Merrell (“I could have saved a life that day / I chose to look the other way”).

Use a follow-up quiz

Follow up your induction material with a quiz to help cement the learning and check the worker/contractor has been paying attention. Keep it short and simple, mix up your question types, and consider using gamification to keep users engaged at every step. Most LMS platforms offer this capability.

Finally, use the quiz as an opportunity to gather feedback on your onboarding program and use these learnings to drive continuous improvement. Again, keep the feedback short and snappy.

Use Cited to support workforce deployment

Cited empowers you to efficiently manage the compliance and onboarding of your entire workforce. Account administrators can set worker requirements for locations, roles and more. These requirements including credentials, qualifications, inductions and more are immediately applied to relevant workers. Learn more.