Three Traits of World-Class Onboarding Programs


Part of working with enterprise sales teams is being able to witness the range of approaches to new hire training. With so many different potential avenues to engaging reps early and driving long-term learning, it can become challenging to identify what an organization does right, and what is stunting growth.

Luckily, when you look at the top programs, you can identify three distinct characteristics that make an onboarding approach best-in-class: longevity, cadence, and practice.

CommercialTribe has the opportunity to help a wide range of organizations build world-class onboarding, and to identify the broad traits that these approaches share. Generally, we advise clients to focus on three aspects of the approach when revising or planning for onboarding: eliminating the idea of a “program,” building a cadence and adopting practice.

The Traits of Winning Approaches

world-class onboarding programsWhat makes for a winning onboarding approach? As HubSpot’s Andrew Quinn shared, it depends. Generally, the true differences made by a great program are a reduction in time to productivity and an improvement to the productivity of each new hire.

When looking at programs that reach these goals, we found that world-class onboarding programs do not use one time programs, and instead extend learning beyond a set period of time and through a rep’s tenure.

The first rule of onboarding at a world-class organization is that you do not talk about onboarding. Instead, you onboard perpetually. Best-in-class onboarding extends far beyond the first 3 months, continuing through a rep’s tenure and updating as new releases, messages, or skills are introduced. The dynamo of new information forever spins, and reps are always learning.

When a world-class organization brings on a group of new hires, they certainly still put them through a few days or weeks of accelerated learning, but the program does not stop there. Even as they graduate out and reach full ramp, reps are engaging with small, medium, and large forms of learning, with ample time to practice.

No longer does enablement have to hand off learning to sales, nor does sales have to guess at the experience or ability of new hires and their impact on goal.

World-class onboarding programs base learning on a cadence of mixed learning approaches and touchpoints.

Mixing up the learning approach, from varying the length of time reps spend learning to the actual method of viewing and practicing content, ensures that reps continually engage and remain sharp. World-class programs do not rely on a single “bootcamp” or program to stand as a frontloaded source of rep learning. Instead, they break learning into individual elements – certification, quick spotchecks on knowledge, simple watch and respond exercises – and execute these strategically across the year.

Instead of spending two weeks in bootcamp and 30 minutes in coaching each month, reps spend minutes each day, week, and month perfecting a broad range of content – all while selling.

World-Class Onboarding Programs Incorporate Practice

World-class onboarding programs are cultures of practice. Simply put, practice becomes the single-most important element in the ongoing learning of reps, and these organizations encourage and enable their reps to practice.

Practice allows reps the chance to more thoroughly engage with any type of content, learn it deeply, and use it in everyday selling. It goes far beyond a one-time bootcamp or program and extends into every selling day. Practice can be targeted, with a formal certification course taking 30 minutes over a week, or light, taking the form of a quick skills check.

The important point is that reps have access to practice content, and are encouraged by sales and enablement to actually practice through their tenure.

Building a best-in-class onboarding organization takes work, but it is not reserved for the Fortune 500 alone. Any company, with a dedicated and prescriptive approach to building their onboarding, can see reps ramp faster, sell more effectively, and return on the training investment more quickly than ever.