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Onboarding's Newest Feature? Videos That Don't Stink

Here's how to make employee orientations a lot less onerous--and possibly entertaining.
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An employee's first day on the job doesn't have to be a paper-cut inducing slog.

"Hi! Welcome to our new company. On your first day, I'd like you to read through these 43 pages of documentation, and decide which health insurance, what 401k plan, and if you want to receive part of your salary in stock. If you have any questions, I'll refer you back to the documentation. Plus, let's talk about the employee handbook. We have a lot of rules. Sign this saying you've received the handbook."

Have you been through this type of employee orientation? Did it make you want to tear your hair out? And those types of meetings don't stop once you're hired. Every year, there's some new boring technical meeting or paperwork about your employee benefits. And no one--not even the people who run the meetings--wants to be there.

Keith Kitani, CEO of employee-communications firm GuideSpark.com has come up with the solution: videos. These are not the 1970s-era instructional videos that you're used to. They're short, to the point and chock full of information. I was skeptical (and I've been the person presenting the boring information), but the videos won me over.

They also won over investors, to the tune of $15 million. Not too shabby for a company that focuses on explaining employee benefits. No matter if you use GuideSpark or some other company, here are six reasons why you ought to consider showing employees videos instead of the standard first-day routine:

1. Your employees are already watching videos.
We're on our computers all the time--and when we're not at work, what are we doing? Looking at our smart phones and watching YouTube videos. Your employees are used to receiving information via video format. So why not do it for employee-benefits information?

2. It works for employees of all stripes.
But what about businesses where most of the employees don't sit at desks in front of computers? Videos are still an option, says Kitani. Among others, GuideSpark works with Chili's restaurants, even though the bulk of that company's employees are on their feet. Another neat feature? You can track who opens it. So employees can't just chuck it in the trash like they might with standard employment brochures.

3. You get the feedback you need.
That's another perk with Web-based videos: They can tell you how many of your employees have seen them and, if you wish, which individuals still need to watch them. This isn't so you can bother and annoy your employees with needless data. Instead, it offers peace of mind. You'll know your message has been received, and that people can make informed decisions as a result.

4. Participation is an easier pill to swallow.
GuideSpark videos don't replace your legal documentation, of course, You still need that. And they have to pare down the information into three to five minute videos, which means some info won't make it through. (Kitani explains, "We could do a 20 minute video that no one would watch or a three minute video that everyone will watch. Which is better? No one ever reads the employee handbooks.")

5. It's not just for the young.
One GuideSpark client, Synopsys, was making big changes to its health-insurance plans. (Many companies have signed on precisely for explanations of how Obamacare affects their business and their employees.) They gave their employees the option of coming to a meeting or watching a video. They're average employee age is in their late 40s, yet two thirds opted for the videos.

6. You can cut your orientation time.
Another company, Ochsner Health, has a lot of employees and a lot of new hires. The new hires need training before they can hit the floor and be productive. The company says the video-orientation method shortened the time necessary for orientation and saved the company $800,000 per year in training costs. That's a smart use of funds.

One thing to remember if you go to a video version of employee orientation and benefits enrollments, you still have to pay people for watching the videos. Sure, they can use their own smart phones, but it's on the clock. But it's a lot less time on the clock than that mandatory benefits meeting you held last year.

Last updated: Mar 18, 2014

SUZANNE LUCAS | Columnist

Suzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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