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The Four E’s Of Successful Onboarding

A methodology for leading new hires to success

Enablement practitioners put a great deal of time, thought, and effort into building effective onboarding programs that will ensure that our new hires will perform well, and ideally exceed, in their role. It is a lot of blood, sweat, and tears that go into this critical Enablement function.

The Seismic Enablement team is responsible for onboarding our Go-to-Market Sales, Marketing and Customer Teams. Our onboarding programs focus on making sure new hires get the gamut of knowledge they need to be succeed from technical training about the Seismic platform and tech stack, soft skills learning like effective cold calling and objection handling and even structured coaching that extends beyond onboarding into their continuous learning at Seismic.

The Enablement team has developed an approach to building effective onboarding programs that we call “The Four E’s” – Educate, Experience, Execute, Explain.  Each “E” describes a critical step in the learning process. And very importantly, each step supports the next, ensuring that learners are able to fully absorb and effectively apply the information they’ve learned.

Educate

Imagine you are educating customer success managers to on your approach to managing customer implementations. The education phase for this part of their role might consist of learning the various steps that should be performed during customer onboarding.

The goal of this first step is to Educate the learner on the topic being taught/presented to them. Learners are building a foundation of knowledge about a topic that the next steps can leverage to help the learner’s progress.

At Seismic, we use a blended onboarding approach for this knowledge transfer: playbooks that are built using Seismic’s “page functionality” and integrated e-learning modules which allow us to guide the learner through a sequence of content, videos, module, and text/image based education on a particular topic. Possible topics may include technical skills like administering the Seismic platform, soft skills like customer service best practices, or functional skills such as objection handling tactics.  The key to successfully educating our new hire is the sequence in which we prescribe each education step based on past experience.

Experience

Have you ever sat through a seminar and felt like you absorbed all the great information presented, only to discover when given an opportunity to put it into practice that you had no idea how to apply this information in a real-world setting?

We know that the adult learner often looks for an opportunity to observe their peers applying these newly acquired skills by shadowing them on a call or joining them at a meeting. This is where Experience comes into play, a sequence of experiential opportunities completed with peers or team members.

The goal of this step is to give learners real-world exposure to the knowledge we educated them on in action. We leverage both live as well as recorded calls identified by the Enablement team and hiring managers as great (or sometimes poor) examples. And further, we clearly lay out what exactly the learner should observe and ask them to capture any key learnings afterwards to ensure a focused experience.

Execute

Executing a task for the first time often brings the biggest increase in learning of the entire process. Having to put all of the education and experience into action really lays bare the opportunities you have to improve your understanding or skill set.

Now that our new team members are educated AND have experienced what they learned in a live setting, it is time for them to dive in and start performing the tasks themselves. This is what we call the Execute step.

Observation and subsequent guidance from a manager and/or mentor is a critical part of this step.  This coaching helps team members grow and mature in their role as they move forward on their journey to becoming a fully independent and productive employee.  The feedback they receive in the course of actually performing the task is another critical step in cementing what they’ve been learning. And we are all about capturing these great learns, so our new hires have valuable takeaways from their onboarding program.

Explain

An average performing employee can memorize the steps that should be taken and copy the style of a co-worker in performing the tasks. But a high performing employee understands the underlying reasons for the tasks or topics they’ve learned well enough to explain them to another person.

Once the new hire has completed the educate, experience and execute steps of onboarding, they’re ready for the final step – Explain. This last step requires them to explain what they’ve learned in the previous steps. Having to verbalize the work they have done and explain how they executed the tasks is the final step in absorbing the knowledge.

The ultimate goals with this step is to certify the new hire being ready to apply the acquired knowledge in their role as prescribed, but it also demonstrates their ability to use their own judgment and educated decision-making to effectively apply the skills they’ve obtained.


In onboarding, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Each of these steps is valuable in and of itself, but by combining them into a structured learning path, each piece becomes further solidified and helps provide a foundation for the next.