Onboarding is a relatively new (and highly illusive) term used primarily by companies in reference to the process of orientation and training of new employees. The concept is that by introducing a new hire to information early in the employment process (sometimes even before they show up on their first day of work) you can get a new hire up to speed quicker - thus making them profitable at an earlier point.
The concept of onboarding also formalizes what tends to a be a rather informal training process for many employees. If your association doesn't have the term on your radar screen, you may want to think more about it. The concept can impact just about every segment or industry and can have bottom line results.
I just got back from ASTD's TechKnowledge conference where Onboarding was a topic of interest. Randstad (the staffing company) is doing some great things with Onboarding. They shared their case study at the conference. Randstad did an impact study of their new program and estimated that in the first six months of 2005, the new Onboarding program helped to generate an additional $4 million+ in sales revenue (a 338% return rate).
The program includes online courses, coaching sessions with the new hire's supervisor, tests, and other trackable activities all delivered through a Learning Management System (LMS). The Onboarding process is not a training department function, but a managerial function supported by the training department.
I am impressed by the the 16 week Onboarding program at Randstad and am spending time researching other Onboarding processes to see if we can identify some best practices. The concept is a new one with significant bottom-line impact for organizations. In the association world it is important to keep in mind that these types of training issues impact your association - regardless of whether you are a trade or professional organization.
I guarantee you'll hear more about Onboarding in the future!