How Sage Builds a Learning Culture: Start Right When the Colleague Does

April 28, 2017

Sage, a tech company based in England, works to get people learning as part of their onboarding process.

The best time for companies to emphasize the importance of learning to colleagues is when they first start, for two reasons:

  • Routines invariably change for people when they start a new job, and behavioral psychologists have found that’s the time people are most likely to adopt new habits. Hence, if a new colleague starts learning immediately, there’s a much higher chance learning will become integrated into their new routine.
  • Studies show new hires will decide quickly if they want to stay at a company long-term. And the biggest factor in that decision is if they believe they can further their career at the company, which learning plays a major role in.

So best practice is to introduce your new hires to learning on day one, right? Exactly, which is why Sage, a global technology company based in the UK with more than 13,000 colleagues worldwide, puts so much emphasis on getting their people learning right away.

“Career development is one of the main reasons people join and stay with an organization,” Sage Learning and Development Partner Damian Robinson said. “We want to expose them to development opportunities early, so they know they can develop their career at Sage.”

“And not only that, but we want to continually raise the bar of performance,” Sage Global Talent Manager Emma Ayton said. “And this helps us accomplish that.”

Specifically, Ayton and Robinson work to get their new hires learning instantly. For example, Robinson and Ayton assign Lynda.com course playlists to new hires that align to the company’s five values: Do the Right Thing, Innovate, Make a Difference, Velocity and Customers First.

The genesis of this idea

In a given year, Sage will hire people from more than 23 countries worldwide. The problem was, until 2015, there was no one way new hires were onboarded to Sage. And therefore those new hires were all being onboarded in very different ways and having very different experiences.

Robinson and Ayton looked to change all of that. So, starting about 18 months ago, they began to craft a singular onboarding experience for all new hires at Sage.

“The purpose of our global induction programme is to help ensure all new colleagues are engaged and organisationally knowledgeable,” Ayton wrote in a document describing the program. “We want to support new colleagues in being capable of making a positive contribution quickly to ensure success in achieving their personal goals and our businesses aspirations.”

Through it’s onboarding program Sage wants to clearly communicate it’s five core values to each new hire, have it’s new hires complete necessary compliance training, get hires up-to-speed quickly and have new hires begin taking advantage of the learning tools at their disposal.

So what does Sage’s new onboarding program look like today? Here are a few highlights:

  • Sage built a website just for new hires that walks them through what they can expect in their first 90 days. It starts with what to expect before a new hire starts and carries colleagues through to where they can expect to be 12 weeks in – “knowledgeable and determined.”
  • Before new hires start at Sage, they receive a package from the company. In it is a letter from Sage CEO Stephen Kelly and several gifts welcoming them to the organization.
  • The company began hosting #SageWelcome events where new colleagues from across the org have the chance to network while learning more about Sage and it’s values. To cover Sage’s many remote colleagues, the company also began hosting these events virtually via WebEx.
  • As mentioned, when a colleague starts at Sage, they gain access to Lynda.com and are recommended course playlists that correspond to Sage values. For example, here’s a course playlist built to teach the value “Customers First.”
  • From a compliance perspective, email communications were set up to encourage all new colleagues to finish all required conduct training within their first 90 days.

Today, Ayton and Robinson are happy to report their onboarding process is almost consistent in all 23 countries. But they still have work to do: right now, they are working to get better metrics on the effectiveness of their onboarding process by sending out 30-day, 60-day and 90-day surveys.

The takeaway

Sage’s onboarding process has gone through a massive transformation over the past 18 months, a transformation that continues to this day. But the investment is well worth it: stats show a third of colleagues decide if they want to stay with a company long-term within one week of the job.

What are people looking for in that first week? Research shows career development, as PwC found new hires are 30 times more likely to consider leaving a company if they don't believe they can achieve their career goals at that organization.

By giving new colleagues the opportunity to learn when they even start their job, Sage shows they prioritize developing their own people. Additionally, having course playlists built around Sage’s core values is brilliant, as it ensures new hires acquire the skills needed to advance their career within the company.

Bottom line, the most successful companies work hard to develop their own people, both to raise their performance and to build a stronger culture. And Sage, with their new onboarding process, takes another step toward achieving exactly that.

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