The Problem with Employee On-boarding: It's Too Formal

Organizations spend billions of dollars each year on formal training programs, yet research shows that people learn how to do their jobs through informal learning methods, including learning from others in peer-to-peer networks (Hunter, 2010), self-taught learning by observing others, and learning on the job (Hashim, 2008). The costs to develop and deliver formal training programs are staggering, costing up to $70,000 per sales person, causing some companies to move to other learning methods (Blair & Sisakhti, 2007).  In spite of the growing body of evidence that suggests people learn most of what they need to know about their jobs through informal learning methods, corporations, non-profits, and governments invest most of their budgets in formal learning, when it is apparent that most learning is informal (Cross, 2006). As a consequence, organizations may be investing resources where they will do the least amount of good.

If it is true, as evidence in the literature suggests, that people learn through informal learning, the study seeks to address the problem that organizations may be mis-allocating training and performance improvement resources. My study will further seek to address the question, “How can organizations leverage a social theory of learning to design, implement, and evaluate a community of practice using an enterprise social network to on-board new employees?” Moreover, the results of my study could inform performance improvement professionals how to allocate more resources to an informal intervention as an effective means of improving sales results.


Blair, D., & Sisakhti, R. (2007). Sales tranining: What makes it work? Here's a hint: Money and metrics play their part. T+D, 61(8), 28-33. 

Hashim, J. (2008). Competencies acquisition through self-directed learning among malaysian managers. Journal of Workplace Learning, 20(4), 259-259-271. doi:10.1108/13665620810871114

Hunter, C. P. (2010). Ways of learning in the pharmaceutical sales industry. Journal of Workplace Learning, 22(7), 451-451-462. doi:10.1108/13665621011071118