I have written about the importance of analysis. I have reinforced that information in a couple of other posts. Some of you are still not convinced.


So! Let’s try a story. (20x more likely to remember!)

Once upon a time, there was a fancy prince who wanted to implement an onboarding program for the staff in his castle. He enlisted the help of some learning and development elves he found in the internet forest.

After conducting an initial intake (yes, they do an intake before they start making cookies and repairing shoes), the elves gathered together and recommended the prince perform a needs analysis to identify gaps, define scope, etc.

“I have already done an analysis,” he said. “I know what they need to do, and I want to start at development.”

The woods turned dark; thunder clapped from the heavens; the evil queen laughed (there HAS to be an evil queen), but the elves said “ok” and went to work.

Fast-forward three months: the project is delayed because the prince could not free up the castle SMEs needed to confer with the elves. This resulted in many missed discovery meeting and review deadlines. And when the prince was finally able to commit staff to review, it turned out the prince did not know much about the jobs of the castle staff. He knew the results, but alas, not the tasks themselves.

Ultimately, the prince had to ask the elves to re-do SIX eLearnings with a change order that was almost double what the analysis would have cost to do at the start.

No one is living happily ever after, except maybe the evil queen.

Onboarding is a program. It is not one training event. It is also usually not one development event either—I have seen onboarding programs built in one full development phase and I have seen onboarding programs divided into several development phases (costs are one factor, but project fatigue is also a factor). Due to the sheer size of a long-term initiative like onboarding, getting everything in place before development begins is imperative to success.

Analysis results in a plan. As we have mentioned before, you get the blueprint of the house—not the house. Remember, not even paint colors are being picked yet!

If you are thinking about creating an onboarding program, whether on your own or working with a really cool and fun troupe of elves, start by asking questions:


  • How many audiences are there?
  • What do they ALL need to know?
  • What do they EACH need to know?
  • Where are these people located?
  • Are there performance metrics? (Are they based on the job description? Is the job description current?)
  • Are there SMEs for EACH of the audiences?
  • Do these positions have existing career tracks or progressions for upskilling to advanced levels (like I, II, III)?


  • What is the expected ramp-up time for each audience?
  • What kind of training modalities have worked well in the past?
  • Can you support a long-term onboarding program?
    • Can you support individualized training paths?
  • Do you want a peer-learning, mentor, onboarding buddy program included?
    • Can you support it?
  • What technology is already in place?
  • Is there new tech you are interested in?
  • Do you want this program to encompass the “orientation” information in conjunction with human resources needs like benefits, compliance, culture, etc.?

Skills (for each audience)

  • What systems do new hires need to know how to use?
    • What is the expected ramp-up time for each system for a new hire?
    • Are there sandboxes in those systems?
  • What skills do new hires need to perform in the first 30 days? 60 days? 90 days? 6 months? 9 months? First year?
    • How difficult are these things to learn?
    • How often will they perform these tasks?
    • (Both of these go to how much reinforcement may be needed)
  • What exercises would be the most valuable for new hires?
  • What are the most common points of failure for newbies?
  • What are the expected outcomes for those who are being onboarded at 30 days, etc.?
  • If the HR stuff is included in the scope, what is common to ALL audiences? What is exclusive for each?
  • Are there safety and compliance training requirements?
    • Are there requirements about the timing of this information?
  • If you opt for mentors or buddies, what type of training do they need?
    • What do managers and leaders already have?
    • Is there an incentive program for participating?
    • What performance metrics are there for people who are also acting as mentors?


  • Is there an LMS?
    • Which one?
    • How is it currently used?
  • How important is mobile learning capability?
  • What type of tech is available in instructor-led classrooms?
  • What virtual platform is currently used for virtual training?
  • Do learners in each of these audiences have the tools they need to access eLearning, electronic workbooks, etc.?
    • Some people don’t work on computers all day, every day!
  • Is there an interest in job-shadowing or reverse-shadowing?
    • Are there any safety restrictions you need to plan for?


  • Will new hires be assigned work tasks while onboarding?
  • How long is a typical training day for ILT/VILT?
  • Referring to the skills items above: When in their career track do they actually NEED the information?
    • If they are not going to work in a particular system for the first three months, do not send them to train until they need to or you will have to do it over!

Now, I don’t want to leave you with the impression that analysis meetings are just elves peppering people with questions under a blinding light like a police interrogation. There are questions, but the conversations and descriptions provided by SMEs really drive the direction. In the end, we elves are making sure we get these answers. If the conversation does not naturally go there—we ask.

Tara’s Tips for Onboarding Analysis

  1. If there is more than one audience, hold separate meetings for each group–even if it is just one SME for each.
  2. Ask for newer employees to attend the SME meetings for their audience. No offense to managers and stakeholders but if you have not been “new” for a while, you have forgotten what you wished you knew when you started!
  3. Be prepared for every meeting. Ask for job descriptions and performance metrics for the intended audiences ASAP and review them before the first meeting with SMEs.
  4. Facilitate the conversations. Create a safe space to speak up. Ask those who are being quiet (because maybe they are newer!) their thoughts on the discussion.
  5. Be prepared with questions (wink, wink) to keep conversations moving.
  6. If you don’t need a meeting–don’t have one. SMEs are typically being pulled off their regular jobs to assist, so be mindful!
  7. If SMEs disagree on something, escalate it to the stakeholders. Let them break the tie if you can’t get consensus.
  8. Keep grounding your SMEs in the high-level analysis. They are going to try to tell you EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING. That is not what we elves need right now. We will dive even deeper as development starts–get specifics on processes, etc.
  9. Ask for things. If someone has a note on their desk they use “all the time” to work through something, ask if you can have a copy. You may not need it now, but this stuff is development GOLD.
  10. If it ain’t broke, don’t mess with it. If there is an existing training asset that can be used as part of the new onboarding program–USE IT. Weave it into the overall plan. It saves money and time in the long run!

The Blueprint

My analysis projects always result in a list of proposed deliverables for each audience that provides the proposed courses, supporting materials for those courses, proposed seat time of each training deliverable, high-level learning objectives for each deliverable, and pricing.

Customers also get a program guide that describes the onboarding experience, lays out proposed or suggested learning paths/journey maps for each audience, and timing suggestions. All this ties to the spreadsheet of deliverables.

And those two things make up the plan for your onboarding house.