You know the story: after a company hires a new employee, their HR team spends considerable time helping them to “learn the ropes” of their new workplace. This can include key elements like the company’s background, its vision and values, and day-to-day operations, along with equally important (and often debatable) information like the best cafes and lunch spots.
While onboarding is a key responsibility for HR teams in established companies, it can become a little trickier for startups and small businesses to manage without these dedicated teams. As a result, they’re forced to take one of two approaches:
The Sink-or-Swim - where new team members are handed an employee handbook and thrown in the deep end to figure things out largely by themselves; or
The Time-Intensive - where someone in the team needs to spend a significant amount of time conducting the onboarding and less time doing their actual job.
But thanks to exciting developments in the online onboarding space, you can now create scalable, sustainable team onboarding courses that new hires—and your team—will love.
In this blog post, we’re sharing a couple of our own best practices (and a handy worksheet with a template!) for building an online onboarding course.
‘Onboarding’ is a management term for the process of introducing a new employee into an organisation while equipping them with the knowledge, skills, and behaviours they need to achieve productivity. It is sometimes referred to as ‘organisational socialisation’ or ‘induction’, with a focus on social belonging and acceptance in the workplace. Online onboarding is onboarding conducted through an online medium, such as email, social media or courseware.
Share the onboarding relationship across your team. With online onboarding, it’s easier for everyone to play a facilitating role, instead of one person being the sole guide. This gives your new hire the opportunity to learn from existing team members and builds team rapport in the process.
For example, at OpenLearning, we have a number of short internal courses on our platform for new team members to be onboarded into our company. But not only are these courses populated by our new hires; our entire global team have either taken the courses already themselves or are ready to interact with others in the course at any time. Everybody’s activity posts are viewable within the course galleries, which means not only are our new hires learning from the content, ideas and activities we’ve created, but they’re learning equally from existing team members’ posts and experiences.
As a result, our new team members become OpenLearning family almost immediately, they become champions of our team culture, and they’re pretty pumped to be part of our global team!
Knowing where you want to go makes it easier to plan how to get there. Every online course that we build begins its life as a set of learning outcomes (LOs). You can read more about how we create specific, measurable LOs here.
Then, we create a course plan to be sure that we’re hitting each outcome. Here's what it looks like:
Below are 10 elements that we think are essential for an online onboarding course that gets new hires to be engaged, collaborating and excited to come to work every day. Download our onboarding course planning template to help you get started.
Remember your first day at a new job? The beginning of your course is similar because it will leave a lasting impression on your new hire—so, make sure it's a good one! It's a great opportunity for you to set the tone, make team members feel welcome and familiarise them with the onboarding course process.
Onboard the person who is coming on board... to the onboarding online course. This may be their first time on the platform, so show them exactly how to navigate through it with information on:
Give new hires an idea of what will happen during the onboarding process. Most onboarding processes involve lengthy (but absolutely necessary) checklists and check-ins—making these available gives new hires a sense of agency in their own onboarding.
For young professionals today, it’s not enough to get a list of five company values, and then to never hear about them again. Your company’s values and social purpose need to show up in everything your team does, from restocking the pantry, to executing important projects.
Design your onboarding course in a way that not only embodies your company’s culture and values, but enables your existing team members to interact and learn with new employees. This creates a rich, social learning space for your entire team to discuss and learn about your company’s key pillars.
Your new hire may have a general idea about your organisation, but now’s your chance to own and shape your company’s ‘origin story’ for them. Telling the story of how your company began helps them to put your vision and values into perspective.
Provide general policies that all new hires need to know (such as the employee code of conduct, benefits, claims, leave application, insurance, IT) and who to reach out to for help.
List the software and other required tools, along with guidance on how to install them or log in. You could even include a quick activity to find out if anyone on your team is highly skilled or familiar with other tools.
Let the employee zero in on their own role in the team. Expectations, guidelines (such as branding), and established team processes should be clearly communicated to avoid misunderstandings.
Give your new employees a boost by providing examples of common problems and how to solve them. Sometimes the answer to a problem won’t be crystal clear right away, so it’s helpful to model some of the thinking around solving them.
Tracking your employees’ reactions to your course will provide you with useful data for future courses. Get feedback and encourage new hires to reflect on their experience. Surveys are useful, but the results are rarely visible to the rest of the team. Make your team’s feedback work for you—ask them to publish a reflection.
Determine the desired results for your online onboarding course and plan backwards.
For example, let's explore the results of the OpenLearning team's own online onboarding courses. Along with learning about how to work with us, these courses also give new team members:
And as a result, they become champions of our team culture, and they’re excited to be part of our global team.
Return-on-investment (ROI) such as the examples above also includes:
You can achieve the same outcomes for your team, too. Use our 10 Essential Elements for Onboarding New Employees worksheet as a framework for creating a social online course that hits the onboarding goals that are important to you.