Scaling and Automating New Employee Training with a Virtual Onboarding Program

Virtual Onboarding

A new employee orientation program is an essential part to creating a positive employee experience. According to a poll conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder and SilkRoad, as many as 93% of employers concur that a new hire’s decision to stay with an organization is influenced by a good onboarding experience (Ramirez, 2018). As an organization grows, it becomes increasingly harder to scale and maintain the accuracy and consistency of orientation and onboarding training, especially when training may be conducted by different people manually.

In the context of my school, we emphasize that every new teacher must be familiar with Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and Growth Mindset which is a core pillar of our pedagogy and curriculum. However, these new teachers may not be familiar with these concepts. Currently, we rely mainly on manual in-person training every time a new teacher comes onboard. Coupled with the complications of work disruptions due to the global pandemic, our onboarding programs may sometimes be affected too if lockdown orders are issued. Hence, I am keen to explore how technology can be leveraged to scale and automate onboarding training for new teachers.

Benefits of Virtual Onboarding

A virtual onboarding program is similar to an in-person onboarding program except that all training is done online either synchronously, asynchronously, or on-demand. There are many benefits of running an onboarding program virtually.

Firstly, switching from in-person training to a virtual one means that a new employee can be onboarded even remotely. Video recordings of training sessions also mean that the training videos can be consumed on-demand at any time, anywhere giving employees more flexibility and freedom (Powerschool, 2020). The training can also be replayed and completed at the employee’s own pace. There is even the possibility of sending new employees training content before they report for work to ensure a much smoother onboarding experience.

Pre-recording and having training content online also offers the benefit of information accuracy and consistency. With staff turnover being inevitable, the person conducting training will also change over time which may lead to inconsistency in the information conveyed during training. Even the same person conducting the same training at different times may contain inconsistencies from training to training. Having a systemized online training content ensures that new joiners get access to and are trained using a consistent set of content.

As an organization scales and grows especially with different offices or campuses across the world, the challenge of onboarding training becomes more apparent. Switching to a virtual and online training system not only allows for scalability in training quality across different locations but also in handling different number of users be it small or large. The savings in resources and time, both for the trainee and trainer when added up, can become quite significant, especially for large organizations.

Tools

As a new teacher joins our school, one of the first things we try to do is to get them plugged into a virtual community on Microsoft Teams as our school adopts the Microsoft suite of products.

Microsoft Teams

Makarova (2020) recommends using Microsoft Teams to introduce a new employee to the rest of the team. This is something we practice at my school and makes the new employee feel welcomed into the family quickly. It also gives the new employee access to different team members whom he/she can reach out to for help. Microsoft Teams can also be used to store and share training content for new joiners (Makarova, 2020). A section called Onboarding can be created on Teams and training content including files and videos can be stored in an organized fashion for ease of access by the new employee.

Microsoft Stream

If there is a collection of training videos, Microsoft Stream can be made use to make the content more visible. The content can be uploaded onto Teams and a tab can even be created under the Onboarding channel for easier access. The training videos can then be streamed directly in the Microsoft Teams app without the user having to leave the app (Makarova, 2020).

SharePoint Site

For an even better employee onboarding experience, schools can consider creating a Microsoft SharePoint site to house all the onboarding materials and serve as a portal for new employees. Having a SharePoint site is a great way for the new employee to get acclimatized with the company’s culture, get a sense of what’s happening within the company through internal news feeds and get plugged into different social and interest group communities at work.

Microsoft Planner

Planner is a great tool to ensure that items are not missed out during the onboarding process and there is a systematic way to track onboarding and training progress. Buckets of checklists can be created for the new employee as task lists to guide the new joiner through their first few weeks on board. The tasks can be organized and issued based on the role of the new joiner too. For instance, a teacher may receive a training list that is different from a new joiner from the Admissions office. For a new teacher’s training, the task list might look something like this:

  • Introduction to Social Emotional Learning
  • Social Emotional Learning in Practice
  • Introduction to Growth Mindset
  • Growth Mindset Language in the Classroom
  • Classroom Management 101
  • Learning Management System 101

Tips and Best Practices for Onboarding Success

To ensure a smooth and positive virtual onboarding experience, here are a few best practices:

  1. Video Introduction – In a large organization, virtual welcomes can be made more personal using a recorded welcome video of key leadership members (Powerschool, 2020)
  2. Empower Team Leaders – As we take the onboarding process online, it becomes increasingly important for us to empower team leaders on the ground to balance out the human touch to the whole onboarding experience. Team leaders should be charged with and empowered to communicate and touch base more with the new joiner, set up one on one meetings, introduce the new hire to the rest of the team and make them feel welcomed (Bajic, 2020).
  3. Set Goals – In an increasingly virtual work environment where remote work is getting more and more common, there may be instances where the new hire undergoes the onboarding from their home. This is when having a concrete set of goals and schedule clearly broken down by time period will be helpful for the new hire as a means of setting expectations (Bajic, 2020).
  4. Assign a Buddy – Set the new hire up with a peer buddy. For instance, if a new teacher just came onboard, it will be so helpful for the new hire to know that there is a peer whom they can turn to for guidance who is not their manager (Mulholland, 2018). Connecting the peer buddy with the new hire on Teams is like connecting them to a lifeline at work especially during the first week when the new hire may be overwhelmed by new information. These assigned buddies can also be trained to help ensure that the right culture is being passed on to the new hire. For example, in our school, we have a set of Growth Mindset language that we use but it takes time and practice for new joiners to remember to use them. This is when peer buddies play an important role of reminding and encourage the right language use without making the new hire feel the pressure if that reminder were to come from a direct line manager.
  5. Online Training Programs – One of the biggest challenges in developing a fully fleshed out virtual onboarding program is the time it takes to create content. For instance, to create a full set of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) training content for teachers from scratch can be quite overwhelming and unnecessary as there are already tonnes of good content available online. Here are a couple of useful training resources on SEL that can be adopted for school use:
    1. SEL & Beyond: A Dynamic Introduction to Social and Emotional Learning and Its Core Competencies: 6-Part Workshop
    2. SEL in the Classroom

References

 

2 thoughts on “Scaling and Automating New Employee Training with a Virtual Onboarding Program

  1. K. Clum says:

    Thank you for sharing these insights! I appreciate your attention to detail in regards to how a virtual on-boarding/training experience can be implemented in a specific platform (i.e. Microsoft Teams). I also appreciate the best practices you provided, especially the “buddy” model for on-boarding. It’s interesting to differentiate between someone in charge of training and knowledge dissemination vs. a peer who is there to support and guide. The video introduction is also such an easy but important way to establish social presence in a new environment.

    Reply
  2. Karen Park says:

    This is great! I’ve been thinking about this recently too because my team has always used in-person one-on-one training and while it’s highly effective, it’s super high-touch and a time suck, it doesn’t scale…

    I remember when I first started working in college, one stat the manager shared with me at the time was that the training would really only prepare me for like 10% of my job, I doubt that’s true these days, especially with the advent of quality online teaching, but it makes me think about the expectations an employer and an employee has about their onboarding process and how and if that can be incorporated or be made clearer up front.

    Thanks for sharing the best practices as well, I’ve not needed to use these recently, but I think there will be opportunities for me to incorporate these and develop them further in the future.

    Reply

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