Onboarding Systems In The Age Of COVID
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Rethinking Onboarding Systems In The Age Of COVID

Onboarding new employees before COVID was a challenge, but now in the age of COVID, it has become even more challenging. The global pandemic forced today’s workforce to become a mostly remote population, quickly creating a new normal. For those just starting at new jobs during this time, the remote environment can seem isolating and challenging. New employees face uncertainty about their expectations and day-to-day operations. Without many of the usual trappings of office life, new employees will find it difficult to adopt the culture of the new company. This new normal has shown how important it is to have a strong company-wide online onboarding system. In findings published by Glassdoor in 2015, “Organizations with a strong onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%.”

The onboarding process can look drastically different from company to company, from piece-meal trainings, in-person introductions, and quick orientations to utilizing a Learning Management System (LMS) to provide self-paced onboarding training modules. The onboarding process may even look different internally from team to team within the same organization. Due to how quickly business practices are changing, traditional onboarding processes are falling short to meet the needs of new employees in the remote workforce.

With remote work becoming more complex and the introduction of many different cloud-based project management and database platforms, it is rare that any new employee will enter into a position with exactly all of the skillsets they will need to perform at their new position. In 2018, Gartner reported, “Yet 70% of employees have not mastered the skills they need for their jobs today, and 80% of employees do not have the skills needed for their current and future roles.”  To be successful in the face of these new challenges, we need to use new tools and new strategies.

The 4 components needed to design a comprehensive online onboarding system are:

  1.  Knowledge Hub
  2.  Learning Management Strategy
  3. Mentorship/Community of Practice
  4. Consistent Routine Maintenance

1. Knowledge Hub

As we reshape our understanding of interactions with colleagues to include mostly virtual gatherings, organizational knowledge sharing should not be dependent on person-to-person interaction. When designing an online onboarding system, the first component you need to develop is a knowledge hub.

The purpose of a knowledge hub is to be a repository of the practices and procedures of an organization and/or a specific team. All organizational knowledge goes into the knowledge hub and is curated and indexed and made accessible to everyone once there. A knowledge hub must be accessible to employees, easy to search, easy to update and utilize links to other resources. This knowledge hub can be created on a cloud-based platform.

Currently, Sharepoint, a cloud-based tool that is included in most Microsoft 360 packages, can be used to create a wiki and link to operational topics on different pages of the site, external sites, or through your organization’s shared drive or document library.

2. Learning Management Strategy

The learning management strategy is a blend of synchronous and asynchronous trainings that will create flexible opportunities for new employees to learn job-critical skills. The knowledge hub will be used to develop content for the trainings. The learning management strategy should continue after the onboarding process is complete to encourage employees to continue learning skills that will support promotion and retention within the organization.

The purpose of these trainings is to cultivate a learning environment that is always accessible for employees to return to should they need a refresher in any job-critical skills.

All trainings must be easily updated to reflect changes in organizational processes or practices. Articulate Rise is an authoring tool that is part of the Articulate 360 software package that can be used for this quick course creation and deployment. Rise enables fast online course development and can be added to any Learning Management System (LMS) or website.

The eLearning system should be partially or completely automated with the aid of an LMS like Absorb or Moodle. This way you can see the progress of your new employees as they go through the onboarding trainings. You can also set triggers that will send online asynchronous courses directly to your new employees, or schedule synchronous trainings for your new employees throughout the onboarding process.

3. Mentorship/Community Of Practice

Onboarding is not complete without a guide. A mentor and/or a working group cohort can be a very important resource for the new employee to learn the organizational practices and processes but also company culture. A monthly Community of Practice (CoP) cohort for new employees can encourage connection and resource sharing. Creating a mentorship system in an organization can be highly impactful, giving many current employees opportunities to share their practices as well as tips on navigating nuanced communication from team to team.  A guide or cohort will also build connections across workgroups and cultivate a collaborative culture among employees. It is important to let the mentorship or cohort program supplement the onboarding system.

4. Maintenance

Creating a robust onboarding system is not a once and done kind of thing. It is a living system just like a learning environment. Maintenance will need to be scheduled on a regular basis to keep up with organizational changes and content updates. Although this is the last component listed in this article, it is by far the most important for the longevity and success of the onboarding system. The onboarding system cannot become a dumping ground of resources and trainings. It must be curated and active to remain engaging and true to its purpose.

Designing an onboarding system can feel like a herculean task at times. Every new employee comes to an organization with a varied amount of skills, knowledge, and life experience. Designing an onboarding system to accommodate every learner is difficult but especially with the myriad of eLearning methods and techniques available, it is completely achievable.

Now more than ever, we need employees to feel prepared for the work they must take on in their new positions in a remote work environment. If an employee feels supported and connected, learning the skills they need much more easily. In a recent LinkedIn article, high performing companies have large numbers on employees updating their skills bi-annually. Today’s most successful companies are filled with employees who are those “who learn fast, learn well, and learn all the time.” If new employees feel competent and comfortable in the job-critical skills needed to perform their position, then the organization will be enriched by their success and new ideas.

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