What do you need to consider when onboarding remote employees? Read on to learn about 6 blended learning strategies that will support your exceptional onboarding program.
You’re investing a lot of resources in your onboarding program. You need it to be just as effective for your remote employees as it is for on-site personnel. A successful onboarding program reduces time from hire to contributing real value, reduces turnover, and improves employee satisfaction. Leverage the strengths of blended online learning to make onboarding your remote employees a powerful and valuable experience.
Strategy #1: Create a Sense of Belonging
One goal of any onboarding program should be to help a new employee feel like part of the team, so be sure to include social elements in your remote employee onboarding. Kick the program off with a live introduction for your new joiners so they can connect with at least one other person in the organization and with one another (if you onboard more than one person at a time). During this introductory session, provide an overview of the entire program so new joiners can get a big picture view of the expectations for their first days on the job, and be sure to include elements of networking. Consider a buddy system where new joiners are paired with a specific colleague who agrees to help them through the new hire transition. Structure some online events to help them get to know their teammates. Build trust with engagement exercises. Check out our blog post to learn about the social benefits of video-based learning.
Strategy #2: Highlight Company Culture
Does your virtual onboarding program include a bunch of canned training courses that the new hire has to wade through or does it really highlight your specific company culture? What is great about working for this company and how can you convey that? If donut Fridays were an important part of office life, how can you capture that same camaraderie in a virtual session? The benefit of a blended approach can include a variety of elements. If you do rely heavily on off-the-shelf training, include additional elements that feature company culture. Don’t be afraid to use informal video. Ask others in the organization to capture what they love about working here, tell a story on camera that embodies a company value, or capture a quintessential culture moment to share.
Strategy #3: Distribute Learning Over Time
Carefully consider how long onboarding should last. Traditionally limits were imposed by classroom time. How many days could new employees and the instructors be away from work? How many days of lodging can we afford for the out-of-towners? With virtual onboarding, such limitations are not an issue, and you can consider onboarding more holistically as the process from hire until an employee can work independently and add value to the organization. With that definition, the necessary learning components can be distributed over time. Onboarding may not be complete for weeks or even months. Meanwhile, new joiners can learn in layers and step-by-step with time to integrate in between so as not to get overwhelmed with new information.
Strategy #4: Customize the Program
As we discussed in our blog article 5 Onboarding Training Challenges and 5 Opportunities Today’s Remote Workforce Faces, virtual onboarding can provide a level of consistency for those elements that really need to be the same for all employees. However, there will most likely be elements of onboarding that do not apply to every candidate. Some learners may be joining with more experience or specialized skills, and some learners may be joining teams or departments that require some custom preparation. With virtual onboarding, you can have the best of both worlds—highly consistent and tracked elements that ALL new joiners take and modules relevant to only a subset. Create learning maps customized by department, role, or even the individual so that new employees get just the training they need when they need it.
Strategy #5: Make It a Program
To best manage the strategies described above, you will need to create an entire onboarding program—not just a single learning element—so that the learning can be distributed over time and customized to each learner. Onboarding should include synchronous elements (learning with a live expert/instructor at a specified time) and asynchronous elements (learning in selfpaced formats like web-based training courses or self-study work assignments). It should also include a variety of media like video, webinars, infographics, checklists, self-paced courses and activities. Not everyone learns in the same way, and with new employees, it can be challenging to know in advance how best they learn. Having a variety of media can help keep attention focused and cater to a wider variety of audiences. Repeat your key messages in several different ways to help boost transfer of knowledge.
Remember that regardless of the media selected, blended learning works best in small doses. Keep your lessons short (under 15 minutes) and restrict them to need-to-know information. With the recent increase in the use of virtual learning, many people are developing media fatigue. And beyond that, there is a limit to the amount of time we can take in new information. Read how microlearning increases employee satisfaction for a case study that explores the power of the short lesson.
Strategy #6: Measure Your Outcomes and Continuously Improve
Before you launch your virtual onboarding, be sure your team has considered what success will look like and how you will measure it. Is it time from hire to independent productivity? A level of competency in a few key skills? Retention? New hire satisfaction? Manager of the new hire satisfaction? Evaluate at the end of each remote onboarding session and again at intervals that make sense for your organization—every 30 days for the first 6 months? At 2 and 6 weeks? Solicit feedback from your audience and then make changes and updates to the program as needed. Build in content review and testing on a regular basis so your program stays up to date.
By taking advantage of the best features of virtual learning (flexibility, diverse offerings, ability to be chunked in manageable amounts), you can quickly get your newest employees up and running as contributing and satisfied members of the organization. Remember to include the managers of the new employees in communications about the updated onboarding program so they know what to expect in terms of time required for training, skill level expected at its conclusion, and the manager’s own role in the process. Their support will be key!