Andrea Merson shares key insights with Alan Hosking on how to onboard and develop people in a world influenced by Covid.
Could you tell us about COVID-19’s Impact on Onboarding and Development?
It feels as though every facet of working life has been hit by the pandemic. With workforces flushed out of offices and boxed into home working spaces, standard HR practices have been put to the ultimate crisis test.
This has thrown up a load of fresh questions for HR Managers, ranging from how to onboard new staff without a physical office space to the best ways to get remote teams up to speed with ever-changing working practices. What’s more, concerns are arising from a shortage of support and motivation: it can be more challenging to maintain morale when the entire team is scattered in different directions. With remote workforces, the lack of static reference points can make it more difficult for HR teams to successfully integrate new hires.
This scenario has forced Human Resources staff to re-think their internal strategies and develop innovative new processes. One of the most powerful we’ve seen at Thinkific is the growing development of online resource libraries.
What’s an online resource library?
An online resource library is essentially a set of education and training materials that can be made easily accessible to anyone, no matter their location.
These resource libraries can support customer training, employee onboarding and product training, making key information easily accessible at any time.
How important are online resource libraries in onboarding, recruiting and other HR-related activities?
A report from the Harvard Business Review found a 23% turnover rate among new hires before their first anniversary due to a poor onboarding experience. With the current state of virtual work environments and abundance of remote teams now in place, being able to provide resources to new team members joining remotely and also keeping staff engaged and informed through an online employee education program is more important than ever before.
As an example of resource libraries being used effectively, Procurify, a cloud-based procurement software solution, moved its training online to create both an employee and customer resource to help expand operations. Its online courses offer product training to help close the knowledge gap between employees and customers understanding how to use their product. Instead of 1:1 in-person training for each new employee, they shifted online –– and saved 15+ hours a week on training.
Among other clients at Thinkific, we’ve seen an explosion in the creation and use of virtual resource libraries for multiple use cases. Nursing staff service, Intelycare, set up a virtual training course in the wake of Coronavirus. By doing so, it ramped up its medical training program and saw 10,000 professional certifications completed after the first week. A well-tailored virtual training program can undoubtedly help to mitigate the pressures brought on by sudden changes to working environments.
What are some of the items HR departments should include in online libraries?
We’ve seen HR departments get increasingly creative with their online libraries, ensuring they have valuable resources for those from every corner of the business.
Resources and training that HR teams could include within a library:
- Employee onboarding materials;
- Product training for different products, including features and functionality of how things operate together;
- People Leader training;
- Employee Handbooks, Best Practices, Policies or Guidelines;
- Health and Safety training;
- Anti-harassment training; and
- Diversity and inclusion training.
Several key elements of our own employee onboarding and training are done through online courses at Thinkific. These include:
- sales training (including role playing scenarios);
- data and analytics training;
- customer support training (from tools to ways we create great customer experiences);
- technical support training (learning in depth about how to troubleshoot bugs, understand our API and dive further into the back end of our platform);
- new feature training (update and share about new features); and
- emergency response training (how to deal with site outages, errors and other emergencies).
What are the key steps to building an online resource library?
Define the ‘why’.
Before jumping into an in-depth program, HR team members should remember to ask themselves why they are building a program.
What do employees need to know – or what skills do they need to master to make them better at their jobs? The answer could be technical skills (i.e. product or resource knowledge), soft skills (i.e. time management or project management), or even company-related knowledge (i.e. core values or HR-related policies).
Knowing and understanding the purpose of the training and how it will help employees improve their performance in their roles is the first critical step in kick-starting a strong program.
Determine your business learning outcome.
After establishing why it’s being created, HR teams need to understand what business objective they want to meet with online training.
Aiming to improve employee retention? Want to double a customer base? Whatever the business goals or areas of improvement, it pays to define them clearly so they are easier to measure.
Once the desired outcomes are determined, a training program can be created to target those specifically.
Build training resources strategically
Most likely, there is already some content used to support internal training. While it can be tempting to throw everything into a course, it’s worth considering the specific business outcome that’s been determined and build from that.
When creating lessons, some general rules of thumb include:
- Make lessons budgetable for students. They might be on their lunch breaks or want to plan an evening after work, so make lessons short and to the point.
- Use more lessons than you think. More lessons mean more lesson names and more names mean more keywords – so your lessons become more searchable within the course as a result.
- More information in your course doesn’t mean more value. Employees are looking for the most valuable information rather than an overload of details.
- Design for iteration. When you launch your course, make sure to plan to ask for feedback. You can do this in a survey in the course or an email follow up.
Analyze results and continually improve. After a resource library has been created and launched, it’s important to remember that, while it is published, it is not perfect and can always be improved upon. After launch, review your data and analytics to track how people interacted with various pieces of content, how many completed training and how these rates match with employee surveys. This will provide a good understanding of where improvements can be made.
Andrea Merson is the Sr. Director of Marketing and Creative at Thinkific. With a background in both Entrepreneurship and Industrial Design, she’s held various creative and strategic positions across advertising and tech industries. Since joining Thinkific, she’s helped grow the company to more than 50,000 course creators worldwide. She leads a team of 20 marketers at Thinkific, dedicated to helping online course creators succeed. When she is not supporting entrepreneurs, you can find her crafting incredible cakes, designing technology focused kids’ toys, and getting her hands dirty building bespoke furniture.