The COVID-19 pandemic has caused widespread disruptions in business and forced employees in many organizations to work from home. These challenges have also made organizations consider cutting training budgets or postponing training altogether. But, what about onboarding new employees? These programs cannot be postponed.

Fortunately, organizations have found ways to adapt. They have introduced new modalities of training and have kept themselves abreast with the latest tools and platforms to make onboarding and training successful and seamless.

Why Is Onboarding Important?

Onboarding is a crucial activity that determines how new team members look at the organization and how quickly they integrate into the culture. A poor onboarding program, or a lack of onboarding altogether, can have a lasting impact on employee morale, confidence and performance.

Onboarding sets the tone for a long-lasting relationship with the organization and is the employer’s opportunity to help new hires understand its vision, mission and goals. This understanding then helps the new employees start their roles with enthusiasm and put their best foot forward. Onboarding is also an opportunity to help the new hires get to know their fellow team members and manager quickly.

Virtual Is the Way

In light of the pandemic, virtual onboarding is often the best or even the only way to bring new hires up to speed. For a successful virtual onboarding program, the organization must first ensure that new hires receive the necessary equipment, including, often, a desktop or laptop computer. Then, eLearning and virtual training sessions can onboard new hires remotely.

Creating a Successful Onboarding Program

A successful onboarding program has the following characteristics:

Engaging Training Programs

It is important that initial training and interaction sessions are meaningful and engaging. The eLearning sessions should be interactive so that new hires are engaged as they get to know the organization and understand their role.

Off-the-shelf and Bespoke Training Solutions

When new hires join the organization, it is important that their onboarding training includes a mix of bespoke or custom solutions and off-the-shelf training, with organizational branding on the specific topics and skills your employees need to learn.

Continuous Learning Journey

An onboarding program will only be effective if there are adequate follow-up training and materials to help the new hires. This “continuous learning journey” concept gives learners periodic support and content to ensure that they don’t forget what they learned through formal training. In particular, supplementary microlearning “nuggets,” provided at regular intervals after the training, can go a long way toward helping learners remember and apply key concepts.

An Example

During the pandemic, one organization turned its onboarding program into a completely virtual experience. It gives new employees access to an online platform, where they can go through some introductory materials. Then, they participate in virtual onboarding sessions conducted by trainers or functional leaders. Finally, the employees receive additional supporting materials that they can access on the platform.

Best Practices for Virtual Sessions

As you implement your first onboarding program, keep these best practices in mind:

    • Ensure that new hires have good internet or broadband connectivity.
    • Check the technology before a session begins.
    • Include sufficient breaks during online sessions.
    • Trainers need to have sufficient practice before conducting online sessions.
    • During a virtual session, keep communication lines open. Enable the chat feature so that new hires can receive answers to their questions.
    • Certain in-person training practices don’t work well in the online world. The trainer can’t reach out to each participant, for example, and typically needs a moderator or another facilitator to help him or her answer questions.
    • The instructor should set “housekeeping” ground rules like, for example, limiting distracting chat. He or she can take control of proceedings by letting the participants know when they can chat or raise questions.
    • Participants can easily become distracted during an online session, so use engaging videos, short quizzes, games and/or online quizzes to keep them engaged.

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