Prometheus Training, LLC

10 Tips for Online Orientation

Are you ready to put your new-employee orientation online? HR managers are turning to online orientation to get their new-hires onboard quickly, without breaking the budget. Here are 10 “Best Practices” to help you build an orientation that not only welcomes employees, but gets them up to speed quickly.

1. Think of it as a process, not an event

A typical orientation program serves many purposes. It inspires the new-hire with the big picture, like what the organization does and where it is going in the future. It answers the personal-sized questions, like how the benefit packages work, how to get expenses reimbursed, or how the performance appraisal system works. And, if it is done right, it also provides a human-to-human welcome and begins to build employee loyalty from Day 1. That’s a lot to accomplish – too much for a single session. No employee could take it all in, and no employee needs all of that information on the same day. The best orientation programs provide a variety of experiences, staged to meet the different needs that new employees will encounter in their first few months on the job. Using online techniques, you can create convenient, flexible, cost-effective programming to meet the needs at post-hire, first-day-on-the-job, one-month anniversary, six-month anniversary, etc.

2. Break it up

To make it easy for new-hires to find information when they need it, organize your content into modules. List all of the available modules on an Orientation Menu. Within your module, always begin with a clear objective (“After completing this section, you will be able to…”). Don’t forget to include relevant tools and resources in the module (for example, you might include a downloadable Benefits Worksheet, or instead you might opt to include links to the Benefits section of your Intranet site).

3. Jump-start with a public URL

Your new-hires are most excited about their new job right after you hire them. Make the most of their motivation by placing some orientation modules on your web site. Most appropriate are modules about the structure of the organization, overall goals, etc. Arrange with your IT department to password-protect this part of the site.

4. Follow up with secure modules on the Intranet

After they begin their new jobs, your new-hires will need more specific information relating to organizational processes and practices. Provide these follow-on modules on the Intranet, or use a password-protected area on your web site.

5. Blend in some face-to-face

Blend in some face-to-face experiences along with the online programming to humanize your orientation process. The face-to-face can be a teaching event, a mentoring session, a social event, or any combination thereof. For example, one organization offers an online “Who’s Who in the Organization” session, complete with org charts and photos of employees. As a follow-up, the new-hires are asked to introduce themselves and collect business cards from any 10 people on the org chart. When they collect the 10 business cards, they can redeem them for a prize (tee shirt with company logo).

6. Keep it updated

Your orientation has to be up to date or it will lose credibility. And keeping a program up to date can be challenging. In a live program, you can get by with using old slides, because your instructor can update on the fly. In an online program, you have no such luxury. So, how do you handle online material that requires frequent updating?

  • First, examine the volatile material itself. Is it necessary to include it online at all, or can you provide this material a different way -- for example, via e-mail?
  • Assuming that you want to stay with an online approach, evaluate how much of the material is likely to change. Often, you will find that most of the material is pretty static, with only a few pages that are changeable. If this is your situation, you can create an online module with the static material, and include a downloadable link to a Word or Excel document that contains the volatile information. This way, you only have to update the linked document, not the entire module.

7. Use media wisely

Many orientation programs are media extravaganzas, complete with video, audio, flash animation, bells, whistles, you name it. But before you pack media into your online orientation training, make sure to do your due diligence:

  • Media is costly, both in $$ and megabytes. Too many $$s, and your budget won’t be able to handle the expense. Too many megabytes, and your computer network won’t be able to transmit your modules to your new-hires. Before you opt to use video or audio in your online orientation program, talk to your training developer and your IT people. They can provide guidelines for how to build media-based programming that will run correctly over your network.
  • The message won’t get through if the new-hire’s technology is inappropriate. Make sure the media matches the new-hires’ technology. For example, if new-hires will access the orientation modules at home, some of them may use slooooow dial-up lines that will choke on a video or audio program. Or, if new-hires will access orientation modules at their workplace desktop, consider whether they will have headphones and a sound card before you deliver audio-based training.

8. Keep managers in the loop

New-hires have managers, and those managers need to know what is happening in the Orientation program. As new-hires progress through the Orientation process, keep managers apprised of their progress.

9. Get the right players involved in building the program

Almost ready to create online orientation? Before you begin, make sure you speak to:

  • Recent new-hires. What was their on-boarding experience like? What worked? What could have been improved?
  • Managers/Supervisors. How long does it take for their people to get up to speed? Which topic areas could use some additional coverage in your orientation program? Are there any areas in your current orientation program that the managers/supervisors have to unteach to their new-hires?
  • Exiting employees. Employees who are leaving the organization may be willing to give you the frankest feedback about your orientation program. What was missing? What did they wish they would have known sooner? What would they suggest to improve the program?

10. Measure for measure

Everyone knows, you manage what you measure. As your build your Orientation program, build in some mechanisms to measure usage, satisfaction and effectiveness.

  • Usage. How many new-hires have completed each module? How many refer back to the orientation modules as a reference?
  • Satisfaction. How satisfied are the new-hires with the orientation program? How satisfied are their managers?
  • Effectiveness. Do new-hires learn what they need to know from each module? Do new-hires seem confused or misled by any material in the program? Is there additional content that should be included in the program?

About the author

Helene Geiger is CEO of Prometheus Training, LLC.

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