August 22, 2018
Engaging the Long Distance Learner: Part 2
August 22, 2018
Engaging the Long Distance Learner: Part 2
Katrina Marie Baker works for Adobe as a Senior Learning Evangelist. Her independently operated consulting firm has advised organizations in aerospace, construction, healthcare, legal, retail, technology, and transportation. Katrina facilitates keynote sessions and master classes for learning professionals. She also maintains YouTube channel Learn Tech Collective. She has authored books LMS Success (2018), The LMS Selection Checklist (2018), and Corporate Training Tips & Tricks (2017). Katrina is a former Director of Technology with the Association for Talent Development. She has worked in people/project management and global training capacities for Fortune 500 retailer Whole Foods Market, and Global 100 law firms Cooley LLP and Latham & Watkins LLP. Previously, Katrina worked in music and video production for clients such as Disney Channel and Adult Swim.
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I recently did a webinar called, “15 Ways to Market Your Training Program & Learning Tech.”  (Here is the recording and slide deck.) This blog series expands on the webinar content.  The first few posts will focus on engaging the long distance learner.

As we discussed in part one, it’s easy for a remote employee to feel isolated from their larger organization.  This is especially true when they first join their employer and are most in need of support.

Sometimes when we develop a new hire orientation curriculum, we think more about what is practical for us as the trainers, and less about what a new hire needs to be successful.  We might accidentally create what I refer to as “Two Days of New Hire Haze.”

Here is what a new hire often hears when they begin orientation…

“Step right up, ladies and gentlemen…  You have joined our organization and will now be blessed with two days of someone telling you everything you need to know in order to do your job.  We will also provide a printout of the 400 slide PowerPoint in case you would like to take notes.  Oh, and here is a binder of everything we just told you, but in even greater detail.”

“I promise… I’ll obey the HR policies… Please just let me go home.”

Funny as it may sound, this is actually a common approach to new hire training.  It’s unfortunate, because the learners are only able to retain a small percentage of the information provided.  They might feel as if they’ve failed their first assignment, because they can’t remember everything they were taught.  They may even feel as if they can’t ask questions of their colleagues because it will appear that they weren’t paying attention in class.

There is a practical alternative.  We can create a training cohort for new hires.

A training cohort is just a fancy term for a group of learners who take classes together over a period of time, similar to what you would find in a college course.  New hires within a cohort attend multiple, shorter classes together.  They may primarily learn in a classroom or via virtual sessions, or both.  This allows the new hires to process new information and retain it effectively.  They may perform assignments in between sessions to reinforce what is being taught.  They get the opportunity to get to know each other and also learn from multiple instructors.  The feeling of cognitive overload is much less compared to learning everything in a short time frame.

Create Your Training Cohort

Here is a practical example of how you might go about creating a cohort structure for new hire orientation.  This is based on a structure I designed and used successfully while managing a learning and development team for a former employer.

Structuring Your Cohort

There are two items to address early on:

  1. How often will you form a cohort of new hires?  Decide how many new hires you would like to have in a cohort, and use that information to determine how often to begin a new cohort.  For example, let’s say you decide you want an average class size of ten new hires per cohort.  After tinkering around in your HRIS, you calculate that your organization hires ten new people every two weeks.  So, you will create a new cohort twice a month.
  2. Will new hire training be delivered in person, virtually, or both combined?  My structure was mostly virtual, and there were often new hires from multiple offices attending virtual training sessions.  We also offered for new hires to attend in person if they were in the same office as the instructor, and they could receive one on one coaching any time either virtually or from their resident trainer.

The New Hire’s First Day

Decide what a new hire absolutely must know the first day in order to function.  Typically this will include:

  • How to reset default passwords and work within your organization’s security protocols
  • How to access and use email applications, internal communication systems, and document management systems
  • How to contact each department, especially HR and the service desk
  • Safety information about the new hire’s primary office location, unless they work remotely
  • Anything a new hire is required to review and/or sign from a compliance standpoint

A new hire typically receives their equipment the first day as well as a packet of policies, benefits paperwork, and reference materials.

Keep first day training as concise as possible, and consider structuring your onboarding procedures so that new hires only start on Mondays.  That way, you aren’t delivering multiple sessions of the same class each week.

Cohort Sessions

Once you’ve provided new hires with what they absolutely must know, plan to provide additional training over the next 90 days.  Create an internal web site for new hires that explains what classes or resources they should access during their first week, first month, and so on.  Provide links to content within your learning management system.  My team created a web site that included links to virtual classes, short videos, tip sheets, and internal resource pages, so learners could get as much or as little information as they wanted.  Make sure managers are also aware of this page so they can remind new hires to access it.

Work out a recurring schedule for cohort classes so they are always readily available to new hires.  Make sure there is a class recording or other content that is available should a new hire need information prior to the next cohort class.  My team offered recordings and an interactive e-learning course as a substitute to attending virtual sessions.

Consider whether you would like new hires to complete assignments in between classes.  If so, upload the assignments to your LMS and post links to them on the new hire training site.  You could even have new hires work together on an assignment so they get to know each other.

Offer One on One Coaching

No two new hires are exactly the same.  Their skill levels will be different, and someone in Accounting may need very different new hire training than someone in Marketing.  It’s good to offer cohort classes for information that is relevant to most or all new hires, and offer one on one coaching on more specialized topics.

Depending on your organization, this may mean having a designated trainer from each department reach out to relevant new hires and offer coaching.  (Definitely put coaches’ contact information on your new hire training page!)  My team created a “menu” of coaching topics a new hire could request, because sometimes a new hire doesn’t know what they don’t know.  Coaching not only fills in any gaps within the general curriculum, it also gives new hires a chance to bond one on one with a person who can act as a connection to the overall organization.

– Katrina

Have you used a cohort structure, or do you have questions about how to create a cohort?  Comment below!

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