When onboarding new employees, there is a lot of “showing them the ropes.” They need to learn about your organization’s particular culture, values, and ways of doing things. If you think this means that all your onboarding requires custom content, however, and that you can’t use off-the-shelf content...you’ll drive yourself and your team crazy with a never-ending list.

Previously we made the strong case for using video for employee onboarding. We cited research showing that new employees who went through a structured onboarding program were 58 percent more likely to be with an organization after three years. Video provides that structure with its accessibility, consistency, efficiency, and ability to foster connection.

It’s clear from that article how video can do those things for company-specific content that is unique to your organization. But many readers might be left thinking “How does off-the-shelf content fit in?” Or more pointedly: “How can some other company’s videos work for onboarding my employees?”

Short answer: There are many topics that are important for new hires in any company to understand that are universal. (Think safety. Do the fire extinguishers operate differently in your company?)

To prove this to you, give me eight minutes to look at some of the topics more closely (five, if you’re a fast reader!).

What Off-the-Shelf Content Brings to the Table During Onboarding

While some onboarding content will be unique to your organization, not all of it will be. In fact, much of it will reflect best practices in your wider industry and the business world at large.

Imagine having to create custom content for all those possible topics! According to a series of studies by the Association for Talent Development, creating just one hour of online material for training can take anywhere from 42 to 142 hours. At that rate, it would take over six months just to create a one-week onboarding program.

Using off-the-shelf courses allows you and your L&D team to focus on creating your more company-specific training modules (such as specific company benefits, policies, processes, and systems). This will make for better-quality content that is ready to deliver sooner, rather than later.

Off-the-shelf eLearning videos can also complement your custom content nicely. Employees can be primed and ready to hear your company-specific training if the groundwork has already been laid to give them the right background and skills. This actually makes your custom content more effective, especially during onboarding.

So how about some specific examples?

How Off-the-Shelf Content Can Convey Common Core Values

According to a pivotal study done by the Human Capital Institute (HCI), 84% of organizations reported that a company orientation covering mission and values, as well as an industry overview, were either moderately or extremely effective at reducing the time to proficiency for new hires.

This finding should not be all that surprising. Employees are not just looking for the best places to work; they want to find authentic workplaces where they can grow as people. Getting on the same page when it comes to core values helps them do that.

Every company has its own unique way of expressing its values. Despite that, there are some values that crop up again and again in many modern organizations. These are values that can be taught effectively during onboarding using off-the-shelf training videos, like those we create at ej4.

It should come as no surprise that these values are necessary for effective teamwork and management to begin with. Values like:

  • Civility. Workplace civility is a set of behaviors that help preserve norms of mutual respect; it is essential for a collaborative culture that is productive, creative, and engaging. Civility is based on a shared code of decency, and so can be taught with off-the-shelf content.
  • Active listening. One of the best ways to foster civility is to train people to be better at active listening. This is a skill that can be taught and is important for employees and managers alike.
  • Ethics. The idea that you can “teach” ethics has been around since the time of Plato and Aristotle. How to apply ethical reasoning to business situations is not always obvious, and so a crash course (or three) on ethics can help reinforce your company’s core values.
  • Accountability. To have a high-functioning organization, you need three things: Employees who take ownership, a culture of accountability, and a high-trust workplace. Employees who are taught the basics of these during onboarding are more likely to be responsible and engaged workers.

ej4 Blog - How Off-the-Shelf Training Content Can Support Your Employee Onboarding


Using Off-the-Shelf Content to Teach Skills for Navigating Company Culture

Just as every expression of values is unique, every company culture is unique, too. This does not mean culture cannot be an explicit part of your onboarding training. Employees are best served when they can learn the skills needed to observe the prevailing company culture and act flexibly with it.

For example, every company—no matter what the company culture is like—will need employees who understand:

  • Working with different personalities. Even within a company culture, different personalities are going to shine through. Employees and managers will need to know how to interact successfully with the four main types of workplace personalities.
  • Diversity. Beyond differences in personality, team members might differ in terms of their background, ethnicity, race, gender, and more. Diversity is a worthwhile aim, but if you have a diverse workplace, you might have more challenges when it comes to getting everyone to work well together. Off-the-shelf content can provide tools to meet those challenges.
  • Cultural considerations. A new foreign office or business partnership can bring your employees face-to-face with a culture they might not be intimately familiar with. People forget, however, that for new employees, these cultures might be new, too (even if the office or partnership is not). Onboarding is a great teachable moment for learning about cross-cultural considerations, and these are best relayed by expert content.
  • Unconscious bias. Unconscious biases exist in everyone. We can combat them only if we recognize them for what they are. As a famous painter once said, “A bias recognized is a bias sterilized.” Off-the-shelf content can help employees recognize when biases are in play.

Using Off-the-Shelf Training Videos for Standard Procedures in Safety and Compliance

Here’s a frightening statistic: 31% of Chief Compliance Officers do not know, or do not communicate, conduct and culture lessons across their organizations. Only 29% of organizations report that they assess compliance proficiencies and skills of their staff on an ongoing basis. (For more on this and other findings, I highly recommend our whitepaper “Why Compliance Training is More Than a Checkbox.”)

If there is a time to communicate those “conduct and culture” lessons, it’s during onboarding. And while some safety and compliance topics are going to be company-specific, most can be successfully handled with general off-the-shelf videos. For example:

  • Understanding harassment. Although state and local laws might vary, there are some core principles to learn when it comes to understanding, spotting, and reporting harassment. Our video offerings provide both general overviews and courses specific to states like California, Connecticut, Maine, New York and New York City.
  • Discrimination. Discrimination can take many forms. A good off-the-shelf course can train your employees to consider some protected classes that they might not have thought about.
  • Cybersecurity. The best way to protect your organization from modern cybersecurity threats like malware, phishing, ransomware, and identity theft is to train your employees from the outset, using the most up-to-date content. Here, off-the-shelf cybersecurity training videos can shine.
  • Equipment. Do your employees need to know how to use a portable fire extinguisher? A forklift? Protective gear? There are best practices for using all of these things safely, and those should be communicated during onboarding, using consistent content.

Off-the-Shelf Content and Practical Support Skills

While the way in which your office runs might be unique, there are aspects of office life that are common enough that there are best practices built around them. These, too, make ideal candidates for skills that you can teach during onboarding with off-the-shelf content. Some quick ideas include:

  • Corporate Gmail accounts
  • Common office software (for example, Office Essentials)
  • Working remotely
  • Business travel
  • Social media use and policies

Generalizing from the Examples

All of the examples in this article have two things in common:

  1. They cover topics that are important regardless of the specific values, culture, and policies your organization has, and
  2. They all represent skills that, once understood and acquired, will help enhance the effectiveness of your more company-specific training.

My advice: Don’t reinvent the wheel. There’s already a lot to do when it comes to company onboarding. Use off-the-shelf training content where you can to make your employee onboarding more effective and efficient. These topics can be phased into the onboarding experience. What is most important day one? What could be assigned day 30? 

Additional Resources

Kathy Irish

Written by Kathy Irish

Kathy joined ej4 in 2007 as our first Instructional Designer. She has over 15 years’ experience in Human Resource Management, Training and Organizational Development. In addition to managing and planning ej4’s yearly new content development, Kathy also oversees all the production on updates (both legal and style-wise) to current off-the-shelf content.

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