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Miranda Lievers is co-founder and chief operating officer of Vancouver-based Thinkific.

DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

Technology company Thinkific Labs Inc. is on a marathon hiring spree, bringing about 20 new employees on board every month to help its customers create and sell their own online content.

The Vancouver-based company, which provides online course and membership sites, has seen its sales surge 150 per cent over the past year as more businesses – ranging from large corporations to boutique fitness studios – go virtual amid the pandemic.

“With COVID, we effectively saw all the market forces and tailwinds already fueling our business turn into a bit of a hurricane,” says co-founder and chief operating officer Miranda Lievers.

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The company recently raised $22-million, and is putting much of that cash toward adding nearly 400 people to its team before the end of 2021, up from about 100 at the start of 2020.

With about 10 people starting at the company roughly every two weeks, it’s important to do a good job of onboarding the new hires, Ms. Lievers says.

The company has an “extensive” onboarding process, she adds, where new hires are collected into cohorts and spend their first two weeks together, no matter their final destination.

New hires will spend those weeks responding to customer support inquiries and creating their own online course using the platform.

“We’ve had people make courses on sourdough bread … How to build a payment system … And how to do handstands,” Ms. Lievers says.

The onslaught of new hires would be hard to keep track of without technology, she says. Thinkific uses human-resources software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform BambooHR, one of several players in the space, to make sure all of its new hires get the same introduction to the company – and that nothing is missed.

Ms. Lievers says the platform helps Thinkific keep track of its employees, including salary information, job titles, employment agreements and other documentation.

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“It acts as a single truth of who people are, where are they, how do they fit together,” she says.

For onboarding, the software allows Thinkific to set up a list of tasks to take care of, such as HR forms, equipment requests and personal information to share on day one, and automatically sends those to the new hire at the right time.

“Especially in growing the team so quickly, we’re not adding unnecessary mental overhead,” Ms. Lievers says. “We used to use Excel, and there was a whole bunch of stuff that one needed to remember ... basically relying on a person instead of a process. When you do it that way, a lot of things fall through the cracks.”

An example includes forgetting to get someone set up on the network or confusion over who is starting on what day. Now, that’s mostly a thing of the past for Thinkific, despite its rapid growth.

“It removes error and the potential for error,” Ms. Lievers says.

Thinkific was born in 2012 as a course-creation company but pivoted to an SaaS model in 2014. Ms. Lievers says the company has helped more than 50,000 businesses earn more than $828-million selling courses, although many users offer their courses for free.

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Human-resources consultant Hilda Gan says it’s wise to create a well-planned onboarding process with some personal touches. Otherwise, new hires can start with a bad first impression of a company that can fester.

“Statistics show people who join a company know within two weeks whether they are staying,” says Ms. Gan, president of People Bright Consulting Inc. in Markham, Ont. “If on the first day they show up and nobody’s expecting them, the computer’s not ready, or they’re pointed at a computer and said ‘go to it,’ that is not a good onboarding experience. They feel like they’re not going to go anywhere and don’t feel connected … If people feel that way in the first few days, they won’t be there in six to 12 months.”

When choosing software to assist in the process, Ms. Gan recommends companies iron out their processes manually first, then look for a product that can accommodate them.

“With tech, people are too quick to jump,” she says. If you don’t have a good manual process, converting it to a digital software process is still going to be crappy …  When you look at the software systems, some of them tell you they do everything, but they don’t. Integration is a big problem.”

Ms. Gan says BambooHR is one of the better-known platforms in the space, with competitors such as Ceridian Dayforce Corp., ADP HR and Collage HR.

She advises startups to nail down their processes early then integrate them with software after they start to grow.

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“If a company is 10 people and only hiring once or twice a year, you don’t need that, but if you’re 20 or over and hiring once or twice a month ... that’s when you start to look at that investment,” Ms. Gan says.

Amy Frampton, head of marketing for Utah-based BambooHR, says her company’s software supports small businesses whose team members are often filling several roles at once.

“If you only have 10 people and you’re adding one, how much more important is making sure onboarding is done well?” Ms. Frampton says.

She says BambooHR’s software can cut in half the time it would take for managers to onboard people manually.

“Best-in-class companies are more likely to start the process before the new hire’s first day,” she says, noting BambooHR offers a questionnaire that helps the company get to know their new hires before they start.

“If you help people feel like they belong, it really helps build that relationship … With so many people working remotely, onboarding becomes even more important.”

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