Teaching How We Work

It was a busy week. The 3rd or perhaps the 4th (!) new recruit had just joined our company OpenClassrooms in the last week. Usually, when someone arrives, it’s a big event. That week, I realized for the first time that we were really growing as a company.

Having new people is great, but you immediately start to wonder:

  • Will they fit?
  • Are we hiring too fast?
  • Will we take the time to explain what they need to know?

As a co-founder, I always fear that we could grow into a shapeless mess if we’re not careful.

I don’t like to repeat myself

After I graduated, I started to give some courses at my school to get some money (hey, OpenClassrooms was just getting started at that time). I remember how exasperated I was when I needed to give a speech to a class in the morning, and then to give the same speech for another class in the afternoon. Even in the same class, some students didn’t listen and I had to repeat 3 or 4 times!

This is why I had been creating online courses for years on OpenClassrooms.

I could build once and broadcast everywhere.

The same happened to me when that 3rd/4th employee just appeared in a week. I was tired of saying the same stuff:

  • “Here is your Mac, your password is XXX, you have to change it using these rules, please don’t write it on a post-it.”
  • “Here is how the website works, a course is usually that long, we have a dedicated team to shoot videos.”
  • “When you need to purchase something, you should use this tool and ask a few people for advice beforehand.”
  • “Yes, people are moving desks today, no they’re not crazy, it’s just something we do once a month.”

I was worried I could forget something important. What would be the impact of such oversight in the long run? Multiplied by the number of new employees? 🙀

“We should build a course for that!”

This is when I realized that we really should write all that stuff down somewhere. Writing is the only way I’ve found to avoid forgetting ideas.

… but where should we write it? An internal Google Docs perhaps?

And then I remembered… I remembered that we already have a great tool to write and publish courses: OpenClassrooms itself.

— Yeah, but OpenClassrooms is a tool for mass diffusion, I said to myself. I only want to show it to new employees to better onboard them.
— Really? 
said my other self (yes, there are a lot of people in there). What is so critical that you shouldn’t tell anyone else outside the company?
— Well…

After careful thought, I figured out that 99% of the content was safe to publish. Yes, the default password on Macs was perhaps not something I wanted to share, but other than that, I would be very happy if people got inspired by the way we work. I don’t think of it as confidential because you can’t just copy culture. This is every day’s ground work.

This is how I ended up writing a course named “How do we work at OpenClassrooms” with the help of some volunteers in the company.

The unexpected benefits of sharing our culture

The course had been designed to serve new employees first and foremost. When we got new hires, we would tell them: “Hey, read this course first, you’ll learn a ton about us! Plus, this is a way for you to understand how our website works.

However, the course being online and available for everyone, some external people started reading it just out of curiosity. We could also tell people in the hiring process to read the course and ask us questions if they had any. It was a way to assess if they were interested in the company and what they thought about it.

We’ve already had the proof that it has helped us to hire great people, who recognized the environment they would like to work in. What we’ve not seen though is the people who didn’t like it and decided not to apply because it didn’t fit them, but I believe they exist too.

Do you realize how much time this saves for both the candidate and the company?

Challenges ahead

While the text version of the course is complete, we still have to shoot a lot of videos. We just started with the first ones, which is great, but we need to go further:

One of the first videos we made for our How do we work at OpenClassrooms course

Such a course also needs regular updates. The company is changing a little bit every day. We have to be careful that the course reflects best who we are and how we work.

While every new employee has gone through the whole course, earlier employees might not all have taken the time to read it. I think it would be great to have the whole company see the course.

Finally, it’s not enough to write a course on your company’s culture: it has to be lived by every day. This is the hard work. It’s less visible, but it’s essential.

. . .

I truly believe that creating the course first for new employees, and not as a recruiting tool, was key to its success. It would have looked unnatural if it was some kind of corporate gibberish on “how cool we are as a company”. People sense these things. This is why the message of this course is more like: “Look, here is who we are, how we work. Also, here is what we’re working on, this is not perfect, but this is who we are.”

If you want to read the course, here it is: How do we work at OpenClassrooms. Remember that it’s under perpetual improvement!

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