314: Training and Onboarding New Moderators

When hiring new moderators for your community, it is important to acclimate them to the server culture and moderation team culture. Those without any prior experience will need guidance to grow their confidence in moderation. Training your moderators guarantees a baseline of knowledge that every moderator is supposed to know as well as provides structure for being able to inform your new moderators about the servers’ moderation standard, such as your guidelines, server culture, and recommended approaches.

 

Effective training covers not just  information about the moderation culture and general guidelines, but also about historical context to some rules or decisions that might be important to know for new moderators. For example, announcements that have been made in the past with information all moderators need to be aware of, but also information regarding banned topics and troublesome users. 


After training your new moderators, they will have an easier time adjusting to the team and feel less pressured in actual moderation situations as they have previously had training. Training can help prevent moderators from making bad decisions, and lead to better alignment on the servers’ moderation philosophy.

Training Methods

Each server has to decide for themselves what the most effective training method looks like. This article will present and explain some recommended methods that can simplify moderation training.

Buddy System

The “Buddy System” approach describes working in pairs or groups, in which two or more “buddies” work together on one task. Requiring newer moderators to work with each other or even an assigned team member allows you to better monitor progress and for aid to come when required.

 

It promotes active communication and trust between moderators and also allows them to keep an objective view on everything. Having multiple opinions about certain matters and receiving assistance from a reliable source prevents moderators from feeling pressured with moderation tasks and can even open your eyes to new viewpoints. Additionally, it allows its members to effectively share their moderation skills with each other. It also aids in terms of personal safety: if a moderator feels personally attacked by a user, they get immediate support from their “buddies” without feeling the need to tackle the issue alone.  

 

Using this system allows less experienced moderators to quickly and effectively catch up to the moderation standards as they learn how to deal with specific matters first hand. It is important to remind the more experienced moderators on your team to allow new moderators to learn instead of wanting to quickly handle every task themselves. With time, certain actions will also become second nature for newer moderators, too!

Mentoring System

This approach is most commonly used when onboarding new moderators. Here experienced moderators or the head of staff introduce each new member of the team personally and guide them through the most important aspects. 

 

The difference between this system and the “Buddy System” is that each new moderator will be acquainted with the moderation tasks and responsibilities by a higher up, and usually only once. After the walkthrough most recruits are expected to manage certain moderation duties on their own while being supervised. It is crucial to support and reassure them so they are able to grow confident in their actions. Recruits can display and appropriately train their soft skills and be informed about moderation standards in a controlled environment without fear or causing too much irreparable damage.

Regular Exercises

Another method of efficiently training both experienced and inexperienced moderators is by letting them regularly test their knowledge. This involves designing exemplary situations of some everyday issues happening within your Discord server to let the trial moderators explain how they would handle them. Such instances can include how to handle issues in audio channels, user disputes, DM Discord invitations, off topic discussion in the incorrect channel, and potential issues that may be encountered with bots. At the end you should provide some sort of “model” or “example” answer to let the recruits know where they need to improve. 

 

One negative effect of this system could be the fear of failure that some inexperienced moderators might be exposed to. Reassure them that making mistakes is okay as long as you take responsibility for your actions and are willing to learn from them. Moderation is an ever-shifting and learned art, and mistakes are not to be punished when they happen every once in a while.

It may be tempting to conduct these regular exercises incognito (aka acting up on an alt to see how they do) or test them without warning- while this may yield more “everyday” unbiased results, it has a high probability of backfiring. Blindsiding your moderation team with tests and exercises has the potential to do more harm than good, especially in terms of team trust and morale. It’s recommended that you don’t do this and instead, practice transparency when conducting regular exercises in order to avoid a potentially inequitable situation. 

Presentations and Demonstrations

Another form of training is to demonstrate how situations or scenarios are handled in your community via presentation or an actual demonstrative walk-through with moderation alt accounts. This is very useful for training where moderators have to use a wide range of commands, such as explaining moderation and Modmail bots. Ideally, this should take place in an audio channel or group call where you can share your screen. Not everyone is able or comfortable joining a voice chat and unmuting themselves, which is something to be considered beforehand.

Training Program Content
Moderator Documents

An essential part of onboarding new moderators is to have an easily accessible document outlining the basic responsibilities and details on moderator tasks and different moderation teams. Such documents need to be designed for each server individually, but they usually contain general rules for staff, conduct expectations, and a punishment outline to set a standard and unity for moderation actions. 

 

Recommended additions to such a moderation handbook are:

  • Elaborations on your rules to prevent users from finding loopholes in an attempt to “outplay” moderators. 
  • Explanations of certain Discord Terms of Service matters, such as copyright infringements, underaged users, implied racism and more.
  • An overview of external rules to be applied within the server and a description of your moderation culture and expectations internally to help new moderators easily adjust to their new team.
  • Bot command overview to better be acquainted with commands instead of feeling pressured to remember them all immediately upon entry to a new team.
  • Commonly used “hacks” on Discord, such as phishing links, malicious files and other harmful softwares. 

 

Be sure to recognize anything that is prevalent in your moderation culture or community that is also worth mentioning here! The more thorough the guidelines, the easier the document is to refer back to for any questions. For example, gaming servers should have a brief description of the featured gaming company’s Terms of Service and discussion about how to handle cheaters or users mentioning account sharing/selling in accordance with those rules. Another example would be for bot support servers where a brief description of commonly encountered issues and how to solve them as well as an FAQ section to help users with simpler answers.

Moderation Commands

Another important topic new moderators should have easy access to are commands for moderation bots. Having a simple guide in a separate text channel with a quick guide of the bots’ prefix and format (command, user-id, [time], reason) will aid moderators in quickly responding to ongoing issues on the server. It lets them react fast without having to pause to look up the necessary command. Try to use the same prefix for the mainly used moderation bot to not cause unnecessary confusion, particularly for users who are new to moderating.

Modmail or Ticket Service

Each server uses a differently designed service to assist moderators with helping out users. Bigger servers tend to rely on a ticket or Modmail system, so properly introducing them with sample conversations or problematic matters is essential for both the recruit and the future user. Confident moderators are more willing to aid users in need than those who are still unsure of how the system works. 

 

This kind of training should include commonly used commands and procedures. There should be conversation about how to redirect users to higher staff and closing tickets appropriately so they don’t stack up and cause confusion. As long as a ticket system remains organization and those guidelines or organizations are established across the full team this will prove to be an easy to use communication system that is much less daunting than it may seem!

Staff Safety

No user should ever feel unsafe or threatened on a Discord server. Staff members are often exposed to harmful or disrespectful messages, some of them targeted at some moderators directly. 

 

An important aspect of onboarding moderators therefore is to make them aware of how to react in such situations. They need to be able to create an environment in which it is comfortable for them to work in and not be afraid to ask for help if they feel threatened by users or, in extreme cases, other staff members. Staff members supporting each other and being able to communicate in such moments is crucial for an effectively working team.

Creating and Managing a Training Program

Effective management promotes a feeling of professionalism and simplifies the process of training new moderators by a lot. Important aspects that should always be covered when creating a training program are time management, deciding on which staff are involved in training and why, effective communication, detailed content, and flexibility. 

 

Choosing an appropriate approach. How do you want to introduce new members? What system did you conclude will work best for your server and staff team? Never be afraid to evolve an already existing plan into something that suits better for your current situation.

 

Deciding what topics to cover. What topics do you prioritize over others and think require more time investment than others? How are you moderators handling the learning process? Might there be anything in need of adjustment?

 

Selecting voluntary participants. Having a reliable team behind you to assist you in training is of most importance. Everyone involved should be aware of what exactly they need to teach and how to approach the training within a reasonable time frame. 

 

Developing a timetable. Find common ground between everyone involved, including both the mentors and trainees, and settle on when to teach what topic. Recommend tools to easily manage bigger teams are Google Docs and similar, but bots and self made timetables will suffice, too. Try to keep it simple and easily accessible for everyone involved. 

 

Communication. Who responds to whom? Decide on how and when mentors report to the head of staff or other higher ups. Documenting helps with ensuring everyone is aware of their part and planning how to proceed further.

 

Flexibility. No matter how carefully you plan everything out, it can always happen that something doesn’t work according to plan. In such situations you need to be able to react spontaneously and be flexible, such as pitching in for someone who is unable to attend due to a last minute shift in schedule.

How to Deliver Effective Training

Before conducting training, you should evaluate what can make your training most effective. Below you will find some best practices to set up a training program and be able to “train the trainers”. 

Planning

When you are giving a training, it is important to properly plan your training. What are the most important topics to cover? What do you want new moderators to know after conducting the training? How much time are you planning to spend on training? Some people struggle to focus for a longer period of time, so if your training takes over two hours, you should consider breaking your training up into multiple sessions of shorter duration. Make sure to accommodate for any accessibility issues or notes for those who were unable to be present. 

Goals

Each training should have objectives. You can create an outline of your training where you write down the topics you will cover and the objective of that topic. For example, if you are training moderators to use Modmail, your objective is that new moderators are able to handle Modmail tickets and use the commands available to them. For each topic, also write down how you want to give this training: are you going to give a demonstration? Will you use illustrations? Will you offer new moderators to practice during your training and get hands-on experience? Publicly sharing this with trainees can help keep you on topic and allow them to come prepared with questions.

Practice

After creating your training, make sure to practice it at least once. First, go through the entire training yourself to see if everything is covered that you think is important. You can then give your training to someone on your team, in case you missed something important and to check whether or not your estimated time is accurate. If it is possible, go through the material with someone who is unfamiliar with moderation. Adjust your training appropriately and you are good to go!

Interaction

For every training session, it is very important to have interaction with your trainees. People lose their attention after 15-30 minutes, so your training should include a discussion, practice, or some sort of interaction. Some of these interactive sessions are covered down below. Interaction with your trainees is also important because it acts as a way for you to verify whether or not your objectives are properly conveyed.

 

Make sure there is a break once every one to two hours so trainees can focus on your training without feeling overwhelmed.

Methods

Every training can consist of a combination of different training methods. These include, but are not limited to, lectures, quick exercises, group discussions, practice runs, quizzes, videos, demonstrations, and more. When planning your training, you can write down what method would work best to convey the objectives to your trainees. A group discussion will be better applicable to discuss moderation cases, where a demonstration and practice would work better to demonstrate how Modmail bots work. 

 

Try mixing up multiple methods within a training to keep it fresh and keep people from losing their attention.

Preparation

Preparation is key when you are giving any sort of training. Have quick notes ready with keywords that you are going to use during your training, so you do not lose track of where you are and what objective you are trying to convey. If you need any material such as a presentation, paper and pencil, example cases and such, prepare them beforehand so you do not lose time during your training setting these up. If you use any material, test them beforehand.

 

Don’t forget to clear your schedule beforehand and have some water ready if your training is mostly conducted over a voice chat or call. It is important to sleep well the night before and feel confident. This will let you remain focused and have an uninterrupted training session.

 

Make sure you are ready at least five minutes before the training starts to welcome arriving trainees and as a final check whether or not everything is ready and good to go. If your training takes place in a voice chat or call, test your microphone and if you have a wireless headset, make sure it is charged up beforehand! 

Wrapping up your training

When your training is done, finish with an exercise, group discussion, or something else that is interactive and fun to do. Ideally, this should summarize the entire training. Have some room at the end to answer any questions your trainees might have. Don’t forget to thank everyone who participated for their active contributions! 

Evaluation

After each training, write down what went well and what could be improved. You can ask your trainees after they have had some experience as a moderator, what they missed during training that they think should be covered next time, as well as asking what information they did not find useful. You can then adjust your training for next time!

Summary

Having a training or onboarding process in place is very important to have new moderators get accustomed with moderation culture, using bot commands, the server rules, and your moderation guidelines. There are several training methods that include buddy or mentor systems as well as exercises and demonstrations. A training document should outline the most important information new moderators need, but prevent them from being overwhelmed with information they are unable to comprehend. 

 

To have efficient training in place, there are some very important aspects to consider, such as your preparation, goals, how you will carry out the training of your new moderators, and planning. Considering all of these things when creating your training process will make onboarding as informational and effective as possible for you and your new recruits!

Ready to test your moderator skills? Take the Discord Moderator Exam!