After spending a good deal of time and money recruiting, why would any organization not want to provide new employees with the maximum chance to succeed? Wasting potential is what happens, though, when companies fail to think about how to train new hires.
New college graduates and others selected based greatly on their promise obviously require instruction to learn the ins and outs of their new role. But even candidates with plenty of work experience and a strong background benefit from a new hire training program.
Why? For starters, each company has its own particulars. Job training introduces new team members to your way of doing things. Such knowledge enables the new hire to gain comfort and competency at your workplace. It also sets the stage for positive relationships with customers, as they are used to certain actions and desire that consistency.
Perhaps equally important, a thoughtful new employee training program capitalizes on the newcomer’s excitement. They want to see “evidence” that they made the right decision in choosing this new job. An organized approach to helping them master job duties so that they can quickly begin contributing promotes employee engagement. They start feeling like they make a difference. They also enjoy previewing what they will learn down the line. It sparks a mindset of “Hey, this company has plans for me!”
Employer support (or lack of it) from day one ultimately can affect retention rates. Studies show that more than a third of individuals who left their job within the first six months said that more effective onboarding and new hire training could have helped them stay longer.
Developing a training plan
Many different elements merit thought when training new employees. Let’s look at various considerations in detail:
What is important to know when?
Even the best training process cannot turn a new hire into a seasoned veteran in the first week. A full understanding of company culture and role-specific responsibilities develops over time. Managers and human resource professionals face the challenge of figuring out what to prioritize. Providing order ensures the most pressing training material gets covered first and avoids information overload.
Using a 30-60-90 template is a great way to organize. This method breaks down what the new hire should master in the first month, by the end of the second month, and at the 3-month mark. Such “chunking” makes learning manageable, builds interest in what’s to come, and ensures that nothing gets overlooked.
The question, of course, is what to present when. The first days of employment often involve general employee onboarding: going over the employee handbook, outlining company policies, completing relevant paperwork, and setting up tech. These activities get newcomers up and running.
Beyond the standardized parts of the onboarding process, the learning plan needs to identify what specific employees need to know for their individual roles. For this aspect, refer back to the job description. What does the person need to find out in order to perform listed job responsibilities? Managers also benefit from asking current employees for advice. What do they wish they knew on day one that would have made it easier to begin work? What do they consider essential for someone in their department to master quickly?
While answers to these questions will vary by company and role, employers often consider tech training a priority. Software, databases, and the like vary among organizations. An early mastery of the new employer’s tech sets the stage for effective communication and project management.
Conveying expectations also ranks high. What tasks does the particular employee need to perform on a daily or weekly basis? What metrics does the company use to measure how successfully those job responsibilities were completed?
What training methods should be used?
With a solid understanding of what needs to be taught and at what point, leaders can begin thinking about the best ways to convey information and develop skills. Programs typically employ a variety of training methods. Diversity keeps presentation from becoming monotonous and plays to different people’s learning preferences.
Reading obviously is a common form of presenting information. Workers can go through the booklet or manual at their own pace, and having something printed to refer back to proves useful.
Like reading, e-learning allows employees to work independently and pace themselves. The interactive nature promotes engagement through visuals, challenges, and assessments.
New employees learn many skills by observing current employees. Live demonstrations offer the learner the opportunity to ask questions or request certain elements be repeated for clarity.
Hands-on practice, especially under the guidance of a manager or other person who can offer feedback, should make up a significant portion of any training program. New hires grasp skills and gain confidence by putting concepts into action.
What might these various training methods look like when put together? Consider someone whose job includes answering customer emails sent through the company’s website form. The new hire may read a manual on common questions posed. She then may complete an online quiz that assesses her knowledge of appropriate responses. Watching a co-worker tackle that day’s incoming emails could be the next step. Finally, the newcomer could draft correspondence on her own with a seasoned colleague looking over the final version before sending.
When thinking about skills and how to teach them, remember that imparting “the way we operate around here” is important, too. Give new hires some free time to simply observe their new workplace, wander around, ask questions, and network. Chances are they will pick up information not formally taught but valuable to their performance – a specific client’s pet peeve, a certain colleague’s personality quirks, or insight into group dynamics.
What is the new person’s background?
Employees come to your workforce with different previous experiences. One may be at an advanced career stage, while another just received his diploma. One could possess quite a bit of industry knowledge, and another got hired based on the potential of her transferable skills. Customize training to the individual’s level based on what you know about their past and what you discover as you present training material.
Some new folks may need just a refresher on a certain element or only to learn the specifics of your company’s procedures. Let them progress quickly as they demonstrate competency. (Avoid skipping training areas completely. People sometimes think they know more than they do, or they may not realize that your way of doing things differs from how they performed that task before.)
People with gaps may require more time or detail to fully grasp certain job responsibilities. Take that into account as you set the pace of what to learn and when. They may need greater explanation, supervision, and hands-on practice. Many companies also find that young workers new to the workplace benefit from business etiquette training that develops professionalism.
As you know more about the new person, you also can adjust to their preferred learning style. For instance, give visual learners more chances to see concepts in action. Workers who get bored quickly may need teaching methods mixed up. Independent types may enjoy opportunities to work through material on their own.
How can we make learning easier?
Both you and the new employee want to build competence and a sense of comfort ASAP. Think about resources that contribute to this goal.
“Cheat sheets” are a good example. This document could be a written breakdown of how to submit a proposal. It might be a list of fellow employees and what each person does. It could be a template to use when calling a new client. Or, maybe it presents FAQs about solving database problems.
Some companies create their own wiki. This in-house site serves as a reference, often providing helpful tips. All workers can add to it when they come across missing information or better ways to do something. Encouraging new employees to contribute their discoveries makes them feel like an active part of the organization and helps other new hires down the line with their own learning experience.
How will we utilize one-on-one meetings?
Employees usually consider their manager their lifeline within the organization. New workers especially depend on their immediate supervisor. Any training plan should include regular check-ins between the sides.
New workers should see these meetings as a safe space to ask questions and express concerns. Let them know everyone has gaps, and you can work together to fill them in. Encourage them to bring up areas where they still feel shaky so that more effort can be devoted to getting them up to speed. Take into account their career goals and areas of interest to identify new skills to pursue going forward.
Managers can use the opportunity to offer direct feedback. Noting what the person does well inspires pride and confidence. Timely advice for improvement prevents the continuation of errors. Offering your observations demonstrates your interest in the person’s success.
Lastly, ask questions to gauge how the training process is going. Let them know you value feedback, both to help them reach their full potential and for altering the company’s training plan to better assist future employees.