Experts and employees agree: Most processes for training new employees are inadequate. Just consider the numbers:
- Less than 12% of employees believe that their most recent early employee training was adequate to set them up for success in their new role.
- Proper onboarding can increase employee productivity by 40% and retention by 82%.
- More than 95% of employers spend less than 90 days training new employees.
- 83% of employees reported that they spent less than 14 days training for their current position, with 39% of employers dedicating seven days or less to the process.
No wonder nearly one-third of new hires quit within the first 90 days of employment. No employee wants to stay in a role if they’ve been set up to fail, and when employers opt to skimp on new employee training, they’re making a short-term calculation that could have costly long-term consequences. By extending and expanding your training process for new employees, you can accelerate your new hire’s path toward profitability and likely extend their tenure with your company. You’ll also save the estimated $4,000 per employee cost of starting the hiring process all over again.
These 11 steps will help you understand how to train new employees to set them — and you — up for success.
1. Provide Benefits That Ensure Success
New employee training can be paired with ongoing professional development to better support success. Mentorship programs, peer-to-peer learning, and tuition reimbursement communicate to potential and new employees that your company is serious about continuous improvement and knowledge acquisition.
Encourage employees to immerse themselves in your sector, setting them on the path toward mastery in their field and ensuring that your team is among the best in the business, by:
- Providing access to expert websites and industry journals.
- Paying for professional association memberships and certification programs.
- Sending employees to relevant industry conferences.
- Bringing in recognized experts in your field to facilitate skills training and workshops.
2. Hire for Potential
Employers are often so focused on recruiting applicants who can “hit the ground running” that they fail to recognize candidates with the qualities most likely to distinguish high performers, such as strong foundational skills, values alignment, and potential.
High-potential employees — those most likely to maximize your capacity and help you achieve your goals — are also more likely to desire and embrace a robust training program. Better yet, sharing the parameters of your training processes with applicants as part of your employer brand will tend to attract better-fit candidates and deter less professionally engaged job seekers, thus serving as a built-in filtering mechanism.
3. Create a New Employee Training Framework
Once you’ve decided which elements to include in your initial training process, you need to establish a sequence and timeline. This framework should be similar for every employee in every department. You will also likely need to develop an offsite training framework for remote employees.
For example, you may decide that in the first week on the job, every employee will complete onboarding paperwork and learn about your cybersecurity policies. By the second week, you might move on to safety procedures and company policies, while during the third week, each employee might begin learning about department-specific processes. The fourth week might encompass company culture and teambuilding, and so on.
4. Customize Your Framework for Each New Employee
The specific content each employee learns will be the same at some points (for example, workplace etiquette), but likely to differ at some steps of the training framework in others depending on what department they work for and what role they have been hired to fill within that department. For example, the first few weeks of training for an engineer might look very different than the first month of onboarding for a sales representative.
At some point during the first week on the job, ask about your new hire’s preferred learning style — visual, auditory, hands-on? — and tweak their training plan accordingly. This will help them get up to speed faster and retain the information longer.
5. Build in Breaks
The first few days in a new job can be overwhelming — so many names to learn, applications to master, and passwords to set up and memorize! Encourage new employees to take frequent breaks by building them into your training framework. Taking more breaks will help them absorb all the new information faster and more thoroughly.
6. Leverage Prior Knowledge
Your new employee should meet one-on-one with their direct supervisor at the midpoint of the first week to learn what skills and knowledge from their last job they think will aid them in their new role, as well as what processes differ. Getting a sense of what they already know and what is new to them after they’ve had a few days to assess their new environment will help you tweak their training plan to leverage their experience.
7. Provide Context
During your new hire’s first few days, provide a guided tour of the physical space and an overview of the tech tools, especially communication and project management tools like Microsoft Teams or Slack.
Rather than allowing them to become immediately immersed in the department, team, or project they will be a part of, explain how each department contributes to your organization’s success and how they work together. Introducing new hires to people from other departments, especially those they will be most likely to collaborate with, is a great way to improve inter-departmental cooperation.
8. Dedicate the Resources Needed to Ensure Success
Research shows that the most significant insights needed to foster deeper employee engagement and mastery occur at the 30-day mark, yet only 4% of employers dedicate that much time to onboarding. By extending the time dedicated to training new employees beyond that 30-day threshold you can improve the likelihood that each new hire will become a top contributor.
Make sure they have someone to go to with questions and consider assigning a peer to work alongside them for the first few weeks. This is also a great time to pair your new hire with a more senior mentor from a different department or team.
9. Focus on Task-based Learning
Committing to an onboarding program that is at least 90 days long doesn’t mean you have to wait more than three months for your new hire to make a real contribution. Even at its earliest stages, training should be task-focused rather than hypothetical.
As you have your new hires work to become familiar with your project management system, for example, you can have them begin to set up or participate on a project that you know they will be a part of and start making contributions as a component of their training, with low expectations and lots of feedback along the way. Near the end of their training, set short and long-term goals that build on what they’ve learned.
10. Nourish Collegiality
During the first week, welcome your hire to their new team with a low-stakes team-building activity, such as an offsite lunch. As their training period proceeds, consider using it as an opportunity to refresh soft skills with training that can help their new team bond and build on past professional development endeavors. For example, you might bring in an outside expert to facilitate a workshop on presentation skills or time management.
11. Obtain Feedback Every Step of the Way
Rather than creating a static training framework, obtain frequent employee feedback by tracking:
- How long it takes employees to go from the earliest stages of onboarding to expected levels of productivity.
- How satisfied employees are with their onboarding experience.
- New employee retention rates for each department.
In addition, seek out feedback from top-performing employees by asking:
- What aspect of your early training program did you find most helpful?
- What do you think is not helpful and should be replaced?
Use the data you obtain to assess and improve training for future employees.
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