Pulling together a new hire training is a challenge most trainers will face at least once in their careers. It isn’t always a simple task. Deciding what to put in and what to leave out and making sure new employees are getting the information they need to do their jobs, all while trying to build and maintain their enthusiasm, can be daunting to say the least. Yet new hire training that is engaging, effective, and that maps to your organization’s culture can minimize turnover and ramp up job satisfaction.
Let’s talk about five actions that will help create new hire training that works.
5 Keys to New Hire Training Development
Consider goals…and what you may have forgotten
In his book 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, Stephen Covey advocates beginning the planning process with the end in mind, and that is an excellent model to use for creating a new hire training. That may sound counterintuitive, but if you make a list of what your new employee should be able to do at the end of the training, it can help you decide what items you should put in and what things you should leave out—or at least put off until later.
This task can be harder than it sounds, especially if you are both the author and the subject matter expert (SME). Why? Well, as SME, you are writing this list with the benefit of experience, and it is possible to make assumptions about what a new hire will already know because the tasks have become second nature to you. It might be a good idea to run your list past other members of the team or department to ensure you have not skipped any critical items.
Ensuring that training doesn’t skip over fundamentals is a task at which learning and development professionals excel. Because so many of their projects involve new topics, they are trained to think like a newbie and to ask a lot of questions (Kevin Gumienny touched on the “novice mindset” in “Learning and Development: Why Hire an Outside Company?”). Additionally, learning and development professionals are adept at chunking and sequencing your information in a way that will help ensure your new hires understand and retain your message. If you do not have a learning and development professional on staff, you may want to consider bringing one in to assist with the analysis and planning phases of the project, even if you create and execute the training yourself. This will help ensure that your new hire training has a strong foundation.
Coordinate new hire training with HR, policies, and culture
You’ll also need to talk to your HR department and coordinate your onboarding efforts and training with their efforts. In some companies, it isn’t unusual for human resources to handle the bulk of the new hire training, and the departments are responsible solely for department-specific training. Conversely, in smaller organizations the department may be the only source for new hire training. Working with HR will help you establish the outlines of what you’ll need to cover. Similarly, touch base with your payroll department to determine if there is any paperwork you will need to collect from the new employees.
In addition to the nuts and bolts of doing a job, you’ll need to consider any cultural items specific to your company. These often intersect with established policies, though some expectations are more informal. This mix can include meeting rules, the lunch policy, rules of behavior, how strictly the hierarchy, if any, is adhered to, rules about personal items, or other things that may not be spelled out but that everyone in the office follows. A good example would be a varying definition of a Casual Friday. If a new hire doesn’t know exactly what the company means by “casual,” they may show up wearing clothes that meet their personal definition of casual, but not the company’s.
I’d like to emphasize how important cultural items are. According to a 2014 article at Inc.com, up to half of voluntary employee turnover occurs within the first six months of being on the job. While not all of the factors influencing this number are cultural, 44 percent of the respondents surveyed voluntarily left their positions for reasons other than pay. Equifax Workforce Solutions director of product Kristen Lewis is quoted in the article as saying this gives credence to the idea that culture plays a large role in a new employee’s decision to stay or leave. Considering how expensive it is to find, hire, and train new employees, it may be worth taking a look at how your training can help prevent this turnover.
Whether through the initial training or follow-up activities, like weekly meetings with each employee to discuss his or her transition, or group activities to help new employees get to know their coworkers, it is worth the effort to help your new employees acclimate to their new jobs in hopes they will want to stay at your company long term.
Connect skills development needs to training methods
Another consideration is what type of training your new employees need. Is this a job that requires mastering certain skills to be successful, or are the new hires already coming to you with the necessary hard skills, but needing the soft skills? Each type of skill requires a different approach.
For example, if new hires need to complete certain tasks according to a prescribed routine, simulations and practice scenarios can help them build the understanding and memory required to follow the procedure reliably. Additionally, simulations are an excellent way for new hires to begin gaining expertise in a software system without the possibility of messing up the system for other users.
In contrast, if the skills your new hires need to master are more along the lines of interpersonal or soft skills, then role playing can really drive the lesson home. Many positions like bank teller, customer service agent, or cashier require a level of interaction with the public that goes beyond the experience of most people. Role playing with either a trainer or another new hire can help students overcome any initial fears and get them accustomed to the types of interactions they can expect. These types of exercises are useful for public-facing jobs, but they can also be used when new hires will be working in a heavily team-centered environment.
Required skills, along with other factors like geography, technology, and need for repeatability, will also influence what type of training method might be most effective for your organization. Kevin Gumienny’s blog on training methods may be helpful in learning about some of the options available to you.
Change up activities, keeping your new hire engaged
Once you have a solid list of all the skills and knowledge a new employee will need to be successful, you can begin crafting your training, and do so in a way that engages your new employee throughout the course of the training. One way to counter distraction and keep your learner focused is to include variety. This can mean varying the elements of your new hire training, such as including video, stories, or games. A quick note on this last possibility: If you are training a group of new hires, games do a great job in helping students get to know one another.
You can also introduce variety by breaking up the training with different activities. For example, if you’ve shown the employee how to navigate the payroll system, get them up and take them on an office tour before you dive into the next software task. Doing this will not only help the employee stay alert and engaged in the training process, but also allow some time for the previous lesson to sink in before moving on to another computer task.
I’ve seen some very successful new hire trainings that are structured so that new employees aren’t overwhelmed with all the information in a single day or week of training. Instead, the employees attend group sessions for a portion of the day each day for the first week. For the rest of the day, they return to their desks to either complete various assignments or have one-on-one meetings with their coworkers. This way, the new hire has time to integrate the new information they are learning. They also get to know their teammates. This model allows new hires to transition to their new roles while still having a forum for questions or concerns. An additional benefit of this approach is the new hire can start completing tasks and gaining that all-important feeling of accomplishment early on in their new job.
I mentioned this before, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed with the prospect of creating a training in-house, a learning and development company can be invaluable. Their teams help you structure your new employee training. They can also work with the other stakeholders in your company to ensure your business and cultural goals can be measured and met by the training program.
Canvass your trainees, improving training for future staff
Finally, once you’ve completed your first run of new hire training, canvass your participants after two to three months. Find out if there were things they learned on the job that they wish the training had covered. Regularly checking in with the new hires is part of a continuous cycle of improvement for the training program that will help keep it fresh for all your future new employees.
Your turn: What new hire training have you seen work effectively?
Whether a technique, activity, method, or otherwise, we’d love to hear about your experiences with new hire training. Share your thoughts with us in the comments!
- Would hiring a learning and development company help your company build custom new hire training that makes an impact? Feel free to contact us — we’d be happy to walk through your situation with you.
- Hard skills training can be custom developed or based on off-the-shelf courseware. Check out our Course List to see if certain courses could help your employees get up to speed in specific areas. If you need to combine a series of courses for a custom new hire rollout, we can do that, too.