If there’s anything we’ve learned from the pandemic, it’s that training is critical to every organization, not just for new employees but for everyone. Let’s take it one step further and breakdown some of the categories of training we can strategically put into place, they are:
Onboarding, Ongoing, HR Related, Strategic Direction, Evangelism
For this particular post, we’re going to focus on Onboarding.
Everyone should agree that an effective onboarding training program is vital and necessary for new employees as well as the health of the company itself. The key difference is how this is accomplished from one organization to the next, and a word of warning here is that shortcutting this process is a double-edged sword! Some training aspects to consider are the length of onboarding, depth of training, measurement of understanding, and measurement of the training program itself.
Length of Onboarding
This is probably one of the most underappreciated factors in training programs. The reason is this, we all have our preconceived notions/biases about how long it should take a new person to get up to speed. Often, we think that because we discussed a topic or put a topic into a PowerPoint, we can check the box and move on since we covered the topic clearly and no one had any questions, so we’re good – Right? Wrong! Most people, including you, will not retain everything you “learn” or have been shown the first time around. In fact, it will take various learning reinforcement tactics like repetition, and hands-on activities to get an acceptable result, much less a great one. The challenge is this because we live and breathe our subject matter expertise every day, it all seems very elementary to us, and when you’ve been doing it for a while, no doubt it should be. Unfortunately for new employees, who may not yet have your mad skills, this is most certainly not going to be the case out of the gate.
Depth of Training
This is where we usually get too deep in terms of content and bury our trainees. Our natural inclination is to ensure that we don’t leave anything out, because after all, once this onboarding process is complete, we can move on to our “real job” and expect that new employees are ready to hit the ground running. The challenge here is information overload, and sometimes we don’t explain the why behind the what. New employees need to understand the why, it contextualizes the new information for them and helps them connect the dots both operationally and strategically in a perfect world. This is difficult to do because it forces us to invest more time into preparation and training, to make this connection, but it is a crucial one, if you take the time to do this well, it will continue to pay dividends.
Measurement of Understanding
This is an area where we have a huge range of latitude. Think of the last time you boarded an airplane, the folks in the exit row had to listen to the flight attendant’s instructions, agree to do as instructed should the occasion present itself, and verbally acknowledge their responsibility by simply replying with a “yes”. How confident were you that ANY of those folks would faithfully execute the responsibilities they agreed to? This is probably the least measured widely held training event ever implemented, yet potentially has the largest personal impact on us if “it hits the fan”. Fortunately for us in the corporate setting, we have a myriad of options. We can do verbal quizzes and/or written quizzes, we can train one-on-one, we can do classroom training, old school computer-based training, and we can also implement a learning management system (LMS). The LMS is great because we can walk a new employee through a training curriculum and quiz/test them along the way, and even make them repeat a part if need be. Some of these LMS are pretty slick because they help us deliver scalable, consistent training and provide for quantitative testing as well. They aren’t perfect (because we still must create content for them) but they are very helpful and can streamline your overall costs for training.
Measurement of Training Programs
Now, this is where you can make a huge difference to your organization, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- How much does it cost to train a new employee? This can be a deep rabbit hole when you factor in all the obvious and not so obvious costs.
- How much time does it take to train a new employee? Also, has this time frame changed in the last year, last 2/3 years, 10 years, etc.?
- How much time should it take to train a new employee? In who’s opinion?
- Are we repeating old training mistakes or are we applying kaizen techniques (continual improvement) to our training processes?
- Do we take the time to introduce new employees to any of our corporate officers during training? This is probably your strongest opportunity to make an impression on new employees to set expectations, establish the culture, make them feel welcome, and such. This could be in the form of personal one-on-one interaction, a handshake, a keynote/introductory session, a video, etc. Lots of options here. There is tremendous value in this kind of personal experience for new employees, especially when you have an officer/founder/CEO etc. that is a highly regarded industry expert or corporate celebrity. Although you can’t put a quantitative dollar figure on this, it is certainly palpable and visible on the faces of those trainees. In addition, it keeps the VPs close to the business’ best asset – its people.
I hope some of this resonated with you, or at a minimum echoed some of the practices you may already have in place. I leave you with this, “People first, mission always”.