Learn how to train your new hires and set them up for success.
You’ve hired a new employee after what may have been a grueling recruitment process. The next step in their journey to a long-term staff member is onboarding and training. Build on the investment you’ve made so far with the right training, at the right time. Shifting from new hire to productive employee takes effort, on the part of the worker and the workplace. The more information and tools you can provide, the faster they’ll be up to speed. If you don’t invest in new-hire training, you may lose your investment in recruiting.
Pre-pandemic surveys found about a quarter of new hires quit their job within the first 45 days. One of the reasons they cite is lack of training, and they’re not exaggerating. A study from West Monroe Partners found 59% of employees say they had zero workplace training — their skills were self-taught. Another 59% of managers who oversee 1 or 2 employees say the same: 41% for managers who supervise 3 to 5 workers. With increased churn post-COVID, those numbers are probably much higher today.
Lack of training can lead to new hires quitting their jobs in their first 45 days.
For business, early training may be key to employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention. The investment you’ve made in hiring needs to be developed. It starts with acclimating the new hire to the organization, then grows into the most complex needs of the role.
Where to begin with new hire training
Onboarding employees is critical to their success. It begins with looking at the process from an employee’s point of view. What do they need to know immediately to begin the assimilation process? For most organizations, onboarding means:
- Paperwork — tax and insurance forms to be filled out
- Employment verifications received
- Employee policies and handbooks to be reviewed and issued
These are necessary, but they’re only the beginning.
There’s a difference between onboarding and training.
Once the legalities are completed, new hire training can begin. Start with company-wide information to help the newest member become part of the team. Discuss:
- Company goals and priorities
- The mission and vision
- How each employee contributes to organizational success
As you train the employee on each new task, reinforce these values to help them understand their part in achieving goals.
Next, teach the employee the basics they’ll need to get through the day, including:
- Where the lunch/break areas are and how much time they’ll have
- Who to contact with questions on benefits, payroll, or technology
A walk-through of the company — even to areas they’ll rarely frequent — provides insight into the larger organizational picture and context on where their department fits in.
The tricks of the trade
Unless you’ve transferred a franchise employee from one physically identical location to another, the new hire will need to learn what you do, how you do it, and where things are located. Training them to work the register may be the first order of business for a cashier, but knowing where and how to get refills on bags or how to replace register tapes is just as important.
Look at new-hire training from the employee’s point of view.
Look at new-hire training from their point of view — what do you need to know immediately and what will you need to know eventually. They may not have to change the tape for weeks, but knowing how to do so provides autonomy.
Even an employee with exact experience will need training on how to perform the tasks at your organization. They may bring a wealth of knowledge to the position, but these new hires are now your brand representatives. Don’t assume they know how you want things done — show them how it’s done in your organization.
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Create skill ladders
Starting with the most frequent and important tasks is a best practice. The bulk of new hire training should be focused on the most critical duties of the job. You train a server to take orders before they learn to bus tables. Create a priority list for the position — in writing or informally — focusing on the most important tasks first, then support or secondary duties.
We know we learn to crawl before we walk. As we learn and master a skill, we build on that knowledge to master the next. Look at training in the same way. Even the most complex tasks have steps along the way. Start with the basic knowledge needed to achieve the task, and break it down by parts. The first step in doing XYZ may be something they can do independently or with a partner. As they become proficient, add the next step, then the next, until they’re performing on their own.
Who’s in charge?
Not everyone is cut out to be a trainer. Your most proficient employees may have the technical skills, but not the patience to deal with a new hire. When it comes to training, look for employees (and managers) who have the task skills and the temperament to guide the new hire into proficiency. Onboarding and training are process-oriented but driven by people. The right fit for the job increases the chance of success.
Look for employees and managers who have the skills and temperament to be effective at training.
In some organizations, entire teams take the new hire under their wing for training purposes. This can be beneficial if they’re not overwhelming the new staffer with information at the wrong time. Team training efforts should be planned ahead of time: what do they need to know asap and who will teach them. What’s next, and who’s in charge there? Progressive learning is key to building a foundation of knowledge that helps the new hire understand what they’re doing and why.
Set timelines, but be flexible
It may take 10 minutes to learn to bag groceries or 10 months to rewire a circuit box. Set timelines for training that are reasonable, but flexible. Some new hires are quick studies, others are more methodical learners. Both can become excellent long-term staffers if you’re flexible. Look to your top performers and how quickly they were able to learn the tasks and responsibilities of the job. Set timelines aligned with their learning curve, but be ready to adjust as needed.
If the employee hasn’t gotten the hang of it within the timeline your first question might be, “Where in the process did they get lost?” Go back through the steps to see where they were clear and proficient and where that stopped. You may find a gap in the process that can easily be corrected.
Tailor new hire training to the learner
Everyone learns in a different way and at a different pace.“This is a snap, you’ll learn it in a minute,” puts new hires in an awkward position. They may not understand fully, but they’re embarrassed to ask for more information on such an easy task. Don’t pre-judge what they’ll understand easily and what will need more guidance. Preface training with a “Don’t hesitate to ask questions — that’s what we’re here for,” mindset. When you open the door to inquiry, they’re more at ease asking for details, background, and help.
Remember not everyone learns at the same pace, nor in the same way. Some new hires will be visual learners — they need to see it to understand fully. Others can read it in a book and step right in. Ask the new hire how they learn best with safe questions: “Do you want to try or do you want me to show you?” Provide the opportunity to learn without judgment. The more comfortable they are in the training process, the faster they’ll be up to speed.
Build on knowledge
As you build on the new hire’s knowledge, add more tasks to grow their skill set. Once they’ve mastered everything necessary, you might even look to add more responsibilities. As you break down training into parts for specific roles, you may even want to create training templates. These can verify the steps that have been successful and validate that every new hire starts off on equal footing with their peers.
Employees are investments in your company and for their growth. The more training you can provide, the more valuable they are to your organization. Make thorough, learner-centric training a priority to get the most for your recruiting investment.