The Employee Training Manifesto for Enhanced Productivity
Effective employee training and onboarding is one of the greatest factors of a new hire’s success. So why do so many organizations still get it wrong?
Managers spend weeks vetting candidates to fill a vacant position. After hours of digging through resumes, talking on the phone, and interviewing applicants, they find the best person for the job.
Finally! Someone with all of the right experience and skills.
The manager is excited. The new employee is excited. But after the first few weeks on the job, they still don’t seem to grasp their role in reaching the company’s goals. Or, they are struggling to use software independently and productively.
The enthusiasm your new hire first displayed has been replaced with stress and frustration.
What went wrong?
The employee struggling in this scenario likely received inadequate employee training or onboarding. Although a promising candidate might appear qualified to dive into his or her new role, no one can succeed without the right kind of training and support.
The same rule applies when it comes to onboarding employees to use new software platforms or skill sets. Introducing a digital system to complete formerly manual tasks is a big adjustment. Using an updated version of the same system can even be a confusing and overwhelming experience.
Why employee training should be a top organizational priority
Employee onboarding accomplishes more than just gearing up a new hire to perform his or her duties. When done correctly, it can improve retention, increase employee performance and productivity, heighten engagement, and boost satisfaction.
Training is critical to effective software adoption. Without it, your technology investment will lead to employee frustration and lower productivity.
Solid training produces higher employee productivity
Creating a comprehensive training plan requires significant time, energy, and participation from various people. However, it’s integral to the success of a new employee. And when done correctly, it will yield your company a high ROI.
According to a report from The Society of Human Resources Management, a formal onboarding process is linked to shorter time to productivity. The sooner a new hire becomes a meaningful contributor, the sooner they can become a true asset to the company.
Formal employee training helps with role clarity, which is a key prerequisite to productivity. Without clearly defined expectations, employee performance will suffer. Businesses lose an estimated $37 billion per year as a result of employees not understanding their role, according to the report.
In addition to role clarity, the SHRM found effective training encompasses three more categories:
- Self-efficacy: New employees who are confident they are doing their job well will be more motivated and successful.
- Social integration: This refers to the ease with which new employees meet and begin to work with organizational “insiders.” Social integration also includes feeling socially comfortable and accepted by their colleagues.
- Cultural fit: Understanding the organization’s values, politics, goals, and behavioral norms is critical to fitting in and succeeding in a new company.
A new hire onboarding process that addresses all four of these categories will help new employees become productive faster.
Consider these tips to ensure your employee training process supports the goal of faster time to productivity.
- Identify training objectives. Start by writing down the skills and competencies your new employee needs to be successful in his or her role. Then think about what type of education they’ll require to gain them.
- Organize training in advance. When it comes to employee onboarding, “winging it” will not be not a successful approach. Plan training in advance to ensure the purpose of each session is clear to both trainer and trainee. Keep in mind that people retain more information when they actually use it, so incorporate hands-on training as much as possible.
- Open feedback loops. Don’t wait until the end of the onboarding process to solicit feedback from new hires. Ask them at the end of each session if they have questions, and if they think the training was effective. Doing so will help you improve your training, and also clarify any confusion for the employee.
Formal employee onboarding is critical for retention
On top of the costs associated with employee turnover, high employee churn can have a profoundly negative influence on team performance, morale, and company culture.
On the other hand, employees who underwent a structured onboarding process flow were 58% more likely to still be working at the company after three years, according to a report from the Wynhurst Group.
Managers can improve retention by implementing these five simple measures into their employee training model:
- Establish good communication with the new hire before their first day. Maintain the dialogue with regular check-in meetings throughout and beyond the onboarding process.
- Clarify expectations and goals so there is no part of the new employee’s job description that’s ambiguous. If an employee is confused about their responsibilities, it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to perform them well.
- Don’t overlook the importance of cultural integration. Positive interpersonal interactions and strong working relationships are critical to individual and team success.
- Make professional and social networking simple by pairing the new hire with a “buddy” to help them learn the ropes. Let them meet with senior level employees in their line of work so they can understand the trajectory for promotion.
- Make technology easy to use. There are few things more daunting for a new employee than having to learn several new technology systems at once. Empower your employees to master new technology fast with contextual guidance and real-time support.
Better employee training helps increase resilience to the talent shortage
The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that by 2020, 95 million workers in advanced economies could lack necessary job skills. Many organizations already identify recruiting and retaining top-tier talent as a major challenge.
That’s why effective training and onboarding is so critical. Without it, employees will be unable to reach their potential. They’re also more likely to turn to competitors who offer superior development opportunities.
As the talent pool continues to dwindle, companies have fewer options to replace departing workers.
Onboarding new employees, as well as continuous professional development opportunities, are essential for maintaining top talent amid the growing talent shortage.
How to create an effective employee training plan
Now that we’ve clarified the many benefits of employee training and onboarding you might be asking, how do I create an effective training plan?
To define the answer that is right for your company, explore the following areas.
4 questions to consider when designing an employee training model
- Who does the training involve? In addition to the employees being trained, who in the company is best equipped to lead the training
- What do they need to know? What specific skills and knowledge do you want the employee to take away from the session?
- When should we hold the training sessions? Employees can’t learn everything at once, so you need to prioritize what they need to know right away, and what they can pick up later.
- How can we cater to a diverse audience? Everyone has a different learning style and different preferences for how to receive new information. Ask your new hires what kind of approach will work best for them, and deliver it.
Training should cater to each individual employee’s role and responsibilities. However, you can create a general template to guide the onboarding process for any new hire.
Building a training plan template
By standardizing the components of employee training, you can increase efficiency and provide structure for both new hires and managers. An employee training template helps you ensure consistency while leaving room for individualization.
An effective employee training template should include the following four components.
- Predefined training objectives. Employees have a range of knowledge to gain and skills to acquire during the onboarding process. Ensure they understand these objectives by breaking them down into clearly articulated goals. Then design each training session around these goals. Make the purpose for each session explicit, and recap what information was covered at the end.
- A timeline. Every job requires different types of training, but it’s safe to assume the first few days or week in a new job includes the most training sessions. However, onboarding doesn’t end there. To be truly effective, training should extend beyond the first few weeks of a new hire’s tenure. Keep your training plan organized by creating a timeline that includes a schedule, the itinerary, and important milestones.
- Open channels of communication. Communication is integral for improving the employee training process. Ask everyone involved for feedback and suggestions to improve the training process and ensure it fits the new hire’s needs.
- Further development opportunities. Once employees have achieved the goals included in the training plan, they will need subsequent reinforcements to make sure they retain the new information long term. Keep employees engaged in the learning process by giving them ongoing professional development opportunities.
The biggest barriers to successful training
Many obstacles have the potential to derail your training and onboarding plan. These challenges are even more difficult to overcome in a digital workplace.
First, beginning a new job can be an overwhelming and intimidating process for new employees. They are much like aliens trying to navigate their way around a foreign planet.
Organizational issues also pose barriers to effective employee onboarding. Employee resistance, inadequate leadership training, and lack of motivation have the power to thwart your training plan, regardless of how carefully you crafted it.
Another barrier is the sheer volume of information new hires must learn in the first days and weeks at a company. Today, it’s normal for companies to use several enterprise platforms just to manage basic HR functions. On top of that, employees are typically expected to use other digital tools at a proficient level on a daily basis.
Finding the time to training new employees on all of these systems and integrating them into employees’ daily workflows is a significant challenge.
While some training managers prefer instructor-led training sessions or demonstrations, more progressive organizations are increasingly adopting tools that enable training to occur while an employee is actually using the software.
With on-screen, contextual guidance, employees have instant access to support and navigation tools as they complete their work on a given platform.
Training hack: Optimize training without spending more money
A successful employee requires a substantial investment of time and money. While effective training isn’t free, there are several hacks organizations can adopt to make their employee training process as cost-effective as possible.
For example, don’t go for the cheapest option. Old school training systems, such as textbooks, webinars, and instructor-led classroom sessions, may seem like the most affordable choice. However, your company will end up paying the high price of poorly trained staff and low employee productivity.
Instead, invest in engaging, personalized training. Digital tools that include engaging, customizable, and contextual guidance are proven tools to support new learning and continuous reinforcement. This type of training will yield the highest ROI.
The future of employee training: Contextual learning
Organizations have taken varied and evolving approaches to employee training over the years. As sophisticated technology continues to proliferate in the modern workplace, digital tools will play an increasingly dominant role in training and onboarding.
Traditional types of training, such as instructor-led classroom sessions, webinars, PowerPoint presentations, and textbooks, may have been the go-to choice in the past. Now, they’re being supplanted by digital solutions.
Contextual learning, which relies on machine learning and artificial intelligence, will play a growing role in future employee training solutions.
Contextual training is the superior digital training approach because it combines information on a user’s past behaviors and needs with intelligent guesses on what they will need to do in the future. It uses all of this intel to deliver real-time, tailored support at the moment of need.
When designing your employee training plan, there are many factors to consider, obstacles to anticipate, and decisions to make. The process may seem daunting, but if you invest in your employees, the return will be well worth it.