A promising group of new hires has just started at your company. Whether you have a new hire class of 200 people or one solo new employee, the hiring process was competitive and extensive, and you are eager to get them started. You know you should take time to onboard them with new hire training, but you also think hitting the ground running is a good way to let the new hire learn while they also start returning value as quickly as possible. What you need is a thoughtful balance and a reasonable schedule of both instructional training and hands-on experience.
After the hiring process, new hire training is your new employee’s first impression of what it’s like to be on your team. It is crucial to get this right to retain the talent that you need. While there are many elements that contribute to a successful new hire training program, the elements I am going to focus on here are timing and types of training. First, how long should a new hire training program last? The truth about training is that in the broader sense of training, it shouldn’t be time-boxed. Training needs to be an ongoing process that matures from new hire training to ongoing training to developmental training. As my colleague Adam points out in his blog, when training is done in this ongoing way, it becomes an investment with multiple returns. Regarding new hire training specifically, the exact timeframe will be unique to each company, but a commonly accepted schedule lasts about four weeks. Next, what types of training should you invest in for your new hires? For this, I recommend a balanced, interspersed approach that includes both instructional, “classroom-style” training as well as quality on-the-job training.
To illustrate why a balanced approach to training is best, let’s consider three new hire training scenarios.
Scenario 1: Too Much “Classroom Style” Training
Yes, there is such a thing as “too much” training, if it's all one format. Let’s consider a large corporation that would have the resources to provide weeks-long off-site training for their new hires. Some large companies hold university-like training for “classes” of new hires. Before ever coming into contact with a real project (or any of their daily job responsibilities), hundreds of new employees might be flown to hotels and campuses around the country to participate in lessons, simulations, crash courses, team building activities, motivational rallies, and plenty of and food (think extensive salad bars, buffets of hot food, 24-hour access to amazing snacks). Each step of this program is meticulously planned, but very little of it is specific to what their day-to-day will be like after this training period. While these amenities and resources are likely to impress new hires, how well does it prepare them for their actual job? When they are given their first assignment, will they be able to tackle it with knowledge and confidence?
This type of training does accomplish goals in the overall realm of onboarding: The new hires here are building a sense of community within the organization, learning about the company culture, and hopefully getting some training that will be directly applicable to their forthcoming daily responsibilities. The issue is that these new employees will still need on-the-job training once they have left the experience of this type of training. While they may feel adequately welcomed to the company, the foundation for success requires more. In order to set up your new employees for long-term success, for both the employee and the business, you need to ensure that your new hire training doesn’t go too long without any hands-on training as well.
In this scenario, new employees are likely to lack the confidence that comes with on-the-job training when they finally reach their role-specific responsibilities. You don’t want your new hires to get to their desk feeling like they’ve been with the company for a few weeks now, but still are not sure what their actual role is like.
Scenario 2: Not Enough Training
Now let’s look at the other side of the new hire training spectrum. Imagine showing up on the first day of your new job, getting one day of official, “classroom” training, and then being assigned a real, impactful, and consequential task. Some people can adapt well in this scenario, as they are forced to learn as they go. However, this is not ideal for most people, as they lack the context needed to truly understand their role and tasks. This on-the-job training needs to be paired with other types of official training. Schedule time for your new hires to attend training about your industry, your clients, your SOPs, best practices, etc.
New hires in this scenario of “hitting the ground running” are likely to feel nervous. They may feel like they have to cram in their own research time to keep up. While it’s good to give new hires experience on real tasks early on, you will have to make it clear to them what the expectations are. For example, a new hire may be placed on a real project on day one, but let them know their placement on the project is still part of their training. Encourage them to observe, ask questions, take notes, chime in, and let them know when you expect them to start driving or actively contributing. This approach along with allocated time for other types of training methods would be best. Which brings us to...
Scenario 3: Just the Right Balance
Several weeks of just “classroom” training is too much. Only a single day of instructional training is definitely not enough. Whether you’re a large corporation, a small business, or anywhere in between, finding the right balance for your new hire training program does not have to be stressful. Allocate time for instructional training, but let this be interspersed with methods of training that give your new employees insight to real tasks and what their actual day-to-day roles will look like. A thoughtful mix of these types of training empower employees to apply their training directly to their jobs in real time. It also helps the new employee understand what part of their job they’ll need to develop during ongoing training.
New hires do NOT have to be experts to start tackling their day-to-day jobs, but you need to ensure they understand the bare minimum of their roles and the industry for them to be effective early on. After that, you can continue to hone their skills and dive deeper for added expertise. This scenario sets up your people for success. They gain confidence in their specific role while also developing trust in your company. They are trained and empowered to start delivering real value more efficiently and effectively than either of the other training scenarios.
For a great list of recommended topics to cover during new hire training, check out the New Hire Training section of Adam Perlmutter’s blog post here.
Types of Training to Consider for your New Hire Training Program:
- Orientation - company history, values, policies, etc.
- Industry overview
- Basics of the job
- In-Person learning (when safe and appropriate)
- Virtual learning: Videos, online courses/modules, webinars, relevant reading material
- Simulation work
- Group discussion
In conclusion, when planning your onboarding process, the new hire training schedule is a critical component. You want your program to make it clear that you are invested in your employees success. When done right, quality new hire training is shown to increase employee retention, improve employee morale, increase team effectiveness, and contribute to a healthy company culture. Take the extra time to plan and schedule your new hire training thoughtfully.
We hope you are able to apply this method and timing rationale to your own training program!