Guide for training new employees


January 08, 2019 - Gini Beqiri

A common mistake many businesses make is not properly training new employees - they believe learning on the job is sufficient, however this usually leads to high stress and negativity towards the company. In fact, 20% of US workers leave their job within 45 days.

It takes multiple resources to train new employees but the benefits are significant, including increased engagement, productivity, morale and low staff turnover. Essentially, the long term success of a company depends on effectively training of new employees.

Before they start

Before a new employee starts, here are some steps you can take to help them settle into their role:

Send a welcome pack

Send new employees a starter pack containing practical information for their first day, such as where to park and what to wear.

Decide on the training content

You need to decide what new employees need to know for their job, so think about each of their responsibilities and break these down into a series of steps. Check with an employee, who is in a different role to the new starter, that it makes sense and is manageable.

It's important to ensure that the training is specific to the new employee's job, for example, you wouldn't make an administrator go through exactly the same training as a software developer. Doing this will make the training content more relatable and employees are less likely to disengage.

List the supplies, workspace and materials needed for each task - this also includes time as you cannot expect existing employees to fit training into an already full schedule.

Recognise differences in skill levels

Take into consideration every new employee's experience and knowledge. Use this information to prevent wasting time training someone in tasks they are already proficient in - spend the time on people that need it.

Assign a good trainer

Training duties are often assigned to staff that have free time or sit closest to the new employee. However, you should instead choose an experienced employee who has strong communication skills and carries out similar work to the new starter.

It may also be a good idea to get different staff members to act as trainers for different activities/topics.

Assign a mentor

If you are unable to assist the new employee freely then consider pairing the new starter with a mentor which they can approach if they have questions or need help.

Assign new employees a mentor

Create an induction timetable

Provide new employees with an induction timetable and tailor this to suit them, for example, a schedule for an employee straight out of university will look very different to a schedule for an employee who has worked in the industry for 20 years.

Schedule time for team interaction

New staff must integrate with the rest of the team as it fosters a sense of belonging so ensure you allocate time in their training schedule for this.

When you speak to the new starter provide them with lots of notice about upcoming team events and explain beforehand how they can participate. Suggest a team lunch with your department, perhaps on the new starter's second week.

Lunchtime

Ensure that new employees have someone to each lunch with, at least for the first day. Speak with your employees/colleagues to coordinate this.

Make a list of important company resources

These differ between industries but can consist of annual reports, marketing materials, presentations etc. Ensure that you allocate time to showing new starters how they access this information e.g. on the shared drive or intranet etc. Make it clear that they don't need to read these documents but they may find them helpful.

Make connections

It can be overwhelming to remember colleagues' names and job roles when you're new. Consider putting together a company hierarchy, with background information, such as their name, job role, interests outside of work and a photograph. The new starter will feel more comfortable as it makes the team seem more human.

Training manual

Create a training manual that new employees can refer to. Ensure the manual follows a logical order and break down topics into smaller chunks. Also include the new employees' job descriptions and performance expectations, with a performance rubric so they understand how they're being assessed.

When they start

Provide an overview

Give new employees a copy of the schedule and all of the other relevant documents. Tell them about the business, the team, how the business works including its aims and future plans. Provide an overview of their job and then start filling in the details a little at a time through training.

Send a welcome email

Send a welcome email to the whole team to introduce them.

Break the ice

If you are training a group of new employees get them to feel more comfortable with each other by using an icebreaking activity.

Provide a tour

New employees won't know where anything is so one of the first things you need to do is show them around so they can become familiarised with the work environment. Speak to the team and create a list of the important places, this will include: bathrooms, supply closets, printing stations, the coffee machine and the break room.

Also introduce them to staff as you work your way through.

Set realistic goals

Set specific goals with new employees and ensure they are realistic and achievable. Do this by looking at their experience and skill level or you risk setting them up for a failure.

Make them practically apply information

Employees should practically apply their training soon after being taught it because this helps consolidate the information and it shows you whether there are any areas that need improvement.

Train employees when they need it

Avoid giving new employees training for something they will only need after a few months, as too much information can be overwhelming and lower performance on tasks they will face initially.

Provide feedback

Feedback is vital to any learning process and it's better to provide feedback as soon as possible before bad habits are formed. So point out if the new employee has done something wrong or they'll continue making that mistake.

Try to soften the criticism so you don't reduce their confidence, for example, you might say "I've made that mistake before..." or "It would be easier for you if you did it this way..."

Create a positive learning environment

New employees should be immersed in a positive training environment so their confidence increases. Trainers should be relaxed and explain the reasons for exercises and lessons - if the training purpose is ambiguous the trainees will not understand why the information is relevant so ensure that you show how information is connected to their job and the company's goals.

Ensure that new employees do not feel overly stressed. It helps to be patient and allow mistakes - new employees should not be afraid to make mistakes so make it clear that they probably won't get everything right the first time because this way they won't be too afraid to try at least. Negativity only slows down learning.

Train culture too

Companies typically teach employees lots of mandatory training when they first join which is boring and usually not very memorable. New employees need to connect to the company and a great way of doing this is learning the company culture. This is because culture connects people with the company's mission and helps them align their thinking to the company's purpose.

For example, part of your company's culture may be providing the best customer service so ensure you highlight this and show how this appears in the workday.

Set the pace according to the employee

Everyone learns at a different pace so try not to move onto something new until the employee is ready. If you do move too quickly the employee may not be able to meet the demands and feel demotivated so ensure that you check-in with the employee and ask them if the training is too fast or too slow.

Longer training periods may require more resources in the short-term but they are better for your company in the long-term.

Be generous with praise

New starters' confidence must be built-up so praise their specific efforts or achievements. Also, recognising employees publicly for their contributions and successes is a great way of:

  • Building trust quickly
  • Increasing confidence
  • Increasing enthusiasm and motivation

Employees will feel that they are doing well and that you are proud of what they're doing. Employees want to know that their work helps make the company more successful so show that you appreciate their efforts.

Listen to their ideas

Listen to what new employees have to say as they can provide a fresh outlook on your company and they aren’t caught up in business as usual yet. This also has the benefit of encouraging their creativity and showing them that they are valued.

Learning style

Find out what their preferred learning style is, for example, some people like learning visually whereas others prefer learning practically.

Vary training methods

You'll need to use a range of training methods, from online training to hands-on training, as people learn in different ways (as mentioned above) so a one size fits all method won't be effective.

Try to identify the best combination of methods to deliver the different topics, for example, for health and safety information you may want to provide reading material and then test the new starters with an online quiz.

Training methods for new employees

Classroom-style training/instructor led

This is the traditional training method and it's still used a lot - with 42% of training hours being allocated to this.

Usually the trainer delivers presentations so everyone receives the same information at the same time. There is some interaction and participants can ask questions but if there is a large group then interactivity is lowered.

When using this method lots of breaks and discussions are needed to prevent the audience from disengaging.

Interactive methods

This method is a development of the classroom style format by adding interactive elements and group activities, such as role-playing, group discussions, group presentations, quizzes etc.

This makes training more engaging but quieter employees can find this training stressful which can make it ineffective as they may not remember the information due to anxiety.

On-the-job training / hands-on training

The theory is skipped and the new employee goes straight into practical training. Typically the employee will be instructed by a trainer which means that success can depend on how good the trainer's experience is and how good they are at teaching.

It's a quicker process than a lot of other training methods and it improves retention as it's experiential learning. McCall, Lombardo and Eichinger's (1996) 70-20-10 model for learning and development shows how people learn best in the workplace. They found that:

  • 10% of learning comes from formal educational events, such as, training courses.
  • 20% of learning comes from interactions with other people through a range of activities, such as, mentoring, coaching, group learning etc. Support and feedback are the main benefits of this approach.
  • 70% of learning comes from job-related experience. This type of learning allows you to find out: what skills you have, what skills need to be developed, make decisions, problem-solve and so in.

So most learning occurs through hands-on experience, however, some people find this overwhelming and some may feel quite anxious as their mistakes could have negative real world implications.

Cross training

Hands-on training may include cross training which consists of employees being trained in roles other than their own job role. This increases their personal development which is useful for them in the long-term and it also benefits the company in case staff cover is needed.

Online training

There are a variety of online courses catering to different preferences, for example, in some courses you may learn from tutorials, watching videos, reading, quizzes etc, in other courses you may be able to practice with somebody via a webcam. Location is not a limiting factor which means that high-quality training can be accessed wherever the company is based.

Online training is particularly good for "gamifying" training which can improve learning and engagement because people are motivated by points and a sense of achievement.

Virtual reality

VR enables employees to learn through practical experience as users are immersed in a world that simulates real-life. For a long time, experiential learning has been argued as the most effective way to learn and studies have shown that learning through experience increases the quality of learning and retention by 75-90%.

Group of new employees training with VR

Through this type of learning users make the information more meaningful and relatable because they are applying the information in their own way through their responses and behaviour.

VR training is different to hands-on training because it's safe to make mistakes and learn from them. The cost of making a mistake in the virtual world is nothing compared to the cost of human error in reality. This is especially useful for employees that avoid experiential learning due to anxiety as they can develop their skills and increase their confidence in a safe space before applying this learning to real-life.

Lots of VR apps also provide modules where users can learn the theory before practically implementing this information in the virtual world.

Skype and screen sharing for distance training

If you have an employee in another location and you want them to teach your new employee then consider using Skype and screen sharing. This is really useful if the new employee is being trained on computer processes.

Be available

New employees always want to find someone they can ask questions to, it's natural for them to feel confused and frustrated when they're learning a lot at once so be available to them and encourage them to ask questions. If you're not free make it clear that they can go speak to their mentor as well.

Continue training beyond the first month

The first few months of employment are critical as employees are deciding how they feel about the job. Make sure that you follow-up these employees every couple of weeks. Some of the activities that should be conducted in the first few months include:

  • Setting goals and frequently revisiting them
  • Ongoing training
  • Check-in meetings

Ask for feedback

The training process should always be developed and improved. When new employees have completed their training gather their feedback, for example, was the training too fast or slow for them? What were the most useful parts? What would they change? etc.

After hiring someone, it's your responsibility to provide them with the training they need to perform at their best. Ensure that you take individual differences into consideration and after the official training period ends, continue to work on their learning and development.