Onboarding new employees comes with many considerations, including making sure that new hires are up to speed on processes and technologies as fast as possible. For tech roles in particular, the average ramp-up time from starting a job to fully performing in the role can take anywhere from three to nine months, according to a survey by the startup Swimm.

Ensuring that the onboarding process is smooth and efficient should be a top concern for business leaders and hiring managers. If employees are not given the tools to upskill themselves quickly when they start a new job, this can create skills gaps that can be difficult to overcome later on.

The onboarding phase of employment should include more than generic corporate training and human resources (HR) checklists — it should be a time of deep learning for new employees where they can hone their skills. Incorporating job-specific training into the onboarding process can help close skills gaps, making new hires capable and confident.

The Case for Training New Employees Early and Often

When employees enter into a new role, the onboarding process can often seem confusing and overwhelming, exacerbating existing skills gaps. According to an article published by the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM), “Effective onboarding should acclimate the new employee to allow him or her to become a contributing member of the staff in the briefest period possible, while engaging the employee to enhance productivity and improve the opportunity for the company to retain the employee.”

There are a few elements of this definition of onboarding that I want to explore a bit further. First, the goal of onboarding is to help employees become contributing members of the workforce as soon as possible. In tech roles specifically, decreasing ramp-up time is incredibly important. Pluralsight’s 2022 State of Upskilling Report shows that there are far reaching tech skills gaps in areas such as cybersecurity, cloud computing and data storage. All of these areas are critical for most businesses today, meaning that effective training directly impacts how well a business is able to perform. Giving employees the tools to learn early on in their tenure with an organization will pay dividends in the long run.

Additionally, one of the key goals of a good onboarding program should be driving employee engagement. According to Gallup, employee engagement in the U.S. has been trending downward since 2020, reaching a new low in 2022. Only 32% of employees are actively engaged in their workplace. However, workforce development training can help boost engagement levels. The State of Upskilling Report showed that employees were eager to learn and grow, so much so that 48% of tech employees have considered changing jobs due to lack of upskilling resources.

Providing learning and development (L&D) opportunities during the onboarding phase of employment should be considered a key talent management strategy. Not only can integrating upskilling into the onboarding process help shrink skills gaps, but it can help keep employees engaged, showing that the company is making an investment in their career growth.

Programmatic Upskilling for New Hires

Now that I’ve laid the foundation for why workforce development training belongs in the onboarding processwhat is the best way to make this a reality? Ensuring that continuous upskilling is a programmatic part of your organization is a crucial first step.

When I say “programmatic,” I mean putting concrete processes in place that will help your employees continue to hone their skills from the moment they step into the role and throughout the duration of their time with the organization. Creating a dedicated process to help employees upskill from the get-go will the tone for their entire career.

One example of an organization who used programmatic upskilling during the onboarding process is MasterControl Inc. , an enterprise quality management software company that wanted their technology organization to stay ahead of the curve in terms of new innovations. To do that, it was crucial that they armed their engineers with workforce development training from their first day on the job. MasterControl used a digital upskilling software and created a curriculum for all new technology hires to follow. This decreased their ramp-up time for new engineers from six weeks to four weeks, allowing them to ship new code faster than ever before.

The example above shows the power of making skills development programmatic. By developing a curriculum for all of their incoming tech hires, Master Control had tangible results that are helping them close the skills gaps in their organization.

For other organizations, creating in-house technology boot camps is a crucial way to get new talent up to speed on the latest technologies. Organizations such as 1-800 Contacts and Deutsche Bank have both created internal training programs that help new hires and current employees learn the technology skills they need to be successful.

A skills development program is only as good as the concrete measures put in place to help it succeed. Formalized training in the form of tech training curriculum and in-house boot camps are just a few of the ways to integrate upskilling into the onboarding process. It’s crucial to determine what programmatic approach to upskilling will be most beneficial for your new hires.

Using Data to Measure Upskilling Impact

A crucial component of workforce development training is being able to measure its impact on your employees. This is especially important for L&D leaders who may be trying to make the case for stronger upskilling programs within their organizations. In fact, the best upskilling programs use an intentional, programmatic and data-driven approach to each stage of the team’s upskilling journey.

There are a variety of ways that organizations can use data to inform their upskilling efforts. The first, and perhaps simplest way is to survey employees to see where skills gaps exist and how workforce development training can close those gaps. According to a Harvard Business Review article, surveys are still one of the best ways to gauge the effectiveness of initiatives while ensuring that employees feel heard. Incorporating surveys into the onboarding process can be as simple as using a pre- and post-survey to determine how effective skills development training was during the ramp-up period.

Additionally, skills assessments can be a great way to test where employees are at with a given skill. Skills assessments test for practical knowledge on a subject, which can be especially useful for tech-related roles. Rather than measuring the feelings or attitudes employees have toward skills development, good skills assessments measure what you know, allowing for concrete data about how well an upskilling initiative is performing.

Finally, continuing to measure the effectiveness of upskilling efforts throughout an employee’s career is crucial. Tools such as software delivery intelligence platforms include key metrics that show how well tech teams are working together, removing potential barriers to efficiently complete projects. All of these insights can help organizations more clearly see the benefits of integrating upskilling into the onboarding process.

Whether or not your organization chooses to integrate upskilling into the onboarding process, it’s a reality that skills gaps created by the ever quickening pace of technological advancement will continue to impact most businesses. Arming your employees with the tools they need to succeed in their roles from day one will not only keep them engaged, but it will also help organizations get the most out of their talent investments throughout their tenure at the organization.