The offer has been extended. They’ve signed on the dotted line. Paperwork is complete. A laptop has been configured. And an employee badge has been issued. At last, you’ve made that critical new hire. So, now what?

You could throw that new team member into the fire, loading them up with seemingly random “urgent” assignments that may appear important in the moment and not too complicated for someone stepping into a new role. Or you could take a better, more efficient approach, one that increases the likelihood that your new team member will be productive and learn the ropes faster, thus being more inclined to stick around for a while. In other words — a project.

Project-based learning allows new hires to gain experience by working with a team of seasoned employees. They can learn company processes by troubleshooting and gaining a new perspective of the business. It is an experiential form of learning that lets new hires learn by doing.

When you assign a new hire to a multidisciplinary project team, that individual can become immersed in that role — and in the organizational culture — and you can significantly reduce the time for proficiency. And since so many organizations have a remote work environment, it’s a sure-fire way to help new hires get to know their peers better.

The beauty of project-based learning is that it’s focused, orderly and immersive — and there are people you can lean on, where you all win or lose as a team. In a project, goals are defined, deadlines are established, and specific assignments and deliverables are measured. And most importantly, a varied team of individuals — with diverse experiences, backgrounds and skill levels — can work together to accomplish a goal.

So, how can project work reduce time to proficiency for new hires? Let’s take a look.

It Eases the Transition

Today, more than ever, people seek work that excites them and contributes to a greater purpose. In the past year, as many as 4.5 million Americans left their jobs each month, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics — an unprecedented rate since the agency began tracking that statistic at the turn of the century. So, if new hires get off to a rocky start, that’s a problem for everyone involved.

So, how can working on a project help? For a new team member, project work can offer the opportunity to become an integrated part of the business without bearing the brunt of assignments alone. so by letting them work on a project with other employees, they are less likely to become overwhelmed.

Also, contributing to a project with several other team members can give new employees the opportunity to self-assess — to measure the depth, breadth and quality of their own skills. By identifying areas to work on or areas of interest that may be new to them, they are opening the door to learning and increased engagement.

It Helps Gauge the Work — and the Worker

Managers and team leads can also benefit by observing their new hires as they work on a project to gauge their current skills and abilities. During an employee’s first 90 days, their manager should ensure they’re a good team fit by identifying core strengths, communicating areas of improvement and correcting mistakes before they become larger issues.

Many projects can include checkpoints to assess progression. By tracking the team’s performance and that of new employees, you’re able to provide real-time feedback while also uncovering employees’ skills gaps or opportunities for advancement and training.

Project-based Learning Instills Confidence

For many workers, the first few months of a new job can feel overwhelming, and it’s natural for people to question whether they made the right decision. Since there is so much to learn about their role, the organization and their colleagues, the first few months are essential for instilling confidence in your new hires as well as a sense of psychological safety and belonging.

Because the nature of project work is contributing to a shared goal and vision, new employees can gain a sense of clarity and conviction in their work. Whether performing large or small tasks, project work — and the collaborative nature of it — enables workers to bring fresh ideas and perspectives to the table. While individual contributions are important, project work can help immerse the new hire into the company and reduce time to proficiency.

The first 30-60-90 days of employee onboarding are critical. If a new employee gets off to a rocky start, the likelihood of righting the ship decreases with the passage of each day. By placing new employees within the nurturing cocoon of a project team, they can quickly adjust to your work environment and excel in their new role — and you’ll know for sure if you’ve made the right hire to help move your company forward.

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