Unfortunately for new hires at an aerospace company, new hires spent their first three weeks sitting in front of a computer rather than building or fixing airplanes. Somewhere along the line, someone had decided this training had to be completed before a new hire could step onto the floor.
As a result, new hires weren’t applying what they learned right away, and whatever they learned on their first day was long gone before they were on the floor. This situation created twice the work as senior employees retrained new employees on skills that they learned on a computer but subsequently lost.
In order to avoid these types of pitfalls, it is important to take a deep dive into your onboarding programs and consider when new hires are receiving mandatory training. As you do so, here are four items to consider.
As you can see from the aerospace company, the first item to consider is time. Many employers say, “We’ll get this training out of the way during onboarding,” as if it will save time. But if other employees have to retrain new hires, or if the new hires lose the information because they don’t use it, is the training really saving time?
Even if it takes extra time to deliver the training at a more effective point in the onboarding process, it saves time in the end if the employees can use the information immediately.
Second, consider what new hires are interested in learning. Given that humans are social creatures, new hires are often more interested in socializing than job tasks. In fact, they can’t effectively learn job tasks without first understanding the social context within which they will perform them. As a result, new hires often spend a lot of time engaging in social experiments, and poorly timed new hire training encroaches upon that instinctual behavior.
New hires copy the behavior of others (e.g., showing up to meetings five minutes late because others do), engage socially (e.g., asking people to lunch to see if group lunches are the norm), ask a lot of questions, seek feedback on their work, develop relationships, and discuss and test role expectations.
The aerospace company almost certainly deprived new hires of something they desperately needed, and the employees were likely distracted by their thoughts of what it was like out on the floor working with colleagues.
Third, consider how timing affects messaging. For example, if you’re providing mandatory harassment prevention training on the first day just to get it over with, new hires will likely conclude that harassment prevention isn’t all that important.
If you deliver the training, instead, a few days or weeks into the job, after the new hires have had some conversations around culture and expectations for behavior, harassment prevention will seem much more important and tied to the organization’s culture. In turn, employees are more likely to come forward when harassment occurs.
Fourth, consider how managers are involved in making learning stick. If new hires learn in a cubicle without interacting with their manager, then the manager is not a part of the learning process. Managers should have conversations with their new hires before the training to discuss what the training will cover and why it is important and then after the training to discuss what they learned and how to operationalize it.
Assuming that new hire training is meant to influence behavior on some level, the more that mandatory training is intertwined into onboarding, the more likely people are to follow the rules. New hires will see these rules as part of the culture and context within which they are performing their job functions — and everybody wins.