Published in May/June 2021

CHALLENGES FACING A RETIRING DIVISION

Faced with a retiring workforce within a large Fortune 500 financial services division, the company began onboarding young millennial and Generation Z employees. However, outdated onboarding methods and modalities, such as being paper based and requiring memorization without knowing “why,” coupled with two battle-weary subject matter experts (SMEs) as the training team, proved insufficient for this incoming workforce. Before the divisional policy knowledge walked out the door, something had to be built.

To overcome these challenges, the newly appointed training leader would need to change the new hire program, which called for a revamp to optimize job performance and expedite turnaround from the training room to the work floor. A dynamic, blended approach for optimum engagement and performance improvement was the result.

Aside from the younger workforce entering this division, the training leader discovered three problems following a thorough needs analysis: 1) information and resources were scattered, 2) a lack of an educated training team, and 3) not fully knowing what they know as an operational division (i.e., working in silos).

Faced with these big challenges on top of the needs of a younger workforce, the training leader, with the support of the divisional stakeholders, focused on three all-encompassing solutions: 1) technology modalities used with eLearning tools, 2) social learning opportunities, and 3) foundational adult learning methods for optimum success. Each solution could be broken down into micro-solutions. This layered approach resulted in a robust new hire onboarding six-week program for the highest level of performance, as well as a synergistic training team for new hires to reach a 96% success rate in their performance following training.

eLEARNING TOOLS

Since this large division was tasked with processing and inputting nationwide new client information into the system, as well as a customer support phone team, the training leader determined there were tools required for the workforce to proficiently look up and handle policy details, protected health information, and state laws. The faster the processors could input a new client, answer questions and move on to the next client, the better.

The largest solution determined by the training leader entailed a SharePoint community of practice to offer a communal location for resources impacting the entire division, then areas broken down by department, and finally a training section. This community quickly resulted in faster responses and turnaround times to save from having to locate answers within staff email inboxes. Consistency and transparency were also provided across departmental lines, as well as ongoing or just-in-time employee and leadership training solutions that were easier to determine and deliver. Ultimately, the leader obtained clarity in truly “knowing what we know” as a synergistic division.

The training leader implemented a digital OneNote notebook solution that encompassed the full six-week schedule with dynamic links to the various online SOPs, technical manuals and processing guides. Not only did this provide one source to learn from, it also offered trainees a “living-breathing” resource to utilize back at the desk for consistent learning and handling of client policy information. The goal was to provide learners with enough hands-on practice through the six weeks of training that when they returned to their jobs, they would no longer need to use the dynamic manual, but it was still available if needed.

Finally, online evaluation surveys were employed throughout the training process. Feedback opportunities were provided on the new hire program structure, trainers, SMEs and the mentorship program. This meant that the new hire training provided was leveling up and becoming stronger and better for each new group to experience; this had the side effect of the newly built training team also becoming more proficient and synergized in performance.

Since part of the job requirement was having minimum experience with computers and software within this division, the trainees quickly adapted to learning the technological solutions provided and even became part of the evaluation process in offering improvements. This enabled young trainees to play a crucial role in giving their voice to the onboarding structure, resulting in increased loyalty.

SOCIAL LEARNING

Knowing that learning doesn’t happen in a vacuum no matter the age, the trainers provided social learning opportunities throughout the new hire program, starting with real world role-playing, hands-on performance exercises, mentorships between a new hire and a high performing employee and job shadowing, as well as leader shadowing. Combining all these social elements gave a deeper understanding of the job expectations, as well as the team, divisional and organizational cultures.

The training leader noted that a happy and intriguing discovery surfaced by providing such deep social learning opportunities within the new hire onboarding program; the trainee became deeply invested in the success of the team. Strong friendships and professional bonds were also created that later resulted in corporate loyalty and stable career pathing.

FOUNDATIONAL RESEARCH-BASED METHODS

Even though most of the solutions implemented by the training leader were technology or eLearning based, the foundational concepts of solid adult learning theory and instructional design played throughout, starting with a thorough analysis, nurturing key stakeholder partnerships, feedback opportunities at every level for full transparency and course corrections, tangible analysis and measurements to show the return on investment from the training organization, as well as building and supporting a seasoned and passionate training team.

Knowing the learning curve was beyond steep for the trainee, great effort was taken by the training leader and the training team to methodically lay out the instructional design aspects of the new hire program to layer the concepts in the hopes that the trainee would learn a new concept, practice to proficiency, and then move on. This was reinforced with the mentorship program in order to offer support where needed, especially during times of confusion or frustration to keep trainees pushing through. This resulted in a very low drop out and termination rate as observed and tracked by the training leader.

IT WASN’T ABOUT AGE AFTER ALL

Although the retiring workforce was starting to exit at an ever-increasing rate, shifting the age and experience level of the incoming employees, implementing a new hire onboarding program that focused on technology modalities, social learning opportunities and foundational adult learning methods offered a robust and successful training solution that resulted in highly engaged, proficient and loyal employees within this growing and thriving division.

The combination of all three solutions provided for a stimulating and fully immersive learning experience for the trainees. It was determined that age really isn’t a factor in the equation when a new hire onboarding program is done correctly via taking both the learner and the business into consideration.

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