New hire training is a part of every organization’s onboarding and orientation procedures. It should be designed to cover the administrative details of joining the company but it should also give the new hire clear direction on how they can be successful in their job. No matter how in-depth the training is, there is always room to make that training better. Some aspects are centralized in HR, others are decentralized and handled by each department.
Why is New Hire Training Important?
There are good reasons for HR to prioritize improving new hire training, too. The biggest reason is that good onboarding leads to strong retention rates. A presentation to SHRM by The Wynhurst Group reported that employees who went through a structured onboarding program were 58 percent more likely to be with the organization after three years.
A classic study published in Training magazine puts this percentage even higher, finding that, in the companies studied, 69 percent of employees stayed three years or more when they experienced good onboarding. I’ve even seen unverified statistics stating that 91 percent of employees who experience good onboarding stay for at least one year.
Ask yourself: What part of onboarding is likely to make the greatest impression on new hires? I’m pretty sure it’s not going to be filling out paperwork or figuring out where the bathrooms are located. A big part of successful onboarding is the new hire training experience.
What New Hires Want out of Training During Onboarding
Think for a moment about what new hires want out of their training during those first few weeks of a new job:
- They want training that is relevant to what they will be doing from Day 1.
- They want training that will give them a “feel for the place.”
- Training should leave them feeling excited about their new role and their future with the organization.
- But there shouldn’t be so much training that they feel like it’s information overload. Nor will they want to be stuck in training seminars all day instead of actually starting the work and “getting their feet wet.”
You can probably think of a few more things to add to this list, but it is a good start for thinking about how to improve new hire training so that it meets their expectations...and those of your organization.
It is easy to focus on the business-side of orientation. You probably have an HR checklist that includes: I9 forms, picture for ID badge, payroll information, parking pass, EAP information. IT will cover passwords and security issues. The direct supervisor may have their own onboarding checklist to cover department operations, tutorials of software programs, explanation of file-sharing and collaboration platforms, etc.
What do the new employees need? Would personal introductions of key department and company stakeholders make the transition easier and more effective? An introverted employee may really appreciate this effort, while the extrovert would be fine on their own. What about company culture? Do meetings typically start with five minutes of chit chat or is the tone all business?
Here are five tips for improving your new hire training based on the list above:
Tip #1 Start New Hire Training Before Day One
Many organizations adopt something like a 30/60/90-day model for onboarding plans. While it’s good to have a worked-out roadmap for onboarding, why are we counting days from the start of work? Why not prepare new hires before they even come into the office on Day 1?
In fact, a study by Aberdeen Group found that a whopping 83 percent of the highest-performing organizations began onboarding before the new hire’s first day.
For example, you could send your new hires short courses on company culture, role expectations, safety guidelines, and so on by loading them into your LMS and then giving them access to the appropriate online courses. Your new hires can essentially start the onboarding process themselves at a point where they likely have a fair amount of time to dedicate to it.
Another example: You can send your new hires content about your company’s benefits (like healthcare and 401k plans) so they can review and discuss with their family as needed, then come to the office on Day 1 with any questions they may have.
Tip #2 Use (Short-Form) Video to Automate the Process
Think about all the occasions when your HR professionals have given the same shpiel, over and over, every time you bring a new hire on board. Now imagine how much time you could save if you simply directed new hires to the appropriate videos on those same topics.
Much of onboarding content is repetitive. Your new hires see it as new, but to you, it’s the same content with each new hire. Video is a win-win here. There are many benefits of using video for employee onboarding. Employees can watch their onboarding videos, take notes, and get their information immediately. HR can eliminate long orientation sessions, and yet rest easy that the information being given is accurate and consistent.
There’s something to be said for the accessibility of video, too. I’ve seen all too often how compliance training, or discussions of benefits, or safety training gets put off again and again as urgent work crops up during the workday. With video, employees can get their training at home or on the commute, when they have more time to devote to it.
Tip #3 Train New Hires More Broadly
New hire training should cover more than just benefits and company policies. It can even cover more than the skills needed for a specific role or position! This is your opportunity to build the kind of company culture you want, and maybe even start improving the lives of your employees.
This is easier to do in some companies than others. Some organizations lend themselves to a learning culture that expects a broader base of learning. In previous studies, we identified four basic types of learning culture, distinguished by how active management was in the learning and culture and how broad and varied the opportunities were for learning. Immersive and Free-Form learning cultures tend to provide employees training on a much wider array of topics, just by their very nature.
That does not mean you can’t push the envelope when it comes to training topics in your organization. If your organization does not provide a lot of extra training opportunities, consider adding some. Communication skills, for example, are useful for people in almost any role. Or maybe your employees would appreciate a course in personal finance or time management.
If you already have an immersive or free-form culture at your organization, you might simply need to think of where and how you could provide more personalized training. For example, a course on business math might be just what a new hire needs but is afraid to ask for.
Much of this kind of training content will not be unique to your organization but will simply reflect best practices in your wider industry and the business world at large. That means that off-the-shelf content is a great fit, especially for things like safety, compliance, and business skills.
Tip #4 Start Them on Their Career Track Early
In Tip #3 above, I asked you to think more broadly about the content you include in employee training. Now let’s consider more broadly what you are training your employees for in the course of employee development. (See my article here to help you create an employee training and employee development program.)
From Day 1, you should be thinking about training your employees not just for the role for which they were hired, but for their overall career track. A good first step is to perform an assessment early on to determine your employees’ strengths, as well as their areas for growth. You can then form a development program for them, using competency based learning tracks.
Competencies are just abilities, behaviors, knowledge, or skills that impact the success of employees and organizations, and they can include general skills (like communication skills), role-specific skills, leadership skills, and more. If you use a content library like ours, or an LMS like our own Thinkzoom, you can very easily build a course of study around those competencies based on your organization’s needs and your employees’ abilities.
Once you have a course of study outlined, make it available and allow your employees to direct their own learning. Self-directed learning is great for allowing employees to pursue their own professional development according to their own timetable.
Tip #5 Don’t Overwhelm Them!
Every new hire has a lot to learn. It’s really easy for them to become overwhelmed when you’ve put them on information-overload.
A good way to help tame that feeling of being overwhelmed is breaking up learning into small, digestible chunks. That way, employees can tackle a single topic or idea, reflect on it, then give themselves time before tackling the next bit of training.
This is where microlearning content comes in handy. There’s a lot of good scientific research on the science of microlearning that tells us that 7-11 minutes is the ideal length for a training video, and that businesses that adopt microlearning get a much better ROI for their training dollars.
Microlearning also makes it easier to naturally break up your training, too, spreading it out so that it becomes manageable. It’s still a good idea to start the training early, before Day 1…but don’t feel it all has to be done by the close of Day 1! Spread it out and take the time to reinforce that learning.
Summary and Further Reading
Of course, the above advice does not cover everything that needs to be done during onboarding. But if you can make the training part simple and engaging—even enjoyable!—it not only sets the right tone but also gives your new hires more time for other activities like shadowing, mentoring, Q&A sessions, and so on.
- For a more detailed look at the key role video can play in this kind of onboarding, see my article “Welcome Aboard: Benefits of Using Video for Employee Onboarding.”
- Then, go on over to my companion piece: “How Off-the-Shelf Training Content Can Support Your Employee Onboarding.”
- To learn more about the "Science of Microlearning" check out our whitepaper.