A person always remembers how they felt the first week on a new job and they remember a good manager. My first day in a corporate job I was nervous wreck. I was walking into a two week training in a new city where I didn’t know anyone. The training was okay but I didn’t leave feeling connected to the company. That would come later. I can also remember the first day at a startup where I was made to feel welcome and valued from the moment I walked in the door. Also, I can vividly describe the leadership traits of my favorite manager. They helped me cultivate my skills and pushed me along my career path. A good manager and learning opportunities available to me by my employers have helped shape my work experiences.
According to Forbes.com, the US spent over $87 billion on training and development. Yes, that's billions! That is because associates who feel their company invests in their development are engaged and loyal. Companies inherently know the value of learning, but sometimes cases, learning programs often falls short. I believe each company, large or small, must invest in an innovative learning experience for associates and managers that capitalizes on formal, social, and on the job learning delivery methods. Although onboarding and manager development programs often happen separately, they should complement each other to achieve a substantial ROI to increase engagement and productivity. Part one of this post looks at the onboarding experience while part two will discuss leadership development.
The Foundation for Success
After a reduction in associates for a company I worked with, I had an employee reach out and say,
"Just wanted to tell you that while my experience didn't turn out so well,
I enjoyed the training period more than with any other job."
Excellent onboarding programs prepare people for their role. Associates are so enthralled by the experience they end up drinking the company kool-aid. They leave believing in the mission and values of the company and are confident they can do the role. I’ve designed many iterations on onboarding programs and believe there are three foundational concepts in an onboarding program that help make it a success.
· They are fun.
· They are concise.
· They are clear.
They are fun- It goes without saying if you want people to come back for more learning, make it fun. In one company's onboarding program, they start each day with icebreakers. Icebreakers allow participants to get to know each other and build connections. I’ve had new hires leave onboarding feeling like their cohort is now family. Additionally, icebreakers help open people up to new ideas and information. When you create an environment where people are encouraged to learn in creative ways, they come back for more. Games are also a great way to help people learn complex topics. Take for example an experiential activity on personal values. The activity demonstrates the importance of value self-awareness, and at no time during the training is material delivered via a lecture. People have fun with the activity and without even realizing they walk away with an understanding of the roles our values play in how we interact in the world. People show up each day for onboarding because they enjoyed the experience.
They are concise- I've worked at companies where the initial onboarding is two weeks and ones where it's 6 hours. The best solution is somewhere in between. Business partners want us to cram as much as possible into initial training, especially when ongoing development is not a priority. When it comes to onboarding, less is more. There is an excellent Learning Solutions article that says the rate at which we forget information is as much as 90% percent by day six. I've addressed this phenomenon by cutting the fat from the onboarding experience. Through focus groups and interviews, you can identify priority information for onboarding. Then use information to build learning plans for your associates. In initial onboarding, focus more on sharing the company values, understanding how the company works, and role clarity. Initial onboarding is rarely more than a few days of content. Providing people with accessible fun learning opportunities keeps them coming back for more.
They are clear- I often ask people on the first day about their goals for the week of orientation. The response I hear the most is, “I want orientation to prepare me for my role.” To do this, we should rely on methods that help increase the retention of information. The 70/20/10 rule is a good starting point. The rule implies that humans learn best when it occurs 70% on the job, 20% through social interactions, and 10% formal delivery. For example, only 10% is formal, so I only "lecture" associates a small amount of time. I spend double the amount of time, allowing people to work in groups or group/peer discussions. Spend 70% of the time enabling people to perform functions of their role. After completing different role functions, give time to reflect on that opportunity. The Training Industry has an infographic that tests the modern reality of the 70/20/10 rule. In their research, they found the number closer to 56/29/19 for associates. It is a little easier to meet the parameters set forth by the Training Industry. Yet and still there is more emphasis on on-the-job learning which most onboarding programs lack. When combined with various mechanisms for delivery, people are more likely to retain information relevant to their role.
Let's get the biggest bang for our buck if we are going to spend billions on training. Connected Consultants is here to create an onboarding experience that is fun, efficient, and fair. All the while making sure your associates are engaged and ready to meet business. Reach out to us for a free 30-minute consultation to address all your learning needs.