Hiring a new employee is a cause for celebration. Congratulations!
You’ve finally found the perfect person for the job. But before you breathe a sigh of relief and get back to business as usual, ask yourself: Do you have a plan in place to welcome and train your new hire?
Busy companies often struggle to manage an effective onboarding and training process. Yet training lays an important role in retention; 69% of employees are more likely to stay with a company if they have a good onboarding experience, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.
In this article, you’ll learn ten simple strategies for improving how you train new employees so you can improve employee retention too.
1. Make a Plan
For something as important as onboarding, you don’t want to just wing it. Before your new hire starts work, make a list of everything you need to cover during training. Put yourself in their shoes, and ask what information will be most valuable.
Consider the following questions as you get started:
- What knowledge or skills do they need to start their first project?
- What logistical items do you need to handle right away (setting up an email address, filling out paperwork, etc.)?
- Who are the best people on your team to answer different types of questions?
- What do you want them to feel comfortable with by the end of the training?
Once you’ve answered those questions for yourself, share a brief outline of the training schedule with your new employee—not so much information that it’s overwhelming but enough to set clear expectations.
2. Personalize Your Approach
People take in and process information in various ways. You might be a visual learner who needs to see written descriptions, diagrams, and images to understand a new concept, but your new hire could have a completely different learning style.
Before you start any training, ask them how they learn best so you don’t waste time on ineffective training methods.
Here are a few questions you could ask to get started:
- Do they prefer observing, listening, or doing?
- Do they need time to write things down or try hands-on practice?
- Do they sort out problems better on their own or in a group?
Adapt their training to best suit their learning preferences. Ideally, your training should incorporate elements of different kinds of learning styles so you can easily adapt your onboarding for future new hires as well.
3. Take It Slow
Onboarding can often feel like a marathon—for both you and your new hire. Instead of trying to cram a year’s worth of information into a week, make training a gradual, ongoing process.
Divide big topics into smaller, more manageable tasks. Give your employment opportunities to test new knowledge in a supportive environment where they can ask questions and get immediate feedback.
Remember that they’re absorbing a lot of information all at once. Leave time in between training sessions for them to process what they’re learning. And don’t be frustrated if your new employee needs to be told instructions more than once—in fact, you should actively encourage your employees to ask follow-up questions to ensure they understand what you are teaching them.
4. Get Support From Team Members
There’s no rule that says one person has to manage training single-handedly. In fact, it’s beneficial for a new employee to learn from and get to know multiple team members during their onboarding. Each one will share a different set of skills and expertise.
Evaluate the strengths and talents of your team. Match individuals with training tasks where they will shine, but keep the focus of each task narrow and measurable to avoid overload.
5. Use Technology to Your Advantage
Take advantage of technology that makes employee training easier and sets your new employee up for success.
- Set up ways for new hires to digitally and remotely fill out their HR forms before they start so you can jump into other onboarding processes sooner.
- Create a video introduction to your company and team that new hires can refer back to themselves instead of having to ask a coworker.
- Use a project management tool like Asana, Basecamp, or Trello to give the new hire more control over their own onboarding experience as you have them move through tasks.
- Utilize third-party learning apps or platforms for additional professional development.
Be open to new tools, and find what helps your employees get up to speed.
6. Don’t Forget About Culture
You want your new employee to feel engaged and invested in your company—not only in what you do but also in who you are.
As you structure your onboarding, think about what you expect from your new hires as part of your team culture:
- What core values should they share?
- What behaviors and attitudes do you want to model?
Look for opportunities to integrate cultural fit into the employee training process. If community service is crucial to your mission, for example, you could make a team volunteer project or a pro bono assignment part of onboarding.
Be clear with your new employee if there are specific team norms for them to be aware of—it can be difficult to grasp those things on their own as a new hire overwhelmed by the work of learning new tasks, people, and processes.
7. Assign Group Work
It’s intimidating to be the newest member of a team. A new employee wants to make a good first impression and not make any big mistakes while they’re learning the ropes.
Ease the pressure on a newcomer by putting them in a small group—no more than three to five people—to tackle a real-life challenge your company is facing.
Ask open-ended questions such as “Where should we allocate our marketing budget for Q3?” or “When we open our new store location, what do we need for the launch event?”
In a small group, every team member—whether they are an introvert, extrovert, veteran manager, or new hire—has a chance to bring their ideas and experiences to the table. This atmosphere facilitates critical thinking, builds camaraderie, and encourages creativity.
8. Troubleshoot in Real-Time
Pay attention to how each step of the training is going. Don’t wait until the week—or month—is over to start troubleshooting and adapting your processes.
As you go through your onboarding plan, ask yourself these questions daily:
- What seems to be clicking right away?
- What are the stumbling blocks?
- What do we need to revisit at a later date?
Check-in often with your new employee. Ask and answer questions. Make it clear that you don’t expect them to understand everything immediately. Be flexible as you move forward. If part of the training isn’t working, figure out what the problem is, and try it another way.
9. Give Prompt Feedback
As your employee starts to feel more comfortable in the company and their role, give feedback on their performance. Let them know where they’re doing a great job, and offer help in areas where they can make improvements.
Offering specific guidelines early in the process will help set expectations for future work as well.
Work with the employee to set specific goals for the first few months. What is achievable within the first month? The first quarter? The first six months? Give them ownership over these objectives, but lend support when needed.
10. Stay Present
It will take time for a new hire to feel like a full, integral member of the team. Depending on the person and the position, this transition phase may last weeks or months.
Make sure that you and other team members remain available to answer questions, help solve problems, and offer encouragement along the way.
Your employees are your company’s most valuable asset. Invest in their training and development from the beginning, and you will reap long-term benefits.