New Employees: Invest or Ignore?

This blog was featured at HCI.org last month.  Hope you like it!

A local manufacturer recently hired me to conduct a train-the-trainer class for its senior operators. At the end of the class, I asked the participants how they could use the new skills we’d practiced. No one answered. I persisted, wanting to know what was holding them back from taking the training world—or at least the manufacturing floor—by storm. Finally they explained that training new operators was a waste of time because they just leave after a few days. Why bother?

Fortune just ran an article called, “Is it Worth It to Train New Employees?” The author, Laura Vanderkam, references a survey conducted by Accenture regarding new college graduates’ expectations of being formally trained after landing their first jobs out of school. Seventy-seven percent of current college seniors believe they will be trained, yet only 48% of the graduates from the prior two years state they received training.

When did training new employees become optional?

Data from HCI says current job entrants will average 11-13 companies/jobs/positions in their professional careers. Unless employees are changing jobs within the same company, that’s a lot of churn. And it’s reasonable that companies are reluctant to invest resources to train someone if that person will bolt.

Reasonable? Maybe. Strategic? No way!

Blessing White’s Employee Engagement Research Update from January 2013 states that “‘intent to stay,’ a main predictor of future turnover, remains stable.” The report also states that as people gain more experience and become more vested in their work, their engagement level also increases.

We know that engagement is a leading indicator of productivity and retention. If businesses more consistently and consciously develop new employees’ knowledge and skills through thoughtful and effective training, it stands to reason that productivity will increase, and engagement levels will follow suit.

Because employee engagement is high when employees first join companies, try the following to keep it – and employee retention—high:

Embed development in your onboarding program. A lack of development is one of the top five reasons employees leave their jobs. Get ahead of that by explaining during onboarding what kind of training and development employees will have during their first 30, 90, and 120 days on the job. Tell new graduates what type(s) of training they will be receiving, who will be conducting it, and what kind of skills or knowledge they will be gaining. For example, will most activities be through formal classroom training, on-the-job guidance from a more experienced colleague, online modules, or something else? Manage employee expectations and keep them looking forward.

Pick better trainers. Find people who are enthusiastic about helping others. Trainers don’t have to be technical experts—especially for new-hires—but they must be great ambassadors of the company and its culture. Train your trainers to help new-hires network within the business too, so they know how and where to find the technical whizzes.

Create opportunities for giving new-hires feedback. One of my career coaching clients started a new job and met weekly with his boss. They discussed how he was progressing, what he still needed to learn and how he would acquire that knowledge. My client told me that these sessions never lasted more than 10 minutes, yet were rich with feedback, direction, and encouragement.

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