Specific development paths help employees attain new skills and avoid the lowest common denominator.
By Kevin Hegebarth
It’s the day many new employees wait for—the first day of a new and exciting job, and they can’t wait to get going. They’ve successfully navigated the maze of multiple interviews, run the gauntlet of online and written assignments, passed the battery of background and drug tests, provided glowing references, and now they’re itching to make their mark. Not so fast. There’s still new-hire training to get through before they can be let loose to conduct business for your company.
New hires often find themselves spending weeks poring over material, in the classroom or online, that they may already know at an agonizingly slow pace. How can this be?
Learning Is Not One Size Fits All
Despite the necessary pre-hire activities, most employers only use assessments to gauge candidates’ employability and reliability for the job role. Few use them as a way to determine what training a new employee will need in order to become proficient in his or her new job.
Instead, many companies often take a “lowest-common-denominator” approach, assuming every new employee needs to participate in the same curriculum in order to achieve proficiency. Not taking into account the skills or experience a new employee brings to a job can accelerate employee dissatisfaction and attrition.
This is particularly evident in jobs where a large number of employees are hired for very similar roles: customer-service representatives, retail clerks, hospitality workers, and the like. A certain amount of baseline learning is required—for example, how to use the company’s systems and being brought up to speed on company policies. But, does a new employee who has 20 years of sales experience really need to go through a “Sales 101” class? Probably not.
A Solution: Prescriptive Learning
The premise behind prescriptive learning allows each employee to get the proper training needed to be effective and productive without re-learning what they already know. Here are five best practices of prescriptive learning to ensure new hires are trained effectively and efficiently.
Map assessments to specific, relevant job skills. Each assessment that a job candidate completes should measure specific skills or traits relevant to the position. Take, for example, a salesperson. Candidates should be assessed based on their communication style and abilities, as well as active listening, objection handling, and closing tactics. Typing and math skills are less relevant.
Create job-relevant learning. Training classes, learning modules, and materials should be created to reinforce the skills necessary for the job role at the individual skill level. Many lessons are structured in such a manner as to “cast a broad net” in the hopes of addressing a broad range of skills. A more focused approach is more effective.
Think small to perform big. Break up learning into bite-sized chunks. Employees—especially Generation Y—tend to learn better when presented with short, single-topic lessons, versus sitting in a classroom for many days or even weeks trying to assimilate multiple topics in one large block. Lessons can be delivered in the classroom or online, and may be as short as 15 minutes.
Go off the path. Previous learning programs tended to follow a chronological path. Instead create a framework to support those bite-size programs to allow employees to complete lessons in an order that best suits their lacking skills as measured by their assessments. This may mean that employees who work in the same position may complete lessons in a different sequence than others.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Learning is not a fire-and-forget operation. Employees are more engaged and perform better when they perceive they have some influence over their career path. Frequent post-hire measurement of skills attainment provides employees with the ability to continuously learn and contribute to their organizations.
Assessments have their place in establishing prospective employees’ employability and baseline skills relevant to their desired position. Using these assessments to prescribe a specific learning path helps new employees attain the skills they don’t possess and can enhance their long-term value to the organization.
Kevin Hegebarth is vice president of marketing and product management for HireIQ Solutions, Inc. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.