The first few days on the job are stressful for everyone. You could hire the most eminently qualified candidate in the world, and it could still take him or her weeks or months to get up to speed. It takes time to get to know an organization, learn its quirks, and start to feel comfortable as part of the team. Depending on the job, it can take 6 months to a year (or even more!) for a new employee to really add value and feel like part of the team. This is one important reason that reducing turnover is so critical to business success—and reducing turnover starts on the first day.
Initial training sets the scene for your employees’ time at the company. How you welcome and train your new employees says a lot about you, and provides important information to team members. If you think you could improve the training process for new employees (and let’s face it, every company can!), start by implementing these five tips.
1. Use Mentors
One challenge of welcoming new employees into your organization is that each person only has so much time for training. Even if you have a dedicated trainer, you can delegate part of the process to more senior team members. They can show new employees around, act as a resource for questions, and help them get up to speed. This has an additional benefit of helping senior team members feel valued and trusted. It’s easy for people to feel excluded when new employees come on board; having experienced people mentor engages them in the process and helps them feel invested.
Mentoring helps give new employees an anchor and a go-to person. During the hiring process, you should be evaluating each candidate for a culture fit, but anyone new will need some time to get to know the rest of the team. Mentors can help new employees assimilate into the company culture more quickly.
2. Encourage Questions and Ideas
Think back to your first day on the job. Were you nervous? Scared to ask questions or bring up your ideas? Most people are—they don’t want to seem stupid, or rock the boat. However, it’s important to encourage your new employees to ask questions and share ideas. If they don’t ask questions, they’ll make more mistakes initially, and it will be harder for you to determine how well they understand the training materials. By inviting them to share their ideas, you may get innovative ideas you’d never thought of before. Make it clear that all questions and ideas are welcome from the beginning.
3. Provide Resources
With so many new faces and tasks, and so much information, new employees can get lost or overwhelmed. Having a guide and a training manual is a good start, but you also should provide new employees with a team directory and a go-to person. Provide them with information about the company and any other resources you’d want to have at a new job.
4. Get Creative with Feedback
Providing consistent, constructive, and frequent feedback during the training process is essential to prevent errors and bad habits, while ensuring that your new employees understand the expectations of your organization. Both verbal and written feedback is a necessary component of training, but you don’t have to stick with simple comments and notes. Why not get creative with your feedback? If you’re training for the same position over and over again, you could make quizzes to test your employees’ knowledge and give them points or other instant feedback. “Gamifying” feedback in this way makes criticism less personal, while helping new employees to learn. It’s also a good idea to have trainees apply what they’ve learned immediately to course-correct anything that might be unclear.
5. Promote a Healthy Work/Life Balance
Work/life balance is a hot-button issue these days—mainly because so few Americans have it under control. Some 70% of American workers have trouble sticking to a long-term plan for maintaining balance.
Your training protocols don’t just teach new employees how to do their jobs; they also send signals about your company culture and unwritten rules. If your new employees see everyone staying late four out of five days of the week, they may feel pressured to do the same. That might sound like a good thing, but a healthy work/life balance is key for ensuring productivity and preventing burnout.
In addition to setting a good example, you should give your new hires the flexibility and encouragement they need to prioritize their well-being. Ask them ahead of time if they have any conflicts, and do your best to schedule training around them. Don’t keep your employees too late—let them go home and get some rest, so they’ll come back refreshed the next day, ready to learn.
Ryan Ayers is a business consultant who has been featured on the Today Show site and has more than 10 years experience within multiple industries and organizations, covering everything from training and business growth to financial technology (FinTech) and the impact of artificial intelligence (AI).