The Ultimate Guide to New-hire Onboard Training
In this guide, you will learn how to create a training package for new employees that cuts their time-to-proficiency by over 60%.
You can start from the beginning and read all the way through (recommended), or you can jump to the section you want to read most about:
- What Do New Employees Actually Want?
- Time for Traditional Training to Retire
- The 5 Elements of a Good Training Package
- Creating the Training Package
- Evaluating Your Efforts
This training guide will show you how to create a training package that gets new hires up and running in the first 30 days of working with you. Implement the suggestions in this guide, and you will have an amazing training resource that helps your new employees succeed.
What Do New Employees Actually Want?
First, let's briefly touch on the need for a training package for new hires.
Turns out, your new employees are not completely sold on sticking around when they accept your offer letter. They're judging you during the first 30 days, and deciding whether or not they want to stay with your company or start looking elsewhere.
According to BambooHR,
"31% of people have left a job within the first six months, with 68% of those departing within three months...and if you just look at hourly employees, the number of employees leaving a job within the first six months jumps to 50%."
If you just hired 10 people, 3 of them are already looking for a new job after 30 days of work. Unless they're hourly workers––in that case, 5 of them are already looking for a new job.
So, reason #1 for why you need a training package: you need an efficient way to bring on new employees because turnover is a part of life.
But there's an even more important reason you need a training package. Again, BambooHR found that employees who quit said they might have changed their minds if the companies had included two things:
- "Clearer guidelines as to what their responsibilities were"
- "More effective training"
Turns out, employees just want a clear picture of what's expected, and resources that help them live up to those expectations. So, reason #2 for why you need a training package: you can decrease employee turnover by simply helping new employees do their job better.
While making a company culture fun is trendy (free food and foosball tables), what employees really value is the "boring stuff"––on-they-job training, policies, and procedures. New employees just want to know what the heck is going on!
If your idea of training new employees is having them "shadow" a coworker for two weeks, then this guide is especially for you. When we're done, you'll have a new-hire training package that will help new employees perform amazingly well in just 30 days.
Time for Traditional Training to Retire
There's an unrealistic expectation out there around the traditional approach to training. The expectation is that you can get amazing results from your employees after holding one training event.
One PowerPoint presentation.
One week of shadowing.
One time of demonstrating what to do.
Traditional Training Doesn't Work
Even though that's what we expect, everybody knows that it doesn't really work. And research has been done to back up what we already know.
In Kirkpatrick's Four Levels of Training Evaluation, one study showed that after "traditional" training, only 15% of employees managed to sustain the new behaviors that they learned.
Everybody else in the training either didn't bother trying, or gave up after not being able to implement the behavior that was taught.
Which means that about 2 out of 10 employees ended up improving their performance after a traditional training program, and employee performance looked more like a bump than an upward curve.
Experience has shown that this traditional approach to training delays employee performance by months, and BambooHR discovered that this lack of support is a contributing factor to employees quitting after 3 to 6 months of employment.
Training + Support Works
There is hope, however. The same study referenced earlier showed that when training managers implemented a training program that emphasized supporting employees after the training event, 85% of employees who were trained were successful in sustaining the new behaviors they learned.
That means about 9 out of 10 employees changed their behaviors and improved their performance when training managers created a training package that included several support resources that continued on after the training event was over––resources such as SOPs, checklists, job aids, coaching, interviews, and self-paced training.
Think of the support resources as the pillars of a bridge that help employee performance stay up.
Experience has shown that when a training package is available to employees, not only does their performance improve, but it improves much faster. And BambooHR discovered employees are may be less likely to quit within the first 3 to 6 months of employment when they have clear policies, procedures, and on-the-job training.
While this training package is focused on a new hire's first 30 days (6 weeks), employees will continue to use the resources for much longer than that.
The 5 Elements of a Good Training Package
Most of a manager's time and effort goes into the training event with hardly any effort going into post training resources.
For the training event, we make sure there's going to be food, a lot of PowerPoint slides, and a guest speaker. But when the training is over, there's hardly any follow-up, few SOPs, and barely any coaching. This imbalance is a huge mistake.
In Kirkpatrick's Four Levels of Training Evaluation, the author discusses 5 elements that need to be included with every training initiative:
- The training event
- Reinforcement resources
Combined, these elements help new employees learn, apply, and perform. And while all of these are important to implement
In this guide, we're mostly going to focus on the first two elements because they require the most preparation. But you'll learn how to integrate all 5 elements into a 30-day training package.
Creating the Training Package
You'll create the training package in 3 stages:
- Prepare––start by coordinating with management and preparing resources for the first 6 weeks (before new hires arrive).
- Deliver––you'll drip the training package out over a 6-week period (instead of all at once).
- Prove––show management that your training is making a positive impact.
Let's break these down in more detail.
Before new employees arrive, you have 8 chores to complete:
- Meet with Managers
- Choose your outcomes
- Document employee critical behaviors
- Document employee critical procedures
- Determine the approach
- Confirm with managers
- Design the training materials
- Design the evaluation tools
It looks more intimidating than it really is. Let's look at each item so it doesn't feel so overwhelming.
1.1. Meet with Managers
If your role in the company is to train, then the very first thing you want to do is meet with the managers who will be working with the new hires. The purpose of the meeting is to align your training package with what they want new employees to be able to do.
In this example, we'll look at preparing a training package for new customer support reps who will be taking inbound support calls.
1.2. Choose Your Outcomes
Managers and trainers should determine what the overall goals are for your new hires. After 30 days, what are the metrics the managers will be using to determine how the new hires are doing? Write those down because that is what your training needs to align with.
1.3. Document Your Critical Behaviors
According to the manager, write down the 3-4 critical behaviors that the new employees need to demonstrate so they can hit those department goals.
In this example, new customer support reps will need to be able to:
- Articulate the questions customers are asking and provide an appropriate response that is polite, relevant, and succinct.
- Distinguish between questions that require troubleshooting and apply the troubleshooting checklist when appropriate.
- Locate support articles and use them in response to questions coming in.
- If support articles do not exist to address a question, write support articles and use them in response to questions coming in.
These critical behaviors aren't everything the support rep will need to learn while employed with the company. These are just the critical behaviors that employees must do to meet the overall department goals. This is where the onboard training should focus.
1.4. Document Your Critical Procedures
For each critical behavior, confirm that management has standard operating procedures, policies, checklists, etc. that will help new employees implement those critical behaviors.
New employees are often bombarded with FAQs, or perhaps more accurately, Frequently Asked Requests. These questions, or requests, are typically tasks that they are asked to perform either by their manager/coworkers or by customers.
In this video, you'll see how to use ScreenSteps to create articles that help employees perform simple tasks. You can use these articles during your training sessions, and your employees will get a lot of use from them after training is over.
Here are two simple methods you can use to create and organize your policies.
Checklists are great for procedures that require several tasks to be performed. Employees are able to quickly scan the checklist to see all of the major steps required. Then, when they want to drill down to the details, employees can click on the checklist item and get more detailed instructions.
Call flows will help new employees who need to interact with customers as they perform a procedure. You can include prompts for questions and decisions so you can guide new employees every step of the way.
If management does not have any procedures in place, then you should plan on creating them with the help of subject matter experts (SMEs). Without procedures, tip sheets, checklists, etc., your training efforts will not have as big of an impact. New employees will not remember all of the steps required to execute new procedures.
1.5. Determine Your Approach
Talk with the managers about your training package and what you plan to include in it. Explain that parts of the training package may include classroom training, self-paced courses, or videos that you've prepared. Then explain how their coaching will be coordinated with your training efforts so that the employees are receiving a consistent message and being tasked with jobs they have been trained on.
Keep reading! You'll see an example 30-day plan broken out into 6 weeks.
1.6. Confirm with Managers
If your role is to train, then your workload for training new employees is going to be shared with their manager. Set expectation with the managers, and confirm who is in charge of what.
You, as a training manager, will prepare the training materials and the job aids (based on their input). But managers are responsible for coaching, recognizing effort, and reviewing the employee's work. They will also be viewing performance metrics to see whether the employee is on pace (and sharing that information with you).
When you are aligned with the managers, your job as a trainer becomes much easier. During the first 6 weeks, your training will be focused on teaching and reinforcing a specific group of critical behaviors. New employees will also get a lot of support from their managers who will provide coaching, recognition, and monitoring.
1.7. Design Training Materials
Now it's time to design some of the training materials.
- Confidence––"I can learn this. And after I learn it, I can do it."
- Knowledge––"I know how this works"
- Skills & Context––"I am able to do this & I know when I would do this"
- Commitment and Ability––"I will, and am able, to do this on the job"
Click the sections below to learn more about creating training materials for each area of learning.
The first challenge new employees must overcome is their lack of confidence that they can learn something new. When a new employee believes she can learn what you are about to teach, half the battle is already won.
As pointed out in Lee LeFever's The Art of Explanation, one simple way to build a new employee's confidence is by providing great explanations. Here is a video that Lee LeFever created to explain Dropbox to an audience that wasn't very familiar with how the technology worked. Notice how he starts the video out?
Lee begins by talking about a common problem everybody has. Then he gradually ties that in to how Dropbox works. By connecting ideas the audience is familiar with to the new technology being described, Lee LeFever:
- Lowers the cost of understanding something new
- Makes people care about this new thing
- Builds the audience's confidence that they can learn/use it ("that's pretty simple")
When you are preparing your training materials, don't focus only on conveying information. Consider starting out by explaining things in a way that lowers the cost of learning, makes people care, and builds confidence.
Here's one example of simple video that explains how internal billing works at a high level.
The purpose isn't to explain everything––just enough to explain the big picture, make the employee care ("Oh! These billing apps are really helpful"), and give an employee confidence that the billing process isn't too complicated.
The next step is to work on filling the knowledge gaps new employees have when it comes to performing the critical behaviors. Continuing the example from before, one of the critical behaviors for a customer support rep is articulating a customer's question and providing an appropriate response that is polite, relevant, and succinct. What knowledge will the employees need to exhibit that behavior?
In our example, at least two knowledge gaps will need to be filled:
- How does the product work?
- What do customers use the product for?
To teach an employee how a product works, stay away from only doing product demonstrations. Consider options that let your employees drive.
If you are going to be doing classroom training, then one of the best ways to train your new employees is by asking them questions and letting them find the answers in your ScreenSteps knowledge base.
Begin by asking some basic questions that are easy. If you are doing product training for customer support reps, ask them to do a task with the product using your ScreenSteps knowledge base for guidance. Gradually introduce customer use-cases and ask the new hires to find an answer.
This approach is quite different from how you're used to training, but it works! Not only will your new hires be more engaged (because they're minds are active), but when they leave training, they'll know how to find answers and solve problems because they've been practicing during your training session.
Using tools such as Adobe Captivate or Articulate Storyline, you can create software simulations that your employees can run through without you. Below is an example of a software simulation we made with Captivate for the web application, Xero. An employee would follow these instructions to create a reimbursement. We made those instructions using ScreenSteps.
If you don't have the budget for Captivate ($30/month) or Storyline, simply create a sandbox account so an employee can use the product without fear of breaking something. Make sure to provide some simple step-by-step instructions they can follow.
Along with obtaining knowledge, you'll want to help employees develop the skills necessary to perform the critical behaviors.
For example, even if sales and support reps know how to use the product they are supporting, they won't be able to skillfully perform the critical behavior of articulating a customer's question and providing an appropriate response that is polite, relevant, and succinct without some practice.
A great way to develop these skills would be to run through exercises and scenarios. Not only does this require them to practice responding, but it also provides some context around when they would perform specific behaviors.
When you are doing live training, create several PPT slides that have questions or scenarios that employees will typically face. Then, ask them to respond by using your ScreenSteps knowledge base to find answers.
After employees find the answers, take a moment to discuss what they found. Not only will you get more engagement, but your new employees will learn the important skill of resolving questions and challenges on their own.
Below is an example using Typeform. By formatting the questions as coming in an email, this exercise also provides some context to the employee.
When your new hires have access to ScreenSteps, they can practice answering questions by searching for them in ScreenSteps.
"I don't have time to create training assets!" One of the main reasons all training includes hundreds of PowerPoint slides is because Training Managers don't have the time to create eLearning, videos, etc. While some training assets do take a long time to create, if you use the right tools, building training assets don't take very long or require a lot of design skill. But the payoff is big.
If you have aligned your training materials with management's input, then transferring knowledge and skills to the workday will be much easier. The challenge with commitment depends on whether everything learned during training matches "how we do it here in the work place."
New employees are very eager to do a good job. Most want to apply what they've learned during training. But if they learned an approach during training and then hear their manager say, "It doesn't work like that in real life," then the new employee's commitment to applying what they've learned takes a nosedive. So make sure everyone is on board!
You will also increase the employee's ability to perform well if you had her use the same support resources that are available on the job. If you provided PDF guides during training, but employees aren't able to find them when they are working, you've made it much more difficult for new employees to transfer what they learned to their daily routine.
1.8. Design Evaluation Tools
The last part of preparation is to design evaluation tools.
Training Manages and Operations Managers need to agree on what measurements will improve. In our example, some of the measurements include:
- Customer Satisfaction Ratings
- One touch resolutions
- Full resolution time
If new employees can reach the department's goals by the end of 12 weeks, and maintain those goals for several months afterwards, then we'll know our training package is doing its job.
But we don't have to wait until the end of 12 weeks to find out! What other evaluation tools are available to us?
- Observe employees while working and compare performance to standards
- Review work (e.g. support tickets)
- Interview new employees to get a sense of their knowledge
You can work with Operations Managers to agree on what will be used to evaluate the training's effectiveness.
2. Deliver Your Training
Many companies try to cram everything into a 4-hour PowerPoint presentation (or, if you're lucky, a weeklong trip to Atlanta or Chicago). And those same companies invest almost none of their budget in after-training resources––which is why they don't see very good results. It's like those times when you ask your friend for directions while you're driving, and he spouts off the next 15 steps. "Whoa there! Let me make the next turn, then you can tell me what's next."
You are going to approach employee onboard training differently. Instead of cramming everything in to one event, you are going to spread your training and employee support out over the span of several weeks.
I don't have time to spread training out over 12 weeks––One of the main reasons all training happens in one sit-down event is because managers and trainers don't have time to run around teaching people all of the time. That's why we recommend building training assets that can be accessed by employees when they are ready to learn.
If you use the right tools, building a training asset doesn't take very long or require a lot of design skill. But the payoff is big.
When employees are ready to learn the next critical behavior, you will have a resource there that:
- Gives them confidence they can learn it,
- Fills the knowledge gap that exists,
- Develops the skill and context, and
- Enables them to do the job in the workplace.
So let's check out how a training package might be rolled out over 12 weeks for new customer support reps.
In this example, a customer support rep would need to understand the product she is supporting. So we'll start with product training during week one.
We'd write down a goal that is focused on behavior and performance rather than saying "we want them to understand" or get an 85% on a quiz. In this case, by the end of week one, the customer support rep should be really proficient at using the product she will be supporting. What would be even better is if we got more specific and listed out all of the tasks a rep will be able to perform by the end of week one.
The method that is used will include our training materials (either self-paced, in classroom, or virtual), and it will also include the employee's managers copying new employees on ticket responses. The reps would then be required to write up a brief assessment of what the customer's question was, and how it was resolved.
In week 2, the customer support reps would work on articulating the questions being asked by customers.
Again, the goal is focused on behavior and performance. Understanding the customer question is too vague, so our goal is "Articulating the question and asking follow-up questions that resolve ambiguity" is much more action oriented. The method used will include our training materials (activities, job aids), and it will also include the new employee writing their questions in the Notes section of real tickets. The employee's manager would review the notes and provide feedback to the employee.
In week 3, the customer support reps would begin contributing by locating the answers to the questions being asked by customers.
The goal focuses on behavior and performance, and asks reps to determine whether the ticket will require troubleshooting and be able to find the help article that is applicable. The method used will include our training materials (activities, job aids), and it will also include the new employee writing responses in the Notes section of the ticket. The employee's manager would then review the notes and provide feedback/coaching notes to the employee.
In week 4, the customer support reps begin responding to customer questions.
The goal focuses on support reps appropriately responding to customer tickets.The method used will continue to include our training materials (activities, job aids), and it will continue to include the employee's manager providing coaching notes and feedback since the manager is copied on all ticket responses.
In week 5, the customer support reps continue to refine their responses to customer questions.
Same as before––more training and more coaching notes from the managers. By this week, managers will begin noticing that new reps are picking things up quickly and will begin to see important metrics start to normalize.
In the final week of training, customer support reps begin contributing to the customer support user guide.
The goal focuses on support reps writing new customer help articles when support articles don't exist for questions they are receiving. The method used will include our training materials (self-paced training, style guides), and it will continue to include the employee's manager providing coaching notes and feedback on draft articles.
If employees are moving at a faster clip, then you can accelerate their training. If they are taking a little longer to get the hang of things, then slow it down. The employee's manager is constantly monitoring their progress and providing you feedback.
You can modify your training accordingly and phase employees into operations faster or slower depending on how they are progressing.
The nice part of this approach is that the feedback is on things that matter. Who cares if employees can pass a quiz? You aren't paying them to choose multiple choice questions. What matters is whether new employees are able to perform their job at the standard management has set!
3. Prove to Management Training Worked
After the 12-week period is over, management will have tracked the employee's performance the entire time. You can pull up their coaching notes, KPIs, notes from interviews, etc. and see whether your training package was effective.
Compile that information and present it to those who are asking.
Evaluating Your Efforts
Not making the effort to prepare the right training materials explains why so many teams struggle with new employee onboard training. It's one of the reasons why 31-50% of new employees quit after the first 6 months (more than half of those after 3 months), and why only 15% of employees apply what they learned during traditional training.
And consider this from the employee's perspective––they receive tremendous support during the first 12 weeks of work. They know what's expected, know how they're doing, and have learning materials to help them each step of the way.
There's no question that training new employees is hard work. You can either do the work beforehand, and create materials that support employees as they are learning (and scale as you hire more people). Or you can do the work after the employee has started, and sit next to them for several weeks while answering hundreds of questions for weeks and weeks after that.