The right training at the right time can play a key role at every stage in your employees’ careers. Perhaps the most crucial time is in the early days, weeks and months after they join your business. These early inputs set the pattern for the entire time they’ll spend working for you.
Early intervention is the key. Planning what training a new employee will need begins with the interview process. Your job description and the knowledge and skills this demands, cross-referenced with the abilities and experience your new recruit brings, should form the basis for a tailored training plan designed to have them hit the ground running and quickly fill in any gaps you’ve identified.
Induction training and learning about your business and its culture are key aspects of this. Assigning a mentor can also play a role. Be sure to stress that new employees asking questions is a good thing. Encourage existing staff to be patient with what may sound like foolish questions.
Be clear about whose role it is to ensure new recruits get the training they need. If you have an in-house training manager, so much the better. If not, is it their manager’s job? Does that manager have the time they need to focus on a new employee’s training – or will they need to delegate, and, if so, to whom?
External trainers can certainly play a role. My own company provides an outsourced training management function to several companies in the insurance world. To make this – or any other intervention – effective, a clear ‘brief’ is key. A well considered job description, based on the training needs analysis at company and/or department level, will inform this. And don’t forget that giving employees duties for which they have not been appropriately trained is not just commercially questionable, but can also have compliance implications!
Clearly, the kind of training required by a school-leaver will be different from that applicable to a graduate trainee, or to someone joining from another firm in your sector. But the same principles of early planned intervention apply. From my own company’s experience in the insurance and financial services sector, I would stress the importance of training new staff not just in the technical aspects of their role but also in so-called soft skills (not always the most helpful of terms) such as communication skills and letter writing.
Learning on the job, from co-workers or mentors, will always have a vital role to play. But so does intensive, high-impact, face to face training on topics critical to an employee performing effectively from the start. As does the immediate, affordable, and flexible option of online learning (e-learning), either via your own bespoke e-learning system or through off-the-shelf e-learning modules accessed through a platform provided by an external training company.
My own company offers both types of e-learning (bespoke authoring for individual companies and generic e-learning via our own system), and we know how well it can work as a means of imparting a large amount of knowledge quickly and cheaply, with minimal disruption to normal working patterns. But where the skills and knowledge to be learned are genuinely critical to a new recruit’s ability to function competently and effectively, face to face training can often pay dividends.
As the insurance industry strives for acceptance as a profession on a par with say accountancy or the law, studying for professional exams (in our case those set by the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) is something you may wish to encourage among your new recruits. Depending on their role and what qualifications they already have, it makes sense to sit down with new joiners and map out a path to attaining appropriate professional certification. Assigning them mentors who have already gained the relevant qualifications can really help. As can providing support as they study and time of to prepare for exams.
The crucial consideration with any training you provide is monitoring its effectiveness. You should take both qualitative and quantitative measures wherever you can. As the saying goes: we can only manage what we measure. Refer back regularly to that job description and the training plan that goes with it. Are your employees hitting the targets you’ve set them? Be tolerant early on and always be freer with praise than criticism – but if they’re not progressing as you’d wish, make sure you identify any roadblocks as early as possible.
Equally, your new employee may not only be keeping up, but ready for new challenges. Gauge their own feedback (as well as their managers’) and make sure they have access to the learning and development support they need to play a full and optimally effective role within your team.
Obviously, new employees need time and space to find their way into your business and their roles within it. Putting them under too much scrutiny at the outset can demotivate or undermine their initiative. But, equally, don’t just leave them to their own devices and expect them to learn by osmosis. Well planned training and mentoring from day one is good for your recruits and good for your business. Make sure you don’t miss this opportunity to make a difference early on.