Many managers ask us for help in identifying the best way for them to support their new hires, so these employees can more rapidly reach the point where they become productive team members. The four strategies listed below will help you to do a better job of training and coaching new employees with little or no experience in the role – so they can make bigger contributions more quickly.
Step one: Give them a success model. Just like a GPS application in your car needs an address to point your vehicle towards, new employees need to know the specific tactics and strategies that will help them to be successful at this job. They also need the training, coaching, and support necessary for them to master those skills; and they need to understand the measurable benchmarks they will be expected to hit once they start putting those skills into practice. This all sounds like common sense … but in reality this approach is not all that common. Most job descriptions are extremely vague on both the skills required and the targeted benchmarks for success within the first 90 days. Even when there is training, most organizations deliver poorly designed onboarding sessions just for the sake of “doing training.” The key here is to train and coach to a specific skill that is part of the success model, a skill set that the employee knows is going to be measured and evaluated on an ongoing basis. The new employee needs to understand exactly what the deliverables of the first 30, 60, and 90 days look like, and he or she needs to have a clear sense, every step of the way, of where he or she is on that journey.
Step two: Give them examples. Just telling new employees what they need to do is not enough. They need clear, real-life examples, in multiple sensory modalities, of what it really looks and feels like to do this job well. So for instance, if you’ve recently hired a customer service representative, and one of the deliverables you’re measuring this person against is resolving a customer phone call successfully within three minutes, you would want to give the person multiple examples of what that kind of successful inbound call with a customer actually sounds like – in written, audio, and video format. New employees in this position need to experience for themselves what one happens during such a call. Ideally, they need to learn from someone who’s actually done it – which is why another option in this situation would be letting the new employee listen in on calls that experienced CSRs handle, and allowing them to debrief with the colleague about how the call went. Whatever the position you’ve hired for, make sure the new employee has plenty of evidence, in multiple formats, of exactly what success looks, sounds, and feels like.
Step three: Demonstrate/role play. New employees need one-on-one interaction that will help them to create muscle memory as they implement the tactics and strategies they’ve learned. Role play helps them “own it” — and make the new skill their own! This is particularly important in customer service and sales positions … but role play is relevant to virtually every new hire in your organization. Schedule one-on-one or group time where you demonstrate what the skill looks like in action, and then swap roles so the new employee can do what you just did, in his or her own words and actions. Practice really does make perfect! Important: As the manager, you must be supportive and positive as you debrief after these role play sessions, and you must remember that different people learn in different ways and at different rates of speed. Never criticize someone publicly for their performance during a role play.
Step four: Create a playbook. What are the most important best practices, the actions and processes that are most likely to lead to success in this job? How easy is it for new employees to get a compelling summary of those best practices? There should be a playbook that addresses these questions. Make a point of documenting the five or ten most critical best practices for this position, and update that document regularly. Make sure that the playbook is clear, concise, engaging, and up-to-date … and make sure your new hires have easy access to it. Get input from high-performing current members of your team; ask them if there is anything missing from the playbook that they think should be included. Make the playbook part of your onboarding process!
If you follow these four simple steps, you will go a long way toward ensuring that your new hires identify and follow the trajectory for success within the role for which you’ve hired them … and you’ll also get a clear sense, early on, about whether you’ve hired someone who doesn’t really fit within the position, so you can either reassign the person to a different job, or part company.