Prevent a Skills Gap: Onboarding Your Workforce

It’s common knowledge that with digital transformation occurring in the global workplace, there is a growing skills gap. The most forward-thinking organizations will undoubtedly schedule strategy meetings focused on how to remedy this situation. This sudden organizational self-awareness, however, can lead to conflict between departments. Without a strategic onboarding process, the potential that a talent acquisition specialist sees in a candidate may not be realized, despite the efforts of a training specialist.

To succeed, modern organizations need to provide efficient — and, more importantly, engaging — onboarding experiences for their new employees. They also must continually develop their workforce to stay relevant in an ever-changing environment. While the term “onboarding” can mean many things, in this case, it is the process of going from a “new-hire” to a fully contributing team member.

Onboarding Is Crucial

Organizations must ramp up new employees quickly so that they can contribute soon after their hire. There is an inherent concern for any manager that the new hire is a good fit for the organization and an expectation that they contribute right away. However, not every new hire can or should “hit the ground running” until they develop a sense of the culture they have just stepped into. Alternately, new hires, whom may have turned down other offers in this competitive job market, need to validate their decision to choose their new company. They need to see how their abilities fit into their organization’s mission and overall values and how it will support them to succeed in this new role.

During the first 45 days of employment, turnover rates can be as high as 20%, as people find that their new environment isn’t a fit for them. Without sufficient planning, the “hand-off” to the learning and development (L&D) department can undo the efforts of the recruiting department.

Employee engagement studies show that employees’ first day is typically the highest point of engagement for their entire tenure at the organization. Organizations should try to take advantage of this “shiny new job enthusiasm.” Human behavior psychologists tell us that the most successful behavior changes often occur with a big change in environment, such as relocating to a new city or beginning a new job.

Crowdsourcing Your L&D

Many organizations are seeing greater engagement when they use social learning. Users can comment on and “like” each other’s posts as well as share and suggest additional, relevant content. This new collaborative nature of learning can shorten the onboarding experience and create a repository of best practices. It also strengthens the network of mentors within an organization and can specialize them based on seniority, location and especially task purposes. This participation by the general workforce can also reduce some of the burden on the L&D department to determine what a complete curriculum should look like.

Beyond Week 1

A few weeks in, continual touch points with the new employees help solidify the knowledge they have (hopefully) gained thus far. This process could involve incorporating different types of learning assignments into the learning management system (LMS), perhaps metering the assignments so that they must complete some within the first week of their employment, others within the first month and others within the first 90 days. This approach helps learning stick over the long term and enables each module or curriculum to build on the previous one. Many organizations are even tying their learning goals with overall performance evaluations, such as requiring documentation that employees took steps to expand their skill set or develop soft skills, such as through leadership courses.

The Importance of Communication

The first six months are critical in bringing an employee to competency and performance. After that period, organizations should keep communicating about opportunities to develop. An important but often neglected part of executing ongoing learning is making it a priority. Too often, development activities are pushed aside in the interest of day-to-day duties, which delays the process of accomplishing the employee’s goals and devalues the learning process. Finally, these programs should also help employees understand their future with the organization, via career pathing and continual skill development.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Much has been written about the future of the job market and the yet-unwritten titles and descriptions that will rise in the near future. Many of these roles will be filled by people currently in the workforce, who will face an immediate need to learn how to be successful in their new roles. The remainder will be filled by people who are not currently in the workforce, presumably with no baseline knowledge of how to succeed within the organization, much less the new position. To find success in this great new work landscape, it is imperative for organizations to craft a thoroughly modern learning environment, not only for the individual but for the future of the organization.

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