How do you train newly hired employees for long term success with your company? That was what I needed to answer when I began my journey as the Training and Development specialist with Abby Connect. I have done extensive research, seminars, courses, brainstorming sessions, plus the trusty trial and error method in search of answers to this question.
Steve Jobs says, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” What I love about this is that it is so true and yet seems so backward. You hired the people to do a specific job. Aren’t we supposed to tell them how to achieve the goals they will have with our company?
Know Your Role in All of This
Let’s take a quick look at the ancient meaning of the words we are using today. For the record, I love diving into the past and discovering the truest meanings of the words we use to communicate! (If you know all of this already, I just want to mention how happy I am to speak to a fellow word enthusiast!)
The word “train” which comes from the Latin word “trahere” meaning to “pull, draw”. “Train” then continued to evolve and led to the creation of the word “instruct” (instruere). The early verb for “instruct” meant to “cause a plant to grow in the desired shape.”
You may be wondering, “Why are we talking about plants? I thought this was supposed to be about training new hires.” Metaphorically speaking, the new hires are our “plants” that we're trying to grow into a specific shape. That means our job is to shape the “plants” so they can be the strongest and most beautiful versions of themselves.
As Jobs said, we didn’t hire smart people to strip them of their authenticity and make them into something else. We invested in smart people because we knew that they would add to the value of our company with their thoughts and ideas.
My job is to win their hearts by building a foundation of trust, purpose, and belief in our core values and vision for the new employees to acclimate to their new work home and get excited about the growth process.
Once the foundation is set, I deliver a concise, simple, and actionable daily breakdown of skills and tasks that will ensure their success. The final and most important piece is promoting individual thoughts by empowering each of them with the knowledge and confidence to identify solutions and procure results on their own knowing that they have support when they need it.
Provide a Sense of Purpose
You’ve probably asked or been asked during an interview, “Why should we choose you for this position?” My answer has always been, “I love what I do and because I love what I do, I am the best at what I do.” Steve Jobs has another brilliant motivational quote where he says, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” Wow! Great minds really do think alike! So how do we share that passion with the next generations of our companies?
The best feedback I’ve ever received from a new hire was, “This company is like a unicorn! I didn’t even think companies like this existed.” First of all, that was adorable! Second of all, I understood this is priority number one!
I realized I needed to explain who we are, what we do, but most importantly why we do it. “Why” is a question that we start asking as children. I would say ask my 5-year-old, but she’d probably just ask you why you were asking which would lead to an endless series of questions without answers. “Why?” is a powerful question that doesn’t always get the credit it deserves.
(I borrowed this from a blog written by Dev Basu, inspired by Simon Sinek’s book, Start with Why)
5 Reasons to Answer the Why
- Inspirational & Thought-Provoking
- Challenges Assumptions
- Eliminates Confusion
- Provides a Sense of Purpose
- Separates Achievements from Success
Speak from the heart when you’re discussing your whys surrounding your company values and mission. And don’t expect them to take your word for it! Bring in a variety of key members in various departments and have them share their personal experience and whys for falling in love with the company and sharing the vision.
Lastly, challenge them with finding the whys about their job and the values that make their hearts sing. Is it helping people? Making people smile? Simplifying processes? Being a part of a team? Opportunities for growth in the company? Having the most brilliant, captivating, innovative, and inclusive trainer in the whole wide world? There are no wrong answers to this vital question.
Work Smarter, Not Harder
I’m sure you have heard the saying, “Knowledge is power.” You’ve probably also heard the amended, “Knowledge applied is power.” The obvious first step is obtaining the knowledge to apply.
If you’re like me, you’re a huge fan of finding ways to work smarter not harder. Playing an icebreaker game that serves no purpose other than raising the anxiety level in the room to the point until it bursts into a fit of nervous laughter and giggles, doesn’t quite appeal to me. However, the workforce is now primarily comprised of technologically savvy social networking introverts (also known as Millennials and Gen Zs). This led me to a solution that was productive for me and fun for everyone.
The solution is a strategic assortment of personality, emotional intelligence, communication and learning style tests. Hundreds of thousands of people are already taking personality tests and quizzes on social media websites every day for fun! Why not use something they most likely already do on their own? Plus, this time they will have the opportunity to discover the benefits of understanding our own personality, communication, and learning style to help us better relate and communicate with people of different styles. It’s a win-win!
Why is this information important to me? I use results to gain a deeper insight into how each new hire thinks, learns and communicates. This way I don’t waste time using ineffective coaching methods. The bonus is the opportunity to give the new employees a better understanding of their personality and style and how to use that information to communicate better with other personalities and styles. Lastly, I am better equipped to place them with the most compatible teams.
Once the ice is broken and thawed, I dig deeper into what each new hire’s motivating factors are. It's important to remember that the new hires are the MOST important people in the room. My success is based on their success. I need to understand their needs and goals. Then communicate my devotion towards supporting them in every way possible to help them be successful by their own standards.
3 Visionary, Motivational Questions
- What matters most to them in a company they work for?
- What do they need individually to feel successful?
- Where do they see themselves in 6 months from now with your company? 1 year? 5 years?
Knowing each person’s values, goals and dreams offer you insight into what motivates them. This is crucial information for you to have. By knowing their goals, you know your own and having that shared vision will build trust, personal connection and incentive to be exceptional.
Keep it Simple & Make it Fun
Of course, every training program must include a curriculum of knowledge and skills necessary to perform in their new role. Yes, the people you have hired are smart and capable and already have a lot of the skills necessary. But we can’t just put them at a desk and say good luck, without setting expectations and explaining how and when to use their skills. You may also need to teach new skills that are unique to your company.
This does NOT mean it needs to be boring. The more fun a learner has, the easier it is for them to retain the information. In addition, it’s important to break things down into a concise and easy-to-remember format. Too much information at once will overwhelm the new hire and cause their minds to shut down. You’ll see it in their faces. You can keep talking if you want to, but they have checked-out for the remainder of the day.
If only there was a way to make learning more like a conversation, where you could explain a simple concept, have an open discussion about it, show real-life examples, AND have fun the whole time... Oh wait, there is! There is a statistic for game-based learning that shows having fun while learning by playing games increases self-confidence by 20% and improves learning retention by 90%. That’s a HUGE number!
6 Techniques for Fun, Interactive Learning:
- Interactive Instruction - Introduce the topic, explain how & why
- Ask for Their Ideas, Understanding & Questions
- Encourage Group Discussion
- Shadowing - Watch someone do it (this also gives them a chance to meet the people they will be working with)
- Game-style Tests & Challenges - Competitive Quiz/ Team Games
- Game-style Practice- Roleplay/ Simulated Scenario
Confidence to Stand on Their Own
The next step is the pivotal moment for your trainees. You’ve shown them how to use their talents to meet the expectations of their roles. They’ve had the chance to practice in a safe environment. They’ve mastered the concepts. It is time for them to put their knowledge to work doing the actual job.
You’ve probably seen the look on their faces as I have, that’s it’s official and there’s no turning back. In this moment they are typically excited and terrified of making a mistake. Which is why (there’s that word again) to empower them without abandoning them. Lead by example and let them know you’ve been where they’ve been and you’ve got them no matter what!
9 Steps to Empower Trainees with Self-Confidence & Independence
- Acknowledge & empathize - questions, doubts & fears
- Ask for their ideas for solutions
- Offer reassurance
- Be their support - when it’s needed, let them try to figure it out first
- No mistakes, only growth opportunities
- Exhibit trust - don’t hover!
- Celebrate achievements, big & small
- Challenges & competitions - incrementally push them to achieve more than they thought possible
- Recognition & rewards
A Teacher’s Work is Never Done
When your new hires have graduated your training program, don’t make the mistake of dusting your hands and kicking your feet up until the next class begins. Yes, your trainees have now been integrated into their official work-space with their new supervisors, but that doesn’t mean we rid ourselves of them. You are always going to be their first mentor with the company and first impressions are usually the most lasting. Continuous follow-ups and random check-ins can go a long way to ensure long-term success. Let them know they can always come back to you.
I know when my first mentor checks-in on me to see how I’m doing, let me know they are here for me if I need anything, and praise me for how far I’ve come I feel recognized, appreciated, and even more grateful for having the opportunity to work with such wonderful people for a “unicorn” company.
It is so true when they say, “A person who feels appreciated will always do more than what is expected.” You can never show too much appreciation for the effort and dedication the people you have trained have put towards being an exceptional employee. Their success is your success and you did a great job! Share the gratification and satisfaction of a job well done.
Richard Branson had it right when he said, “Train people well enough so they can leave; treat them well enough that they don’t want to.”