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Helping New Employees Succeed

Author: Marty Brounstein

Regardless of past job experience, starting a new job, no matter what that job may be, is a difficult adjustment for many employees. Look at it from their perspective: You're new on the job. You probably don't know anybody who works in the office. Will the other employees welcome your arrival? You don't yet know what your new manager really expects from you, nor do you know what his or her management style is like. You don't know the ropes yet, the details and nuances of the job, how the place really operates.

As a manager when you have a new hire, your goal is to get that employee off to a good start in terms of fitting in, learning the job requirements, and performing well. The stage you set for your new employees during their first few months on the job greatly impacts whether or not this goal is attained.  This initial experience also greatly shapes their long-term outlook and overall performance with your practice. 

The employee’s first week or two on the job, the initial orientation period, often sets the tone for the next few months.

Teaching To Develop the Right Skills and Good Habits

New employees, regardless of their past experience and the skills they bring to a job, still need to go through a learning curve. They haven't worked in this particular job and in this particular workplace before, so naturally there is much they will need to learn. 

Don't take this learning period for granted. Plan accordingly so your new employees learn good habits right from the start. This section explores how to make the training of new staff a rewarding experience for them and you.

People learn by listening, seeing, and doing. Unless someone has a strong preference for one learning style, the best training methods use all three.

When working one-on-one with a new staff member, you can use these six different training methods for productive learning experiences

1.  Modeling

In modeling, the trainer demonstrates and the trainee observes. Then the trainee demonstrates as the trainer observes and critiques. This two-step process is repeated a number of times until the person being trained has learned how to perform the task. This method works well for teaching hands-on tasks.

2.  Verbal guidance

Here, the employee performs the task hands-on as the trainer explains how to do it. This is learning by doing with guidance provided verbally. The trainer doesn't touch anything; the learner does everything. This method works well for teaching computer-related tasks.

3.  Inquiry

This method involves teaching through questions. The trainer asks questions to guide the employee step by step through the task. This method works only if the employee has a knowledge base about the task being taught; otherwise, avoid this method. The trainer also must make certain the trainee gains clear answers to questions to guide the learning process.  When done properly, the inquiry method encourages employees to think and learn for themselves.

4.  Practice

The old adage practice makes perfect applies with this method.  First the trainer explains how to do the task, and then allows the employee time to practice it safely. This means no harm can result from the practice; if the employee makes mistakes, there will not be any consequences.

For instance:

  • First you explain how to fill out complicated insurance forms; then the employee practices by filling out sample forms.
  • Or you show the trainee how to respond to common patient inquiries, and then she practices by responding to mock phone calls using a tape recorder.

In both examples, safe practice has been provided and any mistakes made have no consequences.

The last step is to review the practice work with the employee and give the appropriate feedback. Only after showing readiness and ability to perform the task does the employee progress to doing it for real.

5.  Employee summarizes back

This training method works well with information-oriented tasks and procedures. First explain the task or have the employee read the instructions, then have the trainee tell or summarize to you the key points. Go back and forth as needed until the trainee masters the vital information.

6.  Role playing

This method works well for interactive functions. First provide an explanation of the skill or procedure. Then, using a simulated situation, have the trainee reenact what to do with you as if it were a live interaction. Give feedback so the employee knows what is or isn’t working well. The role-play is repeated as needed until the employee performs the task with competence and confidence.

What do these six methods have in common? They are all two-way training methods; they actively involve the trainee in the learning experience.

Sometimes managers teach staff members using a one-way approach, talking to employees who just sit by passively receiving the instruction. Remember—people learn best when they are actively involved in their own learning.

About the Author

Marty Brounstein has over 20 years experience in management and training. He is the author of five management books.