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Sticky Learning: Training Tips to Get Employees up to Speed on the Job

Concetta D’Alessio

03.14.22 | Operations Chat

From a new employee’s perspective, onboarding is a time when they are hit with a lot of information all at once. While this information is relevant, important, and time-sensitive, new employees may experience an information overload, making it challenging to retain it all. Ultimately this can result in a rocky start to their new role.

Getting employees up to speed on their job fast sounds great, but where do you start? How do you appropriately balance this quick delivery of information but not overwhelm new employees with work they aren’t prepared to do? Enter your on-the-job training program. The main goal of on-the-job training is to use the existing people, environment, and skill training available in the workplace to expedite time to competence. Now is the time to make learning sticky. ‘Sticky learning’ sets the stage for learning to make an impact and present content in a way that allows new employees to retain the knowledge and apply it on the job.

Here are four action tips to make on-the-job training stick and reduce your new employees’ time to competence.

Know your learners’ needs

Creating a custom learning experience sounds like a lot of work, but it can make all the difference between content being engaging and useful or boring and unnecessary. Before you task your new employees with work assignments, tap into what they need to know to get the job done.

Tip: Integrate consistent one-on-one and team meetings. Create space for employees to have open conversations and share honest feedback. Use this as a time to dialogue about ongoing projects and identify any specific training needs for your team.

Bridge the learning gap

All new employees come with prior knowledge relevant to the job. The key is bridging the gap between prior knowledge and must-know information to get the job done. As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Break learning down into smaller topics that gauge prior knowledge and create building blocks to complete more complex tasks.

Tip: Develop a guided practice training model. After determining the learner’s needs, work with the trainer(s) to develop a learning scaffold. Identify opportunities to practice in an environment that provides support and transition. For example, create opportunities to practice the model “I do, We do, You do” for tasks that are typically executed in that role. These critical steps will enable learners to participate in increasingly complex tasks.

Create conditions for learning

The process starts by creating a growth mindset for your organization and team. Learning happens best when employees have the ability for continued practice, reflection, and opportunities to reapply this knowledge. By creating space for employees to learn from their mistakes and receive feedback, they can execute work and be innovative to learn and achieve new goals.

Tip: Create low stake islands. These are spaces that have little consequence for mistakes. Set aside time and opportunities for employees to shadow tasks or meetings, exchange ideas, ask questions, or seek feedback. Leaders can model the way by sharing their mistakes and what they learned from them, so others feel supported to do the same.

Make learning a social experience

In the age of new technology, it can be easy to provide resourceful video tutorials to start the learning process, but learning needs a human element. We learn best by engaging and interacting with others and the content we are learning.

Tip: Implement a buddy system. Pair a trainee with a team member at the same level to provide opportunities for new employees to network, observe, and learn the company culture and how to perform job tasks in a real-world setting. Current employees also benefit by having the opportunity to enhance their leadership and mentoring skills through intentional engagement with new employees.

Learning retention can be complex, especially when onboarding new employees and trying to fulfill a business need. Start by integrating these actions into your culture to make learning stick.

Questions? I can be reached at 646.993.7111 | cdalessio@berdon.com

Concetta D’Alessio is the Senior Learning and Development Specialist at Berdon. She has a passion for education and a background working in higher education with a focus on leadership development and experiential education initiatives. She holds a Master’s degree in Higher Education Administration from University at Buffalo, SUNY. One of her favorite aspects of her role is collaborating with others to make educational experiences relevant and engaging for learners to achieve their goals.

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