By Susan Robbins
Starting a new job is challenging, even if the title, role and responsibilities are similar to a previous position. There’s a lot to learn about the organization and its people, processes and culture. Add new skills or a new industry to the mix, and even well-qualified employees can feel like they are drinking from a fire hose.
Well-designed onboarding programs mitigate this risk by providing a consistent, scheduled way for new people to learn about the industry, the company and their job function. But what if the new hire is you — the learning and development (L&D) professional — and your first project is to create onboarding programs for others?
This was my challenge in previous roles. The organizations did not have documented, role-based onboarding, relying instead on managers and co-workers to acclimate new hires. This led to multiple versions of processes, which caused many problems. And even though the organizations operate in the healthcare industry, their different segments and structure meant very different needs when it comes to onboarding.
The approach in both cases was to work with frontline colleagues who are doing the work and have the expertise to help identify key tasks, as well as the best sequence for learning those tasks. These workers can also help estimate time to competence – that is, the ability to perform key job tasks independently.
Working with frontline employees has its challenges. For one thing, many of these employees likely learned their role on the job, and they may not see a need for a more formal process, especially in smaller organizations.
Earning their support requires helping them understand that onboarding is more than just learning the job. Ask them to remember the overload they experienced in their first few weeks or months on the job and explain that their assistance can help new employees avoid similar overload when they join the team. This ensures new hires are up to speed as quickly as possible.
Meeting these challenges and earning the support of these frontline workers will help you establish credibility, earn allies and maybe even open a few eyes to the value of L&D.
Here are four steps I follow to leverage my frontline colleagues’ experience:
Working with an L&D professional may be a new experience for employees in a smaller organization. Engaging frontline workers early and often will give your onboarding program credibility and increase its effectiveness.
As an added bonus, it can help build your internal network and create L&D fans, making it easier to evolve documents as the organization grows and roles change.
Susan Robbins is a seasoned L&D professional with close to 30 years of experience. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.