Retiring boomers, nomadic millennials and the rise of the gig worker mean there’s about to be a lot of new faces at work. Companies need to find new ways to get them up to speed — quickly.
The world of work is changing. Baby boomers are retiring, millennials are now the largest portion of the workforce and more companies are tapping into contract and temporary workers. Bring these trends together and companies can expect to welcome more new hires over the next several years. But, new employees take time to ramp up to full productivity. So, smart companies are already refining their approach to training to reduce that time-to-productivity.
More new hires
Several trends are converging in a way that adds up into more new hires.
The first is a big one — baby boomers exiting the workforce and entering retirement. This massive group, born between the end of WWII and the mid-60s, began reaching typical retirement age in 2011. According to the Pew Research Center, every day through 2030 about 10,000 baby boomers will reach retirement age.
As baby boomers retire, their kids — millennials born after about 1982 and the turn of the century — have now become the largest demographic group in the US workforce. Millennials are more career nomadic than their parents. In fact, 75% of millennials say changing jobs frequently is good for their career. At the same time, the relationship between employers and employees is changing. So-called alternative work arrangements — temp or on-call workers, contract employees, independent contractors or freelancers (collectively referred to as the gig economy) — are growing in importance. One study by researchers from Princeton and Harvard found that these kinds of work arrangements grew from 10.1% of U.S. workers to 15.8% in the decade between 2005 and 2015.
Note: The US Bureau of Labor Statistics calculated that only 3.8% of workers were engaged in “alternative work arrangements.” See: “Labor Department Says Gig Workers Are Fewer Than Thought”
All these trends mean that companies face a growing challenge: How to welcome a diverse group of new workers into their organization and help them become productive as quickly as possible.
Time to full productivity
New people can bring a lot to an organization: new skills, new perspectives and a new energy. But, it takes time for new people to become fully productive — and that time-to-productivity costs companies money.
How much time depends on the role and the company. Much of it is guesswork, with estimates ranging from an average of eight months to between one and two years to reach full productivity. Unfortunately, companies generally don’t similarly ramp up what they pay new hires or contractors — they pay full price for less than full productivity. The solution: Address the gaps in knowledge and skill needed to become productive as quickly and effectively as possible.
What they need to know
Improving time-to-productivity is really an individualized learning challenge. What knowledge, skills and behaviours are common to your most successful, most productive employees? How many of those competencies do new hires already possess when they walk through the door? And, how can they quickly and effectively attain missing competencies?
The first element — what do they need to know — means stretching beyond job descriptions to capture the knowledge, skills and behaviours that determine success in each job. That can include role-specific competencies; knowledge specific to your company; and, soft skills you’ve found increase effectiveness within your company culture.
Once you’ve defined what competencies an employee needs, you then need to assess what new people already know — and still need to know — as part of the hiring and onboarding process. That can involve traditional skills testing for defined skills — tests and quizzes for example. But, many companies are finding that soft skills — like the ability to communicate and persuade — are critical to success. Social assessment, which gathers constructive feedback from peers, can be really effective here. For example, having new sales hires record a video pitch can allow your most successful sales people to quickly provide an assessment of their performance, offering constructive feedback before the newbie pitches a hot prospect.
The last — and most important — step is to quickly fill gaps in knowledge and skills with a personalized training and onboarding program — delivering targeted learning that’s both relevant and cost-effective.
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A number of companies are already incorporating elements of this approach into their onboarding and learning and development activities. A great example is Fidelity, a well-known financial services company with 45,000 employees worldwide.
Speaking at the Financial Services Learning & Development Innovations conference, Daniel Hinojosa — Fidelity’s senior manager, PI L&D transformation architect / E2E learner experience — outlined his company’s approach to learning and development.
“Personalized, self-led learning, matters,” he explained. Fidelity recognizes that one of the advantages of learning technologies is their ability to capture useful data — helping Fidelity assess where individual learners are in the learning experience, so they can refine learning plans to address what each employee needs. This helps employees learn exactly what they need to know as efficiently as possible.
Data also helps Fidelity make informed business decisions. “We assess each piece of learning content and use an algorithm to determine which are most important to the business, and ultimately which have the most impact on our results,” says Hinojosa, “Taking this approach helps us develop an effective and modern learning experience.”
Switch to e-learning
Another example is Epworth HealthCare, one of Victoria, Australia’s largest not-for-profit healthcare groups. A leading teaching hospital with over 2,000 doctors and specialists, over 5,000 clinical and support workers, and annually a new crop of 3,000 students, Epworth needed a training approach that matched the needs of its busy people.
To improve the efficiency of its training program, Epworth decided to shift from primarily delivering inflexible and time-intensive face-to-face learning and instead focus on providing more flexible, more efficient online experiences. That meant taking their e-learning in-house, where they could more quickly and easily develop content relevant to their employees.
The result? Epworth delivered e-learning modules and content five times faster than before. But, it’s not just about speed. A survey of 11,000 users found that 80% found the content relevant and clear.
Ultimately, improving time-to-productivity means delivering learning experiences more effectively. And, that means knowing what skills are critical for your organization’s success and what skills new employees have coming in the door. Of course, the most critical step is acting on this knowledge by delivering efficient, effective, and personalized learning to address any gaps. Technology can help here. Applying best practices on technology adoption from the education sector — including the use of digital learning platforms — can allow companies to deliver more effective learning quickly, ensuring their workers can actually get to work!