There's No Training Manual for Being a New Parent...Or a New Employee (usually)

Kevin Watson - Director of Business Development ·

*Original article written in July 2014

My wife and I welcomed our first child into the world 14 days ago, and it has been the most exciting two weeks of our lives. I would be lying if I told you that it has been entirely stress free though. Aside from joy and happiness, we have experienced a myriad of emotions (helpless, confused, anxious, frustrated, etc.).

When friends/family ask how things are going, we generally tell them the same thing, “every day we get a little bit better at this whole parenthood thing.” Sure we are sleep deprived and running on fumes. Sure my son has gone to the bathroom on me multiple times, and I have already changed well over 100 diapers. With each day that passes though, we pick up on more and more of our son’s verbal and non-verbal cues. We get more efficient at changing diapers, getting his little outfits on, giving sponge baths, at helping him to relax, and getting him to fall asleep.

Over the years I have heard people say, “Well, there’s no training manual for being a parent,” and it is true. You get a little bit of on-the-job training by watching the nurses during the two to three days you are in the hospital and by asking them for advice, suggestions, best practices, etc. Of course there are countless parenting books and online parenting forums, but parenting is really more baptism by fire than anything else.

It struck me that the same is often true in the business world. When new hires shows up to work on their first day, they have most likely been through some variation of this process: (1) They have probably responded to a broad brush-stroke job description (that may or may not be up-to-date…and may or may not be an accurate portrayal of what they will be doing once hired), (2) They have probably submitted their resume, or filled out the electronic equivalent of a resume, (3) They have probably been through a phone screen and/or a face-to-face interview (possibly several rounds of interviews), and they may have completed some type of personality profile assessment.

On day one, they probably spend time getting acclimated, meeting their co-workers and filling out new hire paperwork. Even if your company has a world-class training program, I’m sure that from time-to-time, some of your new hires will experience the same range of emotions that first-time parents do (helpless, confused, anxious, frustrated, etc.).

What if there was a way to get closer to the desired state? Here are a few best practices you can implement to make your onboarding and new hire training process more impactful.

At a high-level, start by getting applicants and employers to speak the same language. In addition to using job descriptions, we recommend interviewing subject matter experts (your best employees in that particular role or position), to identify all of the granular responsibilities and tasks associated with performing a specific job.

Once these interviews are completed, a Job Task Analysis (JTA) profile can be created for each unique position. The JTA profile essentially lists all of the keywords, responsibilities and tasks associated with performing a specific job. Once the JTA is completed, Skill Surveys can be created and distributed to potential new hires and/or the incumbent workforce.

  • 4 – Able to instruct others on this task
  • 3 – Able to perform this task on my own
  • 2 – Able to perform this task with assistance
  • 1 – Aware of, but unable to perform this task
  • 0 – Not aware of this task
  • N/A - Not applicable

Once the applicants have completed the Skill Surveys, Individual Skill Gap Reports can be created (a red, yellow, green matrix) showing where the skill gaps are the most prevalent. This report can then be used as a road map to create a customized, structured on-the-job training plan (job shadowing, mentoring, etc.).

Once you know where the skill gaps are the most prevalent, you can expedite the amount of time it takes to get someone ramped up because you are able to be more laser-focused from a training standpoint.

We have found that this process also helps to set/manage realistic expectations from day one. If a new employee doesn’t have the requisite skill level to perform a specific task on their first day of work, front-line supervisors can’t get frustrated with them on the 10th day, 10th week, or 10th month if they still can’t perform that task (if they still haven’t been trained how to perform the task).

Oh yeah, and if there is a magical handbook for new parents that I don’t know about…please let me know. There is always room to get a little bit better at this whole parenting thing!