Ah, spring. It’s in the air. Everywhere you look, you can see signs that winter is in full retreat. Down coats and scarves are being packed up in boxes all across the country. Vibrant yellow and blue flowers have begun to dot the once barren flower beds of the OrgWide office. Why, just yesterday, I swear a wobbly-legged baby deer, newborn skunk, and freshly-hatched bluebird assembled in my front yard for an impromptu vocal jam session as other woodland critters gathered ‘round to watch. Maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but you get the point I’m trying to make. The season of rebirth is upon us! And this whole “rebirth” concept doesn’t just apply to Mother Nature. Both small and big businesses, having been in “hibernation” (a coma, perhaps?) for the past 15 months, are beginning to rub the sleep out of their eyes.

That’s right, dear readers! Hiring season has returned! Recent studies and economic data suggest that companies both big and small are beginning to hire again. Jobless claims and unemployment are dropping. Much like old man winter’s retreat, the Great Recession appears to be falling back. Huzzah!

Now, I’d like to take a minute to address those of you responsible for hiring and/or training new team members. Brace yourselves, because I’m about to keep it real for a minute or two. Okay, ready? With the extended off-season you may have experienced during this period of down-sizing and hiring freezes, you’ve gotten weak. That’s right. You’re out of shape. Flabby. Those unused muscles have atrophied. It’s opening day now and we’ve gotta get you back to your playing weight ... and fast!

“Why the rush?” you may be wondering. Well, because the moment a new hire accepts a position, you need to be prepared to flex your onboarding and training muscles, so to speak. The first few weeks in a new hire’s career are absolutely critical to their success. During this period, new hires are not unlike the aforementioned wobbly-legged deer. You must be prepared to use those muscles to guide them towards success immediately (allowing them to do their own stumbling from time to time, of course). The importance of these first few weeks cannot be overstated. In addition to the obvious goal of equipping your new hires with the skills to successfully carry out their daily tasks, this is also the time that you can truly “engage” them. “Engaged” employees, as defined by the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD), are “mentally and emotionally invested in their work and in contributing to their employer’s success.”

ASTD found the idea of employee engagement so important that they conducted a formal study entitled The ASTD-Dale Carnegie Training-i4cp Learning and Employment Engagement Study (the study). Hiring managers and trainers, I’m talking to you again. Among the many insights revealed by the study, perhaps the most salient to the topic at hand goes a little something like this:

“General learning practices that were found to have a positive effect on engagement included fostering a learning culture, improving onboarding and orientation practices, designing learning with engagement in mind, and linking learning and performance management.”

When is an employee’s willingness to learn and become engaged at its highest? When they’re first hired, of course! The term “zeal of a convert” comes to mind. Perhaps “zeal of a new hire” could be just as appropriate. New hires are a clean slate. They’re sponges, eager to soak up all of the information thrown their way.  Unfortunately, many organizations fail to capitalize on this valuable stage of a new hire’s development by providing ineffective training. So, hiring managers and trainers, this is your time to shine! “How?” you ask. You can start by dusting off your existing training materials. Is it time to rethink your training methods? Are your current learning and development practices as effective as they possibly can be? Training that is fortified with scientifically-proven instructional design principles ensures that you minimize the unproductive time your new team members experience during their early days and starts them out with a strong, positive, and connected experience as they acclimate to their new job and your company.

Do a little spring cleaning of your current training. Whether you decide to simply spice up your existing training manuals and binders with solid instructional design principles and then digitize them for easy access, or perform an entire training overhaul, make sure you take advantage of this opportunity to contribute to the success of your employees and your organization!

To read more about ASTD’s Employee Engagement Study, click here:  http://www.astd.org/NR/rdonlyres/AD2B2677-CC9D-4762-8683-C455826925AD/0/Engagement_ExecSumm.pdf

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