Monday, 12 November 2012

Supporting the new starter journey towards competency

It’s always a challenge to get a new starter up and running – and to work out how to best facilitate their learning.

A key principle to guide our thinking about how to support a new starter, is to think more about facilitating “learning” - rather than “training” through the delivery of copious amounts of content.

In other words, what learning experiences can be created for the new starter to largely learn by doing? Avoid delivering masses of information out of context and hoping this morphs into performance on the job!

The traditional training approach in many organisations is predominantly based on ‘just-in-case’ content delivery. We commonly overwhelm new starters by presenting them with every bit of information they may ever require to cover off every possible eventuality.

I think it’s better to use a ‘just-in-time’ approach where you structure the learning to match the needs on the job. Limit the information flow by ‘pulling’ the learning as required. Assist the new starter to know where to retrieve relevant information as required. Knowing where to go looking for key resources encourages self-directed learning.

The other dimension to consider is assisting the new learner to establish a broad ‘learning network’ of subject matter ‘experts’ within and beyond the immediate team. As the new starter gets settled in, start to shift away from having a single ‘coach/buddy’ and expand the network of people that can provide informed discussions about issues/challenges on the job.

So the guiding principles for the new starters L&D program should gradually have more of a focus on:

  • Learning experiences on real work  
  • Just-in-time learning
  • Pulling the learning as required to meet the context on-the-job
  • Opportunities to practice, get feedback, reflect, improve
  • Establishing a learning network of SMEs
  • Promoting conversations/collaboration
  • Gradually increasing the complexity of work as knowledge/skill develops 
The best learning is from work that stretches people towards the edge of their capacity. The art is to allocate work to the new starter that provides challenge without overwhelming them, in a supported environment.

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