What training and orientation does your workplace provide to new employees?
August 6, 2009 2:35 PM   Subscribe

What sort of training and orientation does your workplace provide to new employees?

I'm particularly interested in what libraries do with new employees - both front line and support staff - but would also love to hear what what other organizations, companies and sectors do as well in case I could adapt something for our library's new employee orientation plan.

I'm interested in anything from the type of training that new employees are given, how long it lasts, how formalized it is, who leads it, what it is comprised of (do you use manuals? Online modules? Are these developed in-house or obtained from somewhere else?) If employees receive one-on-one training or group training? How does it differ depending on the role of the employee (what does a front line public service clerk get versus a librarian versus a support staff member working in say, IT or Marketing?)
posted by Jaybo to Work & Money (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My job: a local government job reviewing land use standards as they apply to development. My training: through school (understanding the basics of how things fit together, regulation-wise), then reading up on the local ordinances and following people out on their site visits. I was eased into things by working on easier projects to begin with, then moving onto more complex things.

As it would apply to broader fields: I have an undergrad degree in my field, but on the job training was necessary as each location is different. On the job training wasn't formal, but diving in with guidance, and asking a lot of questions.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:48 PM on August 6, 2009

I've been the new guy in probably 10 different places at this point. The most effective training I ever got was being locked up in rooms with People Who Know Stuff (across lots of different functions and departments) for half hour to hour long chunks, sometimes with my new boss in attendance as well.

This worked really well because I got what they thought I needed to know, additional color when my new boss prompted them for more on parts he felt they covered too shallowly, and things were informal enough for me to feel comfortable asking questions, and for them to answer. Discussions weren't just about how things were or how they currently do things - but how they got to that point. That's especially important for getting up to speed on any new place's politics and power dynamics.

After the mind meld sessions, I'd tail people or study up on big but not currently on fire real problems to ramp the rest of the way. This method also established relationships between me and the people who mattered in the new place very quickly, so I wouldn't waste time wondering if I should go pick their brains - I just did.

Group training that I've received, in contrast, has been pretty much useless.

Note that I'm almost always in so-called knowledge gigs. Technique gigs are a different story. I would think more formalized apprenticeships or conventional training would be a better fit, there.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 2:49 PM on August 6, 2009

In a lot of the large energy companies (sorry, no library experience), training is mapped to job titles on a huge matrix. So, let's say you are a Specialist and you want to be a Senior Specialist. You can look at the matrix (or something that's smaller just for Specialists, and prettied up) and see that to move from Specialist to Senior Specialist you must take A, B, and C training courses, have M, N, and L experiences in your job, and have X, Y, and Z other attributes. And, job titles are tied to a range of pay grades.

New employees are generally expected to attend the training that is mandatory for their spot on the matrix within their first year of employment, or have it waived by their manager if their previous experience warrants it (and it usually does). On-boarding training not standard for most of the companies I've worked with; instead it's a bit of a seminar, with HR people spending about an hour telling everyone who was hired that week that they need to sign up for insurance, need to enter their time in the time-keeping system, need to sign an ethics statement and non-compete statement, etc., usually with a film from the CEO welcoming the new hires.

The trend that I've seen is that most soft-skill training and training that is global (that is, everyone takes it, or lots of people around the world take it) is computer-based training. Most technical training is instructor led. Courses that are mostly technical but have soft-skills hidden objectives as well are blended -- you take some of the course online, and then attend an instructor-led course.

The latest trend of the last few years seems to be adoption of the "university" model. It's a restructuring of the courses, so that you have "colleges" (aka job division or discipline, like "College of Marketing" or "College of IT") with "deans" (aka directors of the divisions or disciplines) and "course catalogs" (aka list of training courses). This is more about organization than anything else, but it seems every company has CompanyName University these days. The organization works well with the matrix I mentioned, by the way.

One-on-one training in a formal sense is pretty rare. But, instead many companies are adopting mentoring programs, lunch-and-learns, wikis, knowledgebases, and the like to provide just-in-time assistance to people who need a little help, and to expose them to their peers and the people in higher positions than their own.

Most training dollars are spent for middle-of-the-road employees (by rank, I mean). That is, clerks and admins do not receive much training; likewise, CEOs and other C-grade employees do not receive much training. When either of those two groups attend training, it is usually to an outsourced agency (or in the case of clerks and admins, it is also CBTs developed in-house, and of course training that is mandatory for all employees).

Sadly, there is a vast disparity in quality. Some companies have fantastic training courses, which are designed to ensure that you learn. Others only have poorly-designed PowerPoints with no learning objectives and no thought to how people learn. The quality disparity does not seem to depend on the company size or profits; it depends on how much they value the effects of training and development. Some companies think it's important; some really do not.

For companies that place a high value on learning and development, the courses are created by an instructional designer, who usually works with a team of subject-matter experts and key directors. After the course is created, that person usually hosts a train-the-trainer session. This is to train the future trainers of the course, both in the course content and also in being an effective trainer, facilitator, and speaker. When this happens, the trainers are usually experts in their field, but not generally experts at training (thus the train-the-trainer sessions). Oftentimes, the courses they teach will at first be attended by the person who created the course, so they can have help when they need it.
posted by Houstonian at 3:43 PM on August 6, 2009

I started as a Page in my library, and am now a Clerk I in Periodicals. As a Page my training consisted of a tour of the building, a review/test of the Dewey decimal system, and an explanation of my daily schedule. In addition to reshelving books and media I assisted the FoL with sorting donations.

As a Clerk I, I received partial training on the patron database software (check in/out) that was conducted live at the Circulation desk with over-the-shoulder supervision. I was also given weeding duties for the periodicals archive, which was presumably meant to help me familiarize myself with the organizing principles (hah!).

Training was always done personally by a supervisor, and at their whims. Which is to say, there were no formal procedures or documentation for training—only the passing on of experiential knowledge and addressing of issues as they came up.

New employees here are never hired in groups; rarely is there a need for any more than one new staff member at any given time.
posted by carsonb at 4:01 PM on August 6, 2009

I am a trainer in a hospital. We have about 20-40 new employees each month. We start everyone with "general orientation." This takes 2 days, and is a mix of regulatory-required information, HR information, and cultural information (i.e., information about our institutional culture). After that, most support employees report to their departments for further orientation and training. This varies by department, but there is a department orientation checklist, and further regulatory education via computer modules. Department orientation includes one-on-one training, sometimes with a supervisor or lead, and sometimes with the trainer assigned to that department.

Nurses, nursing assistants and unit secretaries go on to attend a week or two of additional classes and training, including software and policies and procedures. Then they report to their departments to continue orientation and training. Nurses (RNs) are typically on orientation for several weeks. During this time, they are observed and assisted by a seasoned RN preceptor who validates that they are able to complete all the required tasks.

For newly graduated RNs, we have a several weeks long program to supplement their nursing education. This includes classes and rotating through several areas of the hospital. Then they go on to their departments and continue with department orientation.

We create all our computer-based learning modules in-house. Our orientation is designed by our training department and is delivered by a mix of trainers and senior institutional leaders.

This is fairly typical for a hospital - a little longer and more detailed than average, perhaps.
posted by jeoc at 4:46 PM on August 6, 2009

I'm a new librarian and I was involved in developing the training schedule for new librarians at a previous job. I have previously worked as a paraprofessional, but it was while I was in school so they trained me more as a librarian than as library staff. I am speaking solely from a public services prospective.

How long training lasts?
That depends, as I think some of the places I've worked have been real outliers. I spent well over two months in training during my paraprofessional job (but it was at a law library). I spent one month in training at one librarian job but then when they hired a new librarian they asked me to do formal training with this person so altogether about three months of training. I spent over six months training at my very first professional position, but keep in mind that I was still in school and thus that was starting from the ground up (I was hired early in library school, but I had full desk responsibilities). I have library school friends who talked about a year in training, or a year with a mentor, and I know some who started in on day one with no training given.

How formalized is it?

That also depends a great deal on the culture of the library. I've worked at a law library, a public library, and three academic libraries thus far. I would say that the public library had the expectation that I would 'just get it' very quickly (but they knew of my previous experience), the law library was very formal with a packet and everything that I had to complete before I could be considered trained, and the three academic libraries were a range from regimented (with homework!) to laissez-faire (what do you want to learn today?).

Who leads it?
Typically, there's a trainer (one person point of contact) with a packet (usually assembled with input from all of the staff of the department the new person will be working in), formal exercises that then progress to observation, doing while the trainer is observing, tag-teaming with another professional, and finally solo work with the ability to touch base as needed. In my current job, there were two trainers, but there were two of us hired at once and one of the trainers took vacation part-way through the training. Typically, it's one, maybe two people (which makes it much easier on the trainee!).

What is it comprised of (do you use manuals? Online modules? Are these developed in-house or obtained from somewhere else?)?
Yes. Manuals are developed in-house (often for prior hires), which is a good thing because as I said, each library is different (what's your policy on forgiving fines? and your unofficial policy?). I helped critique the manual for one of my previous jobs when I was still 'new' but not as new as the newest hire, and they found it very helpful (they realized that your perspective on what's 'easy' to learn is skewed the longer you work at that particular library). Online modules? Well, sure, sort of. If you already have training videos (how to use the library videos or research guides) for your public, then often a library will have the new hires watch these (it's a suggestion, not a requirement). Otherwise, a librarian (and I'm speaking as a librarian here; I know nothing about the online elements of training a paraprofessional) may watch the vendor training videos or online demos if s/he is unfamiliar with the software (for example, when LibGuides came out, I watched demo information provided by them at one of my jobs, and another job offered it when they subscribed as well). Most information is in-house (as always, we librarians do tend to duplicate the wheel, though I suspect many paraprofessional trainers are more efficient).

If employees receive one-on-one training or group training?

Both. One on one is more typical, but I have been hired at the same time as or shortly ahead of another new person doing the same thing I was and so it made sense to do group training. But we're talking small group, definitely no more than three. Two usually works best. I would assume this is just standard practice because I've dealt with it in the corporate world as well.

How does it differ depending on the role of the employee (what does a front line public service clerk get versus a librarian versus a support staff member working in say, IT or Marketing?)
In my experience, the front line staff got a good bit of training because the library could afford it (literally--training, after all, means double-scheduling your trained staff so that one person can train and another person can actually do the work). I'm not sure how it works at other libraries. Obviously, a librarian gets more and different training than a circulation clerk. IT or marketing? I'm not familiar with their training procedures, sorry. What I can assume is that all staff receive basic library information, and at some libraries your IT people will be forced to suffer through public services information that is irrelevant to them as much as it's irrelevant to say, catalogers because that's just how training is done at that library, and finally every staff member will receive specialized training for their area.
posted by librarylis at 5:19 PM on August 6, 2009

Oh, and I forgot to add: most organizations you're joining also have an orientation (welcome to the City! Here's your benefits plan! or Welcome to the university! Here's our patent policy! or whatever). That's completely separate (typically anyway--my current job just had me do the HR packet at my desk because they needed to me to start work right away) and often only marginally useful.
posted by librarylis at 5:24 PM on August 6, 2009

I developed the orientation program at my academic library with a couple colleagues. It's completely separate from training, though. Orientation is more about culture and what other people do at their jobs, where training is about what you do at your job. Or, that's how we conceived it.

Our orientation was developed for all non-student employees, regardless of classification or function, and sits alongside a fairly individualized mentoring program for tenure-track librarians.

We developed a series of meetings to get introduced to the work of each department by someone who worked there and check-in meetings with both the immediate supervisor, the department head, and either the dean or associate dean, just to make sure things were going well, a "guide" partner who would do things like building tours, basic campus info, and serve as a resource for questions that inevitably pop up later, and a notebook of info to keep on hand - who to call when your computer breaks, etc.

It's about a 3 month process, mostly so the newbie isn't overwhelmed with info in the first two weeks of work. We wrote a chapter about it (pre-press Word doc linked there, obvs self-link), and I'd be happy to chat with you about it more if you want to contact me via memail or the email in my profile.
posted by donnagirl at 9:15 PM on August 6, 2009

My training as a library assistant was almost identical to sperose's, sans forklift. Which was actually fine and effective; I learn best by doing, and found the university orientation pretty useless, except for the information on benefits.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:53 AM on August 7, 2009

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