How fast is fast? How important is that your organization’s new employees become competent as quickly as possible?

A client once asked me to figure out how long it would take for a group of new employees, recently hired for a call centre, to become competent. My first question was, ‘How competent do you want them to be?”  My second question was, “By when?” Is it even realistic to expect 100% competence within a very limited amount of time?

For example, your existing employees are probably operating at a 70% competence level when it comes to computer software. They don’t know what they don’t know.  When learning new computer applications, most users learn the basics but miss out on a lot of features and functionality.  They learn what they need to know to survive. They may never learn what features and functionality could be really useful to them. They achieve a certain competence threshold and accept that threshold as normal and adequate.

Onboarding: What Is An Acceptable Level Of Competence And How Long Should It Take To Get New Hires To Optimized Productivity? 

So, when it comes to new employees, it’s really important to identify what’s an acceptable level of competence and by when.

To figure this out, you need to answer a few additional questions:

  • What is your new employees’ current competence level?
  • What are your new employee’s knowledge and skills ‘gaps’, i.e., the difference between the new employees’ expected performance and their current performance?
  • How much time and effort will it take to raise the new employees’ competence level?

For most new employees, the average time to basic competence is three to six months (unless, of course, they were hired fully competent from a competitor that uses the same systems, policies and procedures). It takes time to learn different computer systems, new performance requirements based on specific policies and procedures, and how to use organization-specific tools and resources. Some jobs may take even longer due to their level of complexity.  Is six months a reasonable amount of time?  What if it takes twelve months to become even 80% competent?

A possible solution? An orientation and onboarding process that focuses not only on WHAT needs to be learned but on HOW WELL and BY WHEN.

Training costs time and money, but the cost of re-training costs even more. Without the proper orientation and onboarding process your new employees could be making mistakes that negatively impact customer service and/or jeopardize your customer accounts. Money that should or could have been spent on orientation and onboarding is now spent cleaning up costly mistakes due to lack of new employee knowledge and skills. Either way your organization is paying for training.

So, why not put more time and energy into bringing your new employees up the learning curve to perform at the needed job performance level from the very first day on the job. Don’t wait until your new employees are not performing as needed to start training. Re-recruiting costs even more than an effective orientation and onboarding process.

Image credit: Bigstock.com

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