Time To Proficiency: Orientation And Onboarding

How long does it take your new employees to become proficient at their jobs? How proficient do you need them to be? By when?
Even if you hire top talent who you think have the necessary job knowledge and skills, they will still experience a learning curve because of the unique requirements of their new job and your organization. There’s a learning process all new employees need to go through to achieve the required level of job proficiency.

What Is Proficiency?

Proficiency is the quality of having great facility and competence. Every job requires that certain job competencies be demonstrated to a certain level of proficiency. Competencies are a set of observable behaviors that provide a structured guide to help identify, evaluate and develop key knowledge, skills and attitudes to perform the job effectively. Some of these competencies could include communication, problem-solving, and customer service.

So, how long should it take your new employees to become competent and demonstrate the required level of job proficiency? What new knowledge and skills do they need to learn?

Identifying The Proficiency Gap

Your new employees need to take in and process a lot of information during the initial months on the job. Knowing how to accelerate the acquisition of job knowledge and skills from point ‘A’ to a higher point ‘B’ level, requires identifying your new employees’ current knowledge and skills and comparing them to their expected job performance knowledge and skills. The difference between the ‘current’ and ‘required’ knowledge and skills is called the personal job proficiency ‘gap’, i.e., what they need to be learn to become proficient in their job.

New employee job proficiency gaps can be identified by:

  1. Asking new employees to complete one or more self-assessments to assess their own job competence / proficiency level
  2. Conducting tests / quizzes to assess key knowledge and skills levels
  3. Observing (job shadowing) new employees as they perform their jobs, given specific work assignments
  4. Checking off descriptions (checklist) of what job competencies you see them demonstrate
  5. Asking your new employees specific performance assessment questions

Information Processing For Proficiency

From the first day of employment, your new employees begin comparing what is similar to or different from their previous jobs. For example, almost every job requires the use of computer systems and applications. When the computer system and applications are the same or very similar to what your new employees have used in the past, then their time to competence, or proficiency, is very fast.

Today’s software tools, of course, are better than ever at helping to measure and motive new employees and guide the onboarding process faster. Some new employees, who have limited computer expertise, may require in-depth training, reinforcement and coaching to achieve the required proficiency level. Fortunately, the top SaaS tools are pretty simple to pick up so there’s really no excuse anymore to leave the old paper based approaches to onboarding.

Organizational Language Proficiency – Terms And Acronyms

Have you ever listened to a group of your employees talk about a business challenge while standing in the hallways or during meetings? It often sounds like they are from a different planet. They are using terms that only someone from that area of your business or profession could understand.

Business-speak happens in every organization. Being oriented to a new organization means learning the organization’s language. Don’t underestimate the negative impact on your new employees’ performance when they can’t quite understand what people are saying, especially in meetings.

One of the fastest ways to achieve proficient performance is to be upfront with your new employees about the language (terms and acronyms) used in your organization. Give them access to a well-designed glossary that also includes the meaning of acronyms. Spend time explaining key terms / terminology, with examples and analogies, so they understand the key concepts used within your business or industry. The sooner they can really understand what is being said and speak the language, the faster they will demonstrate competent performance.

Time To Proficiency Advantage

Helping your new employees become proficient faster will make them more valuable to your organization. The key to achieving this result is a well-designed online orientation and onboarding process that accelerates your new employees’ time to proficiency.

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