Orientation and Training Programs

Once employees are selected, they must be prepared to do their jobs, which is when orientation and training come in. Orientation means providing new employees with basic information about the employer. Training programs are used to ensure that the new employee has the basic knowledge required to perform the job satisfactorily.

Orientation and training programs are important components in the processes of developing a committed and flexible high‐potential workforce and socializing new employees. In addition, these programs can save employers money, providing big returns to an organization, because an organization that invests money to train its employees results in both the employees and the organization enjoying the dividends.

Unfortunately, orientation and training programs are often overlooked. A recent U.S. study, for example, found that 57 percent of employers reported that although employees' skill requirements had increased over a three‐year period, only 20 percent of employees were fully proficient in their jobs.

Orientation

Orientation programs not only improve the rate at which employees are able to perform their jobs but also help employees satisfy their personal desires to feel they are part of the organization's social fabric. The HR department generally orients newcomers to broad organizational issues and fringe benefits. Supervisors complete the orientation process by introducing new employees to coworkers and others involved in the job. A buddy or mentor may be assigned to continue the process.

Training needs

Simply hiring and placing employees in jobs does not ensure their success. In fact, even tenured employees may need training, because of changes in the business environment. Here are some changes that may signal that current employees need training:

  • Introduction of new equipment or processes
  • A change in the employee's job responsibilities
  • A drop in an employee's productivity or in the quality of output
  • An increase in safety violations or accidents
  • An increased number of questions
  • Complaints by customers or coworkers

Once managers decide that their employees need training, these managers need to develop clear training goals that outline anticipated results. These managers must also be able to clearly communicate these goals to employees.

Keep in mind that training is only one response to a performance problem. If the problem is lack of motivation, a poorly designed job, or an external condition (such as a family problem), training is not likely to offer much help.

Types of training

After specific training goals have been established, training sessions should be scheduled to provide the employee an opportunity to meet his or her goals. The following are typical training programs provided by employers:

  • Basic literacy training. Ninety million American adults have limited literacy skills, and about 40 million can read little or not at all. Because most workplace demands require a tenth‐ or eleventh‐grade reading level (and about 20 percent of Americans between the ages of 21 and 25 can't read at even an eighth‐grade level), organizations increasingly need to provide basic literacy training in the areas of reading and math skills to their employees.
  • Technical training. New technology and structural designs have increased the need to upgrade and improve employees' technical skills in both white‐collar and blue‐collar jobs.
  • Interpersonal skills training. Most employees belong to a work team, and their work performance depends on their abilities to effectively interact with their coworkers. Interpersonal skills training helps employees build communication skills.
  • Problem‐solving training. Today's employees often work as members of self‐managed teams who are responsible for solving their own problems. Problem‐solving training has become a basic part of almost every organizational effort to introduce self‐managed teams or implement Total Quality Management (TQM).
  • Diversity training. As one of the fastest growing areas of training, diversity training increases awareness and builds cultural sensitivity skills. Awareness training tries to create an understanding of the need for, and meaning of, managing and valuing diversity. Skill‐building training educates employees about specific cultural differences in the workplace.

Training methods

Most training takes place on the job due to the simplicity and lower cost of on‐the‐job training methods. Two popular types of on‐the‐job training include the following:

  • Job rotation. By assigning people to different jobs or tasks to different people on a temporary basis, employers can add variety and expose people to the dependence that one job has on others. Job rotation can help stimulate people to higher levels of contributions, renew people's interest and enthusiasm, and encourage them to work more as a team.
  • Mentoring programs. A new employee frequently learns his or her job under the guidance of a seasoned veteran. In the trades, this type of training is usually called an apprenticeship. In white‐collar jobs, it is called a coaching or mentoring relationship. In each, the new employee works under the observation of an experienced worker.

Sometimes, training goals cannot be met through on‐the‐job training; the employer needs to look to other resources. Off‐the‐job training can rely on outside consultants, local college faculty, or in‐house personnel. The more popular off‐the‐job training methods are classroom lectures, videos, and simulation exercises. Thanks to new technologies, employers can now facilitate some training, such as tutorials, on the employees' own computers, reducing the overall costs.

Regardless of the method selected, effective training should be individualized. Some people absorb information better when they read about it, others learn best by observation, and still others learn better when they hear the information. These different learning styles are not mutually exclusive. When training is designed around the preferred learning style of an employee, the benefits of training are maximized because employees are able to retain more of what they learn.

In addition to training, employers should offer development plans, which include a series of steps that can help employees acquire skills to reach long‐term goals, such as a job promotion. Training, on the other hand, is immediate and specific to a current job.