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Jackie Clifford

Clarity Learning and Development


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Onboarding: How L&D can contribute to securing the future

How can L&D best support organisations to become employers of choice while helping new entrants assimilate into the workforce?
L&D and the onboarding process

How did it get to be September again? 2021 seems to have flown by in a flash – not just for me, but for many of the people who I’m talking to.

As the colours start to change from green to the beautiful hues of autumn many of us will begin thinking about change in our own lives, starting some new learning or changing jobs. 

The first steps

How many of us can remember what it was like to be starting our first ‘proper’ job? The decisions we had to make as we started up the career ladder and the apprehension about what it would be like away from full-time education? Alongside this was what I remember being described as the ‘confidence of youth’ and the real belief that we could make a difference.

Many jobs exist now that weren’t even a consideration in the past. Values and attitudes have changed. Expectations are different

Of course, the world is completely different from when we entered the workplace (some of us have been there for a very long time!) Many jobs exist now that weren’t even a consideration in the past. Values and attitudes have changed. Expectations are different.

As I write, there are a record number of vacancies in the UK and employers are struggling to attract and retain the employees that they need. How can L&D professionals help? What can we do to support our organisations to become employers of choice? And importantly, how can we support new entrants to the workforce?

Here are some ‘starters for 10’:

Immediate action – explore the needs

  1. Sit down with HR colleagues and line managers. Find out what their challenges are around recruitment and retention.
  2. Get in touch with some recent starters and find out about their experiences.
  3. Start a conversation with individuals and groups who are new to the workforce and find out what is working for them and what isn’t.
  4. Find out how long people are viewed as new starters and how long it actually takes to learn a role. Ask yourself whether there is a disparity there.

Review the offering 

  1. Take a look at your induction or onboarding process. Ask yourself some tough questions as to whether this process addresses the needs you’ve just identified.
  2. Explore the ongoing development offering for those who are new to the workforce, new to the organisation and / or new to their role.

Once you have looked at the needs and the current offering, here are a few things that you can do which can enhance what you already have in place:

Identify team members with a talent for developing others

There will be people in your teams who have a natural talent and desire to help others grow and develop. These individuals will be the fairy dust you need to sprinkle on your new team members. Skills and qualities I’ve noticed that you might want to look out for include:

  • The ability to move back from unconscious competence to conscious competence i.e. to identify what you know and what you can do and bring it to the front of mind so that you can explain it to someone else.
  • The skills of observation and feedback. Being able to notice what someone is doing and give praise and encouragement, alongside constructive pointers for ‘even better next time’.
  • The patience and tolerance to be able to see someone make a mistake and let them correct it – maybe several times.
  • The self-assurance to allow someone, however new they are, to try different ways of doing something without feeling threatened.
  • The recognition that supporting someone else’s learning will nearly always mean learning something yourself.
  • The willingness to ask questions and really listen to the answers – both spoken and unspoken.

Develop coaching and mentoring skills across the team

We talk a lot about line managers as coaches and mentors, but often it isn’t the designated line manager who is the person to provide day-to-day support. With this in mind, I believe that it is important that anyone interacting with a new team member should have a foundation of coaching and mentoring skills.

My friend and mentor Jane Lewes who runs The Learning Consultancy (and who is a truly amazing woman by the way!) has created a model called Dialogi which is a practical tool using question-based conversations to support learning. Anyone can use the process that Jane has created as a framework for a conversation which helps an individual or group to learn from their experience. In a nutshell, the conversation has five parts:

  1. Review and rewind – looking at the facts of an experience or activity.
  2. Explore and examine – using questions to help the other person hold up a magnifying glass to their experience.
  3. Learning – helping the other person to consider what they can learn from their experience.
  4. Future options – in this phase of the conversation the other person can re-set their compass. They consider whether they are heading in the right direction or whether they need to look at different options. They can then explore what the different options might be.
  5. Action planning – in the final part of the conversation, the individual commits to one of their future options and decides what success will look like.

We are there to provide support and access to the tools that are needed

Dialogi is a great model – of course there are many others and you will have your own favourites – at their core will be the fundamentals of great questions and active listening to promote reflection and learning. 

Going back to last month’s article, we must remember that learning and development is our specialism, but it is the responsibility of team members across the organisation to make it happen. We are there to provide support and access to the tools that are needed. We can’t do this alone.

I hope that my thoughts have prompted some of your own and would love to hear what you think in the comments. Thank you for reading.

Interested in this topic? Read some of Jackie's other columns.

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Jackie Clifford


Read more from Jackie Clifford

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