How to Encourage Learning After Onboarding

Employee retention begins the moment a job offer is extended and accepted, because once you hire employees, keeping them is crucial for company growth. This is true not only because replacing employees is costly all-around, but also because long-term employees foster improved teamwork, productivity, and on-the-job knowledge.

After the hire, the onboarding process is the second step toward employee satisfaction and productivity. But it doesn’t stop there. Even after you’ve come up with a strategic onboarding plan, the work in retaining and teaching employees keeps on going. Here are some effective strategies for improving training and engagement, even after onboarding is completed.

Foster curiosity and creativity in the workplace.

Training is often considered a prerequisite to knowing, understanding, or mastering a certain skillset. At many jobs, training involves a one-time completion of assignments, often rich with resources we often never see again. As you might expect, this description leaves a vague sense of something missing.

So what’s a better workplace definition of training? Training is fostering creativity and encouraging on-the-job learning in order to stay up-to-date with an ever-changing industry. Many of us function in workplaces that are constantly moving and changing. In order to keep up, we have to roll up our sleeves, work hard, and learn harder.

To answer this need, innovative work environments take steps to understand the process of continual change and provide ways to keep on learning. Try viewing learning as an ongoing lifestyle, rather than a course completed on your first day at a new job.

Often, this shift in perspective depends on leaders who embrace wholehearted learning and future-focused thinking. Here are two key ways to foster curiosity and teamwork in the workplace.

Create a culture of open communication.

Questions should not only be encouraged but also preferred. Employees bring a different viewpoint to the table and respecting this viewpoint can lead to improved processes and greater employee satisfaction (and greater retention). For example, if an employee questions a policy, and your only response is, “Because it’s always been this way,” you might want to take another look at the policy.

Find opportunities for inter-office learning.

Rather than having seasoned employees work next to one another, mix up new and old employees. Seating new hires together may create comradery, but it doesn’t always open up new learning opportunities. Inclusion also encourages teamwork and increases employee morale.

Set goals for continuous improvement.

It’s not unusual to have moments during projects where you just feel stuck. And that’s OK. A lack of motivation is a universal problem, and it’s not something to be ashamed of. If you’re on a team with open communication, you can spin your chair to face a coworker and say, “Hey, I’m running into a block on this project. Do you have a moment to chat about it?”

If you’re in a leadership position, you can decrease your employees’ (and your own) unmotivated moments by setting clear goals. Accountability is often key to reaching these goals—so they don’t quietly disappear like unrealized New Year’s resolutions. Regular meetings between leadership and employees often help chart progress toward set goals. During these meetings, employees and supervisors can address goal adjustments, concerns, and areas for growth. If goals have been reached, celebrate and set new goals. If the goals are still out of reach, work together to find out the cause and discover how to move forward.

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Respect employee contribution.

Employees have a unique viewpoint and a keen eye for spotting gaps and questions missed by leadership. A great way to respect this viewpoint and fill gaps for future hires involves asking new employees to contribute to team training. We’ve all heard that teaching is the best way to learn, and this holds true for the workplace.

After the initial onboarding and adjustment period, have employees submit feedback on training—what areas made sense? What areas still have information gaps? With these improvements in mind, new hires can contribute to training guides, create more effective information for future hires, and improve their own understanding of the material. It also goes a long way toward showing employees that you hear and respect their feedback.

Take a different perspective.

For learning to really work, we have to adjust our perspective. Learning isn’t a one-and-done deal, it’s a continuous experience that encourages active thinking and personal growth. To get started, meet with your team and discuss ways you can foster continuous curiosity, improvement, and contribution.

Change can be hard, so be patient with yourself and your team as everyone works to create their perspective. And remember—mindset is everything.

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