How to Upskill Your Rookie Employees (Without Holding Their Hands)

Talent Plus Talent Plus

September 14, 2023 Blog
Manager investing in and upskilling their rookie employee.

A few positive things came out of the pandemic: a broader acceptance of remote work, better building ventilation and of course, curbside grocery pickup! But the collective trauma of the pandemic and its aftermath have had far more negative effects on our culture. 

Among the groups hurt most were students. Despite the incredible leaps in innovation and the ability to continue classes throughout the pandemic via Zoom, students missed out on the hands-on, “doing” of labs, clinicals and real-life experiences that in-person learning provides. Everything was hypothetical or on the computer. Missing out on this critical part of learning has had detrimental effects for those entering the workforce now, and on those hiring these green employees.

A 2023 article in The Wall Street Journal reports on this “learning and doing” gap for new employees. Professional certification and assessment exam pass rates have fallen, meaning fewer professionals are applying to these jobs and of those who do, there is a lower degree of competency.

Not only are these new-to-the-workforce employees lacking in general knowledge, they’re hurting in the soft skills needed to work with others. In the article, the reporter cites a zoo having to coach workers on basics like why it’s important to look visitors in the eye and how to make change at the cash register. In addition, they have to instill a work ethic, initiative, engagement and a sense of accountability.

But this group of rookies is the future of the workforce available for hire. So, it’s incumbent on companies and leaders to bring them up to speed on everything from the general skills needed to do their jobs to the social skills needed to get along in the office. Here are some ways you can help these rookies adapt and upskill them for your benefit — and theirs.

Hire for Natural Talent and Self-Motivation

Your hiring process should include an assessment. A Talent Online ® Assessment can help you select candidates who are a fit for the job and have the necessary skill set. An assessment sorts for natural talent, which is much easier to build on than someone who does not have natural talent. Read more about hiring for natural talent

An assessment can help to screen for candidates who are internally motivated. Even if they don’t have all the skills necessary for the job, this subset will seek out ways to improve, grow and find the answers to their questions without hand-holding. 

Amp up Your Onboarding Process

When new workers start, ensure they receive a thorough rundown of the job expectations and the skills required to do the job. Don’t assume they already have those skills, even if their degree or certification indicates they have them. Encourage them to be transparent about what they don’t know and prepare to train them whether by watching training videos or shadowing someone who does know how to do the tasks needed.

Assign new workers an onboarding buddy or mentor. This person, usually a seasoned employee, can answer questions, direct them to an appropriate resource or person when they can’t find an answer, and guide them throughout their training and onboarding journey. Read more about why mentoring is important in the workplace. 

Ask Them About Where They’re Confident

Ask your new hires in what areas they feel most confident, and what areas they need some additional support. They may already know exactly what areas they need more practice in.

An assessment can provide rookies and leaders a portrait of where an employee’s strengths and weaknesses are. The Talent Card® show a grid of natural abilities. This assessment can help leaders understand the whole employee. Leaders can pinpoint training or backfilling needs, and employees can know in what areas to ask questions and where they should seek out additional opportunities to contribute. 

Hold Frequent 1:1 Meetings

Provide new employees ample opportunities to get their questions answered. Put rookies on projects where they can learn but are easy wins. Don’t set them up to fail by tasking them with an impossible first project or assigning them a difficult client right away. 

Leaders should meet with these rookies frequently to discuss what they should be working on, what taking initiative might look like and what opportunities are coming down the pike. This also gives an opportunity for rookies to ask questions and present challenges they’re having. If you speak frequently, you can address knowledge and skills gaps quickly — before a crisis overwhelms you, your rookie or the entire team.

As an added bonus, frequent 1:1 meetings will help leaders set milestones and keep rookies on task and accountable.

Provide Paid Professional Development Time

Address knowledge and skills gaps by paying for professional development time. You might find a course online that speaks directly to the skills needed which they can take during the workday. Or send the rookie to a conference where they can practice their people skills, take seminars to increase their knowledge and learn more about the industry. Investing in your employees, including your new ones, reduces turnaround and increases employee longevity. Retain the right people!

Invest in New Employees

As you hire new employees, you may find the pool of candidates disappointing. But if you’re prepared to train them and assess their skills gaps, you can engage these employees to make them an asset to your business for years to come.

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