2020 Best Practices
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2020 Best Practices
TD Magazine

New Approaches for New Hires

Monday, July 20, 2020

Winning programs focus on performance and behaviors in the onboarding process.

Periods of change can challenge even the best businesses—they also can uncover flaws in processes and ineffective learning models. Such was the case for FedEx Office, GQR, and Press Ganey Associates, all of which experienced rapid business expansion, increasing attrition rates—or both. And all discovered the need to scrap their established onboarding practices and replace them with more agile, blended learning opportunities.


Gaines, losses, and improvements

At Press Ganey, the need for a more formalized onboarding program for its workforce and engagement advisor team emerged following an acquisition in 2013 that gave way to record client growth, unprecedented turnover rates, and subsequent loss of expertise. Prior to the acquisition, new associates at the healthcare consultancy relied on veteran advisors for informal job shadowing and peer coaching to learn their roles. Now, they attend a two-day on-site session, complete self-paced activities, participate in weekly review sessions, and submit to periodic skill checks and other assessments.

Years of hypergrowth also drove GQR, a multinational talent acquisition and advisory firm, to create a more robust platform for training large groups of people that also could sustain future market expansion. The new multifaceted approach comprises instructor-led classroom training, self-guided e-learning, mentorship, one-on-one coaching, sales coaching, knowledge hours, and master classes. The variety of learning activities helps equip new hires with the skills and behaviors they need to achieve early success, which in turn sustains growth, improves retention, and generates revenue for the company.

Increasing turnover at FedEx Office prompted the printing and shipping company to conduct a needs assessment that revealed a strong correlation between poor sales and profit metrics and high attrition rates, especially among new hires. As a result, the L&D team took a "criterion-referenced" approach and focused learning on team member performance rather than "knowledge regurgitation." The revamped program features several modalities to improve speed to proficiency and eliminate tasks and information that were not critical for a team member's first month on the job.

The combined results of these new onboarding programs have helped the companies achieve—and even surpass—organizational objectives and revenue goals. For example, early attrition rates at GQR have dropped 18 percent in the three years since the program's inception, and the company projects roughly $2 million in additional revenue as a direct result of improved retention from the L&D program.

At FedEx Office, participant survey data from team members who have completed the new program indicates a 96 percent satisfaction rate with it. Meanwhile at Press Ganey, participants are more engaged with and confident in their abilities to deliver value to clients as a result of their learning, and 100 percent of associates who have participated in the program are active advisors with the firm today.

Despite the differences in markets, platforms developed, and learners served, all three organizations developed highly engaging programs with a high degree of variety and hands-on learning activities.

Performance demonstration

The companies placed an emphasis on participants' ability to work independently in real-world scenarios. In the case of FedEx Office, the L&D team implemented a tell-show-do model, in which learners receive the information, observe the task being completed, and then carry out the task themselves and receive feedback on their performance.

Training professionals at Press Ganey integrated three milestone skill checks into the program to assess an associate's ability to apply comprehensive sets of skills in a simulated environment. The checks mimic real-world performance situations as closely as possible. The talent development manager, manager, and assigned mentor evaluate associates' performance using standard rubrics and provide immediate feedback. Structured debriefs after each skill check enable managers and associates to share their constructive feedback with the L&D team for program improvement.

Coaches and mentors

All three companies also take advantage of the benefits that come from one-on-one relationships to motivate and evaluate their learners. GQR incorporates several forms of coaching into its framework, including individual and desk-side coaching. The L&D team also offers leadership training for new managers so that they are equipped with the tools necessary to develop their new hires. In addition, new managers participate in time management training to ensure they can sustain their business while still contributing to further hire training. Meanwhile, existing managers take part in refresher courses on goal setting and providing constructive feedback.


FedEx Office leverages coaches in its training stores for new-hire observation, practice, and skill check. During the evaluation process, team members complete tasks while being observed by their training coach, who records the team member's observations as pass or incomplete in the learning management system and adds notes on performance. After team members complete the program, managers use the coach's notes to evaluate their abilities and build learning plans for further skills development in needed areas.

Current engagement advisors serve as subject matter experts and mentors to individual new hires at Press Ganey. Mentors shadow new associates on initial engagements by participating in virtual meetings and even traveling with the new associate for on-site client meetings.

Use of video

Both Press Ganey and FedEx Office put video and recordings to use in their programs but in different ways. At Press Ganey, trainers and participants use video to improve the informal assessment process in between skill checks. Using a training and coaching software platform, learners record quick videos of themselves completing specific tasks, such as demonstrating client dashboard navigation or interpreting a client contract. Managers then provide feedback on their performance.

FedEx Office uses video as a learning tool, to engage stakeholders, and to encourage buy-in for the program. The company produced videos in the field depicting team members demonstrating tasks because it found that professionally produced videos do not always resonate as well with team members. And the L&D team reports that using videos that in-store team members create lends credibility to the content, generates enthusiasm for the program, and introduces new hires to the working environment.

View the entire list of 2020 Excellence in Practice Award winners.

About the Author

Josephine Rossi is editor at Content Communicators in Purcellville, Virginia.

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