Deskless Work

The Art of Continuous Training and Employee Development

Elliott Gibb

Every once in a while, it pays to rethink the way you approach your employee training and development efforts.

Developing and conducting a thorough onboarding process is proven to benefit both companies and new hires. With higher time-to-productivity, increased employee retention, and higher workplace loyalty, the average spend of $1830 that employers invest in employee onboarding is money well spent.

But what happens after onboarding, when your hire isn’t exactly “new” anymore?

One-time investments are wonderful but rare; even diamonds need to be polished from time to time to shine brightly.

To no surprise, the initial employee training isn’t a one-off project after which you can enjoy the “happily ever after” and never invest in them again. If you expect continuous growth from your business, you must continue investing in your workforce on all levels including the often-neglected frontline staff — the deskless workforce is quick to bail!

Read on, and we’ll present the case for continuous employee training and development as a much-needed supplement for a healthy, growing organization. 🌱

The Employee Development Lifecycle: Onboarding to Continuous Development

Employee Onboarding Timeline

Employee onboarding starts as soon as the new hire accepts the job offer, but before they officially start working at their new company. It is a process that consists of four phases:

  • Pre-boarding (or pre-onboarding) — Encompasses administration, paperwork, an official welcome, learning about company structure, and role details.
  • Orientation — First days at new work: meeting the team, logging into new accounts, providing them with onboarding timelines, showing them around, discussing benefits, policies, company culture, and values, and answering any additional questions.
  • Job-specific training — Assigning the new employee a mentor and the official start of employee training; earning practical knowledge and skills with instructions that make them independent and confident in their work.
  • Tackling the new role — A new team member starts to successfully and independently complete day-to-day tasks, meets the KPI targets, and reports to their supervisors.

The whole onboarding process may last between one week and three, or even six months — depending on the role complexity and the resources companies can afford to dedicate to employee onboarding.

The goal of onboarding is to ensure a comfortable transition and adjustment to the new role and professional surroundings. 

As the onboarding period comes to an end, it’s time to schedule the first employee performance review: a meeting between a new hire, their supervisor/mentor, and HR.

Was the onboarding and training of sufficient quality? Is the new team member ready to take full responsibility or do they need extra training sessions? Are they a good match?

This is an opportunity for both sides to provide and gather feedback and set clear expectations for the future of their employment.

Now that your new hire has successfully transitioned to their full-time role, you should start thinking about how to keep them loyal and productive.

Is There Life After Onboarding?

“Over half of existing employees (51%) say that in the three months before they left, neither their manager nor any other leader spoke with them about their job satisfaction or future with the organization.”

The honeymoon period ended, and the work became tedious and repetitive. 

You ceased to provide your employees with additional challenges, benefits, or chances to advance their careers. 

They left. 

This cycle repeats with team members you thought were going to stay, and keeping up with the costs of repeated onboarding and churn prevents the company from growing.

“It’s not me, it’s you” — is the part that many exiting workers keep to themselves, while you think they were bad hires all along.

Want to avoid this usual scenario?

Let your staff know that they don’t have to look for growth opportunities outside the company. 

One of the best ways to do so is through continuous training, and developing employee learning programs.

The Art of Continuous Development

Continuous employee development is an ongoing process of investing in your employees’ skills and knowledge. 

Traditional development programs are occasional, one-time-only, and mandated from above, with little regard for staff interest. 

On the other hand, continuous employee growth takes a more personalized approach. The employees are assessed separately, and provided with opportunities to freely learn and develop skills under the company’s wing. 

There are multiple ways to provide and facilitate consistent employee training and learning:

  • Micro-learning platforms to polish and test their existing knowledge;
  • Free access to online courses beneficial to their professional development;
  • In-person classroom studying sessions;
  • Lectures and training by industry professionals;
  • Recurring tests and skill/knowledge assessments;
  • Mentorship programs and knowledge-sharing within the company.

Companies provide resources for employee learning and upskilling to fill the employment gap

Instead of hiring and onboarding a new staff member, they select an existing employee whose experience most closely matches the vacant spot. Then, the employee goes through additional training, workshops, and courses, so they can take on a different role.

Continuous training and learning are also provided to employees interested in career growth:

  1. Vertical growth relates to hierarchy and “climbing the ladder”. An employee is going after promotion by accepting increasingly demanding, strategic assignments, with more responsibility and a higher salary. For example, a receptionist climbs all the way up to a hotel manager role.
  2. Horizontal growth happens when employees want to broaden their knowledge in one particular area. This may result in specialization, or transferring to another department where they’ll prepare for an entirely new role. So, a retail worker highly proficient in conflict resolution can use their skills in customer service.

The best strategy for continuous growth on both sides is to align company goals with their personal goals.

A win for you is a win for them: invest in their skills, they’ll work better to attract profit surplus, and you’ll reward them. It may be more complicated in real life, but no one can claim the principle is hard to understand.

In addition to increasing the overall company profitability, there are plenty of benefits that continuous training brings to the workplace:

  • Adapting to industry innovations — The recent developments in AI should have us all reading and learning more;
  • Making employees happy — Employee satisfaction isn’t always about the money - meeting employees’ psychological needs by providing interesting work matters;
  • Becoming a more attractive employer — Competing to attract top talent will become much easier once you reveal how invested you are in your employees’ continuous growth;
  • Improving workplace efficiency and productivity — Knowledgeable and experienced employees are quick to resolve any issues, and meet quotas with ease;
  • Reducing errors in the work environment — Employees should not only keep learning new things but revise what they’ve already learned as well;
  • Staying compliant with rules and regulations — Staying on top of OSHA regulations and similar workplace regulations isn’t just the job for higher-ups and HR: everyone should know the rules that dictate their work, especially within the food and health industry.

How to Start Developing Continuous Employee Growth Programs

Rethink the Role of Your L&D Team

Now that they have more than onboarding on their hands, your L&D team will have to immerse themselves in the ongoing employee development project. They might need an extra team member or a temporary addition, especially if your HR department acts as L&D too.

Brandon Carson (VP of L&D at Walmart) wrote a useful playbook that, among other things, advises creating a comprehensive L&D strategy.

Regarding “lifelong learning”, Carson suggests identifying the programs that help develop personal skills, retention, and promotability.

Educate Your Management

Managers, higher-ups, and superiors that oversee the everyday work your deskless staff puts in have a new task: identifying growth opportunities in the people they manage.

This may seem obvious to a naturally gifted leader, but not everyone’s born with it. 

Here’s how managers can notice development opportunities:

  • What do staff members excel at? If a team member has a knack for a specific line of work, their skills might be transferable to a department where they’ll work better.
  • What are their weaknesses? If they repeatedly make the same mistakes, additional training will put an end to it.
  • What’s their feedback like? Reading between the lines might not be necessary. Providing a safe space for feedback, impressions, and suggestions helps staff open up and express their desire for growth in a particular direction.

Build Diverse Career Paths for Different Stages of Employee Maturity

Your team members may have a career goal in mind, but no clear vision of how to achieve it at their current stage.

Despite what we’re told, one size doesn’t fit all. 

Have your L&D team assess current roles and how they could expand horizontally and vertically. Then, you can build employee training programs that help get your staff from start to finish — and continue growing in a desired way.

The Bottom Line

A diligent onboarding process is only the beginning of your staff’s career growth. 

To ensure employee satisfaction, productivity, and high retention rates, you need to keep steadily investing in your team member’s skills and knowledge, long after the onboarding period is done.

This way, you’ll show them they have something to look forward to in their career — and staying with you pays off. In return, you’ll have a competent, faithful workforce working for your mutual success.

If you wish to complement the onboarding process with ongoing employee growth programs, be prepared to brief and equip your HR/L&D departments and management and provide career paths that correspond to the employee maturity stage.

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