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The other day I spoke to an HR Director who was trying to figure out when to give her new hires the now required (in California) harassment prevention training. She threw out the idea of providing an online course on the first day “just to get it over with.”

It reminded me of a client I delivered some training programs to a few years ago. Because their jobs were so technical and related to aerospace, new hires sat at a computer isolated from their new peers for their first three weeks on the job.

New hires do have a lot to learn. Job training – and mandatory trainings – are inevitable if new hires will be successful. So, the question becomes: When is the best time to deliver mandatory training to a new hire?

Here are three things to consider before you answer:

First, consider how the timing affects the messaging around the topic at hand. If you provide mandatory harassment prevention training on the first day just to get to get over with, the new hire will no doubt conclude that harassment prevention isn’t all that important. If the training is delivered a few days or even weeks in, after some conversations around culture, harassment prevention will seem much more important and tied to the organization’s culture.

Second, consider what new hires are interested in learning. Much research on “organizational newcomers” finds that they are mostly interested in socializing. For example, newcomers attempt to demonstrate their value to others with quality work, copy the behavior of others (e.g., show up to meetings 5 mins late because most others do), run little social experiments (e.g., ask people to lunch to see if group lunches are a thing), ask a lot of questions, seek feedback on their work and developing relationships, discuss and test role expectations, and more.

We can glean from that list that new hires aren’t fulfilled if they’re trapped in isolation for three weeks. New hires want to understand their job, but they want to understand the context, the culture, and the tribe they just joined even more.

This leads to a third point, which is to consider how mandatory training fits into your onboarding. Onboarding is about showing people “the way it is around here,” while orientation is more of the on-the-job stuff. While all of your mandatory trainings are necessary, they don’t have to be relayed like just some necessary training to your new hires.

There’s a reason these mandatory trainings are in place, whether you agree they are important or not. Assuming the training is meant to control behavior on some level (e.g., uphold safety rules, prevent harassment, ensure screws are screwed into the airplane wing correctly), the more you intertwine mandatory training into onboarding, or the way it is around here, the more likely people are to follow the rules laid out in these mandatory trainings.

To make the learning stick, managers should be reinforcing the training too, but that’s a blog post for another time.

Bottom line, don’t throw mandatory training at new hires. Intertwine it into your new hire’s journey.

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Catherine Mattice Zundel

About Catherine Mattice Zundel

Catherine Mattice Zundel, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. . Her clients include Fortune 500’s, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. She has published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared several times on NPR, FOX, NBC, and ABC as an expert, as well as in USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter and teaches at National University. In his book foreword, Ken Blanchard called her book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” She recently released a second book entitled, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying.

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