A little over two years ago, I started a new job as an optician for a major retailer. I hadn’t been an optician before, but no experience was required.

My new hire training involved reading bits of an employee handbook then having the same information read to me by the instructor. This was followed by videos with scaffolded notes to fill in, but the videos did not quite match the notes, and no discussion afterwards filled in the holes that were left. Then there was a quick building tour of the safety features here and there around the building followed by seven eight-hour days of watching and reading computer-based training videos and taking multiple choice tests that never quite aligned with the material in the videos. The final event of the training was filling in dates and checkboxes on a list that included things I had not been taught. When I mentioned that there were things on that list we hadn’t even talked about, I was told, “Just sign it. It doesn’t matter.” If it doesn’t matter, why are we doing it?

The real training began the next day when I began my actual job. My boss gave me the old training book she had used several years ago, and I learned much of the terminology from that before I shadowed my boss or one of the more experienced employees and learned the real information I needed.

My dream involves a new hire training that is more useful than what I went through. The lessons and assessments were not aligned in any productive way. Many times, I finished the online lesson, clicked on the test and found questions that were not addressed in the lesson. Scoring the requisite 80% became a matter of trial and error. No pedagogically sound training should be like that. Assessments and lessons should cover the same material.

So, in my dream, new hires would participate in lessons that involved more engagement and less staring at a droning video, whether on the TV or computer. These active, more engaging lessons would involve working as a team to solve problems or study scenarios. They would involve figuring out what the person in the scenario did correctly and what could have been improved upon. Just as importantly, troubleshooting tasks would be given. What to do when the standard procedure goes awry is a necessary skill lacking in most orientation training I have ever done.

This dream would focus on the technical knowledge, the practical skills, and the affective domain needed to do not just an adequate job but a superior one. People who completed this new hire training would be far better prepared than I was, and is that not the goal for new hire orientation?


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