Onboarding for Individuals Changing Careers – Ask #HR Bartender

onboarding cover art from TD at Work

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Something we’re experiencing in today’s labor market are individuals pursuing a new career path. Today’s reader note asks about that topic.

Would you approach a new hire any differently if they were starting in a totally new career field? This is the situation that I’m in. I’m currently in the transportation industry and finishing my Masters in HR Administration.

I think this is a great question. For organizations that might be hiring individuals who are new to their industry or profession, I can see this being something they need to address. To me, the question becomes is this onboarding or training or both. Let’s look at a couple of definitions.

Onboarding is the process of integrating a new employee into the organization. It involves socialization and productivity. In the socialization part, onboarding should help an employee feel welcome and get to know the people they will be working with, including their manager. For the productivity piece, onboarding should help a new hire get the tools they need to be successful. This includes learning policies and procedures. It might also include training.

Training is the process of teaching a person a skill or behavior. To me, training is about teaching knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) related to an employee’s current job. As a side note, development is focused on teaching the KSAs for future opportunities. As it relates to new hires, there could be topics that all employees will need training on (example: a proprietary software program) and there could be topics that only some employees need training on depending on their work experience and knowledge.

Back to the reader note. I could see a couple of different scenarios playing out:

  • The new employee attends company orientation and participates in onboarding with their department. During onboarding, the new hire is exposed to the new experiences and training they need to be a successful contributor. The training could be on-the-job, self-paced, or with a buddy or mentor.
  • The new employee attends orientation. Then, depending on the organization, they attend an in-depth training and development program. For example, the new employee participates in a leadership and management program immediately following orientation. The leadership and management program could be internal or external.

How the organization develops the onboarding plan could be based on many factors including the size of the organization, the bandwidth of their learning and development department, and the KSAs of the new hire.

We’re seeing an increasing amount of talk about the labor market and how tough it is to find qualified candidates. It’s very possible probable that organizations might have to interview and hire candidates who do not have all the experience or all the skills. And then make a promise to help that candidate get the experience and skills. The way to do that is with an onboarding and training plan.

Cover art: Lauby, Sharlyn. A Roadmap for Onboarding Managers TD at Work, ATD Press, 2018

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