Here's How L&D Can Be The Hero To Help Solve The Inherent Problems In This Catch-22
There’s a doozy of a statistic in the latest data from our colleagues in the world of recruiting: 61% of all full-time “entry-level” jobs now require 3 or more years of experience.
For would-be new hires, it’s a catch-22. They can’t land an entry-level job without the required experience, but if they had the required experience, they wouldn’t be looking for an “entry-level” job in the first place. It’s a frustration that can do real harm to your employer brand, and even potentially turn others away from applying to your job openings in the first place.
Employers, however, may have it even worse. For the first time in at least 20 years, there are now more job openings than there are people looking for work. The desire for work experience has trapped numerous companies in a position where roles are left vacant simply because their expectations exceed their opportunities.
Of course, strictly speaking, this isn’t an L&D problem.
It’s better than that.
It’s a market inefficiency.
Your competitors have backed themselves into a corner, demanding a level of experience that by definition would be uncommon of anyone looking for entry-level work. And that means that there are any number of potentially great hires out there you can groom and grow into top-flight employees — but that no one else has snapped up because they lack the benefits of 36 months of in-office experience.
On average, today it takes 51 days and a cost of $10,731 to fill an open position. Much of that is simply spent “weeding out inexperienced candidates.”
But three years’ experience does not an expert make. In fact, we’d venture that most firms requiring 3 years of prior work do so not out of need for any specific expertise, but instead just to speed up onboarding and eliminate the need to train for some of the more basic workplace expectations.
Those are reasonable goals, and if your organization is quickly and affordably hiring people with 3+ years under their belt, you have no reason to change what you’re doing.
But if you’re seeing roles going unfilled — or if you’re overhearing stories of bidding wars for entry-level talent — it might just be time to partner up with your recruiting team to make this market inefficiency work for you.
If it’s your company’s goal to hire people with a certain level of expertise, then you have two options: pay more to hire for experience, or find a faster way to give new hires the benefit of that experience.
Option 1 is up to the budget of the hiring manager.
Option 2 is something L&D teams can do something about.
If you as an employee learning and development team can partner with recruiting and identify the institutional knowledge you’d expect someone with 3 years’ experience to have, you can create an “entry-level employee bootcamp” that covers all that information as part of your onboarding program. You can then structure that bootcamp to be available as an on-demand course for newbies to work through over their first 6-12 months.
Presto! Now your new hires are able to act more like 3-year veterans, PLUS your company can have its choice of all the best talent in an untapped pool.
For many organizations, designing a new entry-level employee bootcamp will be an ideal application of L&D resources. Companies tend to have a large number of reasonably similar starter positions, and those roles often turn over more frequently than do more senior posts. That means you get to take advantage of scale — creating this kind of training as an on-demand offering enables your L&D team to deliver the content far more often, for more people, and in more places than would be practical live in person.
Better still, because it’s a set program delivered on-demand, your L&D team can present all this material consistently for every new hire, and do so at the exact right time in each new hire’s tenure.
As with any training initiative, the right learning materials depend on the audience, their responsibilities, and the expectations your company has for them.
That said, what most truly entry-level new hires benefit most from — and what most companies requiring 3 years’ experience are hoping to avoid teaching — is simply the information that will help a first-time employee find their footing, both in their specific role and in the modern workplace in general. And that will come in three flavors:
How-To’s for Corporate Systems
Most workplaces rely on a sea of tools for productivity, communications, measurement, and more. Whether it’s Salesforce or Slack, GitHub or Google Drive, legacy architecture or leading-edge infrastructure, there may be dozens of systems and tools your IT ecosystem. In many cases, these tools will be used by multiple teams or even the entire organization, so it’s a good idea to help your new hires understand the right way to use them.
Work with your hiring managers to understand which tools your entry-level new hires need to be familiar with, and create or curate a series that will help new users get up to speed.
In this sample training program, a subject matter expert walks through the details of how to best use Tableau’s business analytics software for specific business applications:
Office Etiquette 101
Organizational culture doesn’t happen by accident. It’s built in the interactions we have every day with every other member of our organization. The specifics of your culture should of course be unique to you, but no matter where your workplace falls on the cultural continuum, it’s a good idea to give your first-timers a few tips on how you expect them to conduct themselves.
There’s no need to overdo this part. Spotlight a few of the worst behaviors related to dress, language, timeliness, and personal activity during work time you’ve seen in order to provide a benchmark for “what’s unacceptable” and most people will figure out the finer points from there. Entry-level hires may be new to the workplace, but they’re not new to the world.
How You Help Us Succeed
One of the most common complaints heard from entry-level employees is the feeling that their job simply doesn’t matter. This despair can be powerfully demotivating, and can lead to turnover. Your entry-level employee bootcamp should go out of its way to combat this notion.
While most jobs for first-timers may not feature much in the way of authority, the fact that a position is on your payroll at all suggests the company sees some value in it. You need to help that new hire see that value clearly too.
Fortunately, this is the type of training senior executives excel at delivering. Work with your leadership to provide an overview of how your company makes money, and go out of your way to connect the dots for entry-level employees so they can see how their work really does allow the whole company to succeed. Bonus points if you can get your CEO to present — a message is never heard as well as when it comes from the top.
Role-Specific Functional Training Courses Developed by Central HQ
Consistency is key in any training activity, and is especially important when it comes to helping first-time employees get up to speed. While the specifics of the content will depend on the position, your central HQ should identify the skills and philosophies you’d like everyone in your targeted position(s) to have, no matter where they are in the world.
Especially for businesses where entry-level employees are also often the first point of interaction with customers, vendors, or other external stakeholders, ensuring every single new hire has received the same core training will help your team deliver consistent experiences that build trust in your brand.
Role-Specific Functional Training Courses Developed by Team/Division Management
Of course, while consistency is key, you don’t want to overlook the insights of your teams. Whether these come from local or regional management, distinct business units within the company, or just a few high performers on your leadership development track, bringing in experts from around the company can help to add color to your central HQ courses, as well as give individual managers the chance to hone their team culture within your larger organizational culture.
In this sample training program, a team lead walks through expectations for store merchandising according to brand standards:
Sidenote: Watch Who’s Watching!
Few training tools still exist that can’t track how people are using them. Make time to regularly review the reports available in your LMS, video CMS, and any other training systems you use.
Analytics will tell you which employees are really spending time with your materials, and knowing that will help you identify the top performers or coach those who might be struggling.
Subject Matter Expert (SME) Knowledge Sharing
Social learning may have all the buzz these days, but the fact is it’s one of the oldest methods of training out there. People have been trading know-how over the water cooler since well before the water cooler was invented.
The challenge to effective social learning for entry-level employees is two-fold. First, SMEs are often quite busy and don’t have the time to regularly share their institutional knowledge. And second, even when an SME can make time for a brown-bag discussion of best practices, their knowledge is often so deep that entry-level employees can easily get lost in the details.
So what’s the solution? Record it. Asking your SMEs to document what they know — either as a written guide or a quick video walkthrough — can both make their institutional knowledge available whenever it’s needed, and make it infinitely replayable for those first-timers who just need to hear it explained one more time.
Curated Institutional Knowledge
For any position in your company, there will likely be a number of skills and insights that aren’t essential to the role per se, but are nonetheless still useful for anyone hoping to make a career with you.
This content truly could include everything and the kitchen sink, so be judicious. Tips from other recent entry-level new hires on what they wish they’d known, instructions for how to deal with common issues around the office (think “refilling the ink in the printer”), a guide to what all the acronyms senior staff use actually mean — anything that, if you were to think back to your own first job, you’d have wanted to know.
In this sample knowledge sharing program, a member of the IT team helps new people identify potential phishing and other email scam attempts:
Your goal for an on-demand entry-level employee bootcamp isn’t to produce your next CEO. It’s to build a targeted onboarding experience that can give your newest employees all the benefits of 3 years’ experience without the actual time served.
And your bootcamp need not be perfect right from the beginning. In fact, it almost certainly won’t be — once you introduce the program, you’ll likely receive all kinds of input on how to make the process even more useful. So remember this, and start by creating and curating only the absolute most important learning materials you will want to share.
Like all employee training, how exactly it should be delivered is up to your organizational culture. There are many ways to deliver effective training on-demand.
In recent years, video, in particular, has shown significant promise in this space — both because recorded presentations are often easier for trainers and others to produce than formal written documents, and because video content is often easier for learners of all skill levels to follow along.
Want to know more about how other organizations use video to support and scale employee training? We wrote the book on it.
Click here to download your own copy of 14 Ways to Use Video for Formal and Informal Learning.