How to Run a New Hire Bootcamp

This article will help you run a boot camp – a rapid training program for new hires. It’s a great approach if your team is growing fast and you’re hiring several people into similar roles.

Step One – Hiring: Schedule your boot camps a few weeks in the future then give the people you’re hiring the same start date. (Start dates that leave a gap before the next boot camp can erode your bottom line because untrained new hires aren’t very productive.)

Step Two – Think about travel and HR on boarding: I hire people from all over the country and my company has a standard half-day HR orientation program. With this in mind, I know my training has to start Monday afternoon after the HR on boarding and I want to leave Friday afternoon free for travel. In return for letting my new hires travel home Friday afternoon, I run boot camps from 8:00 to 6:00 Monday through Thursday and from 8:00 to noon on Friday.

Step Three – Variety: Most new hires need a mix of soft skill, industry and product training. You’ll get better results if you mix the three throughout the week. Two-hour time blocks that rotate through these three types of training help new hires stay engaged. Also, segments should work together to build skills. For example, an industry training segment that cover’s your client’s due diligence process followed by training on the due diligence part of your product or service offering will help your new hire pick up your offerings faster. Intermix sessions on soft skills like project coordination, conflict management or change management to help your new hire quickly fit into their new internal or client facing team.

Step Four – Guest Speakers: Add variety to the schedule (and give yourself a break) by inviting people from other parts of your company to share information about their area. For example, in a SaaS company, someone from Engineering might talk to Services new hires about product development and release schedules so they can accurate communicate upgrade information to their clients. You should include all the departments adjacent to your own – for our software company example that might include Sales, Services, Support, Engineering and Product Management.

Step Five – be flexible: boot camps have a lot of moving parts, new hires, guest speakers, trainers and things you really can’t control like flight delays and weather. Be prepared to move sessions around.

Step Six – Fun: Plan some fun breaks and time for your new hires to meet your team. Ordering lunch for your existing team plus the new hires, taking everyone out for a beverage after work, playing human bingo or even having a shared retrospective will help your new hires feel comfortable and bond with their new co-workers.

As a final thought – you may need more than one week of boot camp if you are training people on a complex product or process. In this case, you may want to mix weeks of formal boot camp training with weeks of hands-on shadowing. When your new hire shadows, they work closely with a more experienced team member for one or two weeks – applying what they learned in their boot camp classes and gaining confidence. Alternating boot camp and shadow weeks allows new hires to put training into context, develop a list of questions to ask in the next class and gives your existing team members the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to lead others.

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