Saturday, October 27, 2012

Time to Competence

One of the big issues facing businesses is the time it takes staff to become competent in new roles. This applies particularly to new starters.

I read in a recent LinkedIn post reference to a study by SHL that showed on average, U.S. workers take 7.8 months to reach full competence (Sweden 10.1 months, Netherlands 9.1 months, Australia and UK 7 months, Hong Kong 6.7 months, India 6.6 months). I couldn't find the source reference so decided to have a look around for other research.

A Bersin report on strategic onboarding in 2008 suggested that average time to full productivity was as follows for different roles:
  •    8-12 weeks for clerical staff
  •    18-22 weeks for professional staff
  •    24-28 weeks for executive staff
I also came across an interesting case study by Bersin of Randstad, at the time the world’s third largest staffing firm with $7.85 billion in annual revenues. The company placed 250,000 people on a daily basis across 17 countries throughout Europe, North America, and Japan.

To improve the time to competence they developed a new onboarding process which was a mix of learning and on-the-job training activities delivered over a four month period. The activities broke down into the following:

  • Manager-facilitated training 
  • Instructor-led training 
  • Self-study 
  • Job shadowing
  • Manager coaching
The process was very successful. Randstad did control group monitoring and demonstrated significant accelerated performance based on the new process. What was interesting was the mix of activities over the four months, as follows:

I wasn't too surprised by the mix of self-study, manager led training and shadowing in month 1 but I was surprised by the high level of instructor led activity in month 2.  From the onboarding programmes we have been involved with recently I haven't seen such high levels of instructor led training but I have seen extensive self-study, on the job and coaching activity. The recent post from Nick Shackleton-Jones about the new BP onboarding process reveals a well thought out set of self study and other activities.

Clearly getting staff up to competence faster can have major benefits for businesses and I am keen to do some more research around best practice approaches and learning activity structures.