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New Hire Training – Fire Hose or Sprinkler Approach?

September 9, 2011

The good news….law firms are hiring again.  The bad news….law firms are hiring again. With reduction in staff at the IT level, and the multitude of Windows 7/Office 2010 rollouts, law firm trainers are tapped. And, most that I’ve talked with have a love/hate relationship with new hire training.

The amount of time spent on new hire technology training is anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days. Longer for staff, short as possible for laterals and somewhere in the middle for new associates.

Does any of this sound familiar to you?

“We only get the new hire for the first day, so we need to teach them everything we can. We keep them in class until we finish the entire curriculum.”

“We’ll never get them back into training, so we have to cover everything they need on their first day.”

This “fire hose” approach to training is common among many firms. New hires get three hours of computer training after which they are expected to perform at the same level as their peers.  Plus, the added tip of “If you have any problems, please feel free to call the help desk.”

So, how is it working?

Jay Cross, the self-proclaimed Johnny Appleseed of informal learning, states “Learning things in advance ‘just in case’ is a losing game. Until the ‘case’ arrives, the subject matter won’t be relevant. And when it does arrive, the knowledge is gone.” Take a few minutes to think about that statement. I believe it is time we rethink our approach to new hire technology training.

Good use of classroom time:

  • Learn more about them and what they do and do not know
  • Based on their role within the firm, explain what is expected of them in regard to their use of technology. This could include the firm’s best practices such as:
    • All lawyers track their time daily and input their billable hours using the firm’s time tracking software
    • All lawyers use the Outlook calendar for both internal and external meetings and share their calendars with members of their practice group
    • Legal Assistants (or Legal Secretaries) provide document support to lawyers and use the firm’s templates, styles and numbering when creating documents
  • Work with the new hires on where they can go to find more information and learn more:
    • Introduce them to the firm’s learning portal
    • Enroll them in learning plans to continue their learning journey over the next 90 days
    • Connect them with “experts” in the firm that can coach them on practice or role-specific technology
    • Set the expectation with them that they are responsible for learning the firm’s technology and the firm’s best practices in regard to the use of technology. Provide them with a 90-day targeted learning plan.

After classroom, follow up:

Schedule desk-side follow-up visits with them and establish a coach/learner relationship. The visits should be planned for and on the learner calendar. Schedule for 10 minutes, but allow for 30 minutes.  Below are suggested visit frequency and topics based on the new associate. Come up with your own topics based on what your learners will need to know to be successful.

  • Visit #1 – the same day their training is done. Review a few technology basics and best practices with them at this point:
    • Review login, change password, lock desktop, logout
    • Locate and set default printer, locate back-up printer and show how to change default printer
    • Set up delegate rights if needed
    • Review of firm’s document management system in finding documents
  • Visit #2 – two days after visit #1. Topics may include:
    • Adding contact records into Outlook contacts or the firm’s contact management software
    • Scheduling meetings and sharing calendar information
    • Review of firm templates for new document creation
    • Review of saving documents into firm’s DMS
    • Time tracking and time entry
  • Visit #3 – 1 week after visit #2. Topics may include:
    • Use of firm’s intranet site (have a list of things for them to search)
    • Working with the firm’s numbering tool in documents and perhaps working with styles
    • Establish a personal learning plan for the next two visits
  • Visit #4 – 2 weeks after visit #3
    • Work through personal learning plan
  • Visit #5 – 3 weeks after visit #4
    • Work through personal learning plan
    • Establish additional technology coaching visits (every 4 – 6 weeks)

Action steps:

  • Review your current new hire technology training plan
  • Consider visiting people that have recently completed new hire training and get their feedback
  • Define the topics to cover during follow-up visits and the frequency of those visits
  • Track your learner progress, get feedback and continue to improve on the program
  • Contact me if you have any questions or want to discuss any ideas you may have. I’d love to hear from you!
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