When your company hires a new employee, does the IT department have an official role in that person’s orientation and training? If not, it’s time to step up to the cyber-plate and get on the agenda.

You’ll reap what you sow
If you provide key IT training up front, here are the benefits you’ll earn:

  • You’ll increase the new employee’s morale. Many new employees view “learning a new computer system” as the biggest obstacle to succeeding in the new gig. On the first day, your IT training should reassure the new hire that your system is “just like the other systems you’ve used, only better!” Of all the things they’ll remember when asked about the first day, believe me, they’ll brag about “how nice the ‘computer people’ were to come by and show me how to log on.”
  • You’ll increase employee productivity. Consider what happens if you don’t offer basic IT orientation to a new employee who needs it. The employee wastes valuable time fretting about what to do, interrupts another employee, or calls the help desk to ask for assistance. Teach your new employees how you want them to do certain things, and you won’t have to worry about them learning bad habits from your rogue users! You’ll increase productivity in IT support because you’ll spend less time supporting that person in the future!
  • You’ll make IT look good within the organization. One fringe benefit of getting in on new employee orientation is that shows the rest of the company that the IT department cares. I know it’s corny, but it’s true. Instead of “they just threw those poor new people in there and expected them to know how to use our computer system,” the people in your organization will think, “they really helped those new people by teaching them the basics of our system right up front.”

The big three plus your security policy
What kind IT training should you provide to new employees on the first day? You have to start with the basics—how to log on to your system, how to check e-mail, and where the printer is located. Some of you may be thinking, “Come on, doesn’t everybody do that kind of basic training?” Unfortunately, in too many companies, we don’t. The folks in human resources and in the IT department assume that everybody knows how to use a PC.

On that first IT training encounter, you should also explain your computer security policies. To some of your new hires, “computer virus” is a phrase they’ve heard ad infinitum in the news, but they’re not completely sure what it means. If you have explicit e-mail and Internet access policies, explain them up front.

What form should the training take?
I’ve always been impressed by a company whose IT department has an official spot on the agenda for new employee training. If using a computer is part of my duties, I want to hear the human resources person or my manager say, “And at 10:00, the person from IT will show you your computer system.”

I’m also a big fan of the peer training system. Under that system, the IT department assumes that the new hire’s teammates or coworkers will teach the new person how to use the computer system. But that peer-provided IT training must be delivered on day one or two in order to get the new employee off on the right foot. Honestly, I don’t care if you put the new employees in front of a PowerPoint slide presentation and let them run it 10 times, just as long as you give them some orientation to the new system.

What’s the state of IT training in your company?
Does your help desk receive calls from employees who were inadequately trained? We’d like to hear about what’s working (and what’s not) in your shops. Please post your comments below or drop us a note.
Each Tuesday, Jeff Davis tells it like he sees it from the trenches of the IT battle. And you can get his report from the frontlines delivered straight to your e-mail front door. Subscribe to Jeff’s View from Ground Zero TechMail, and you’ll get a bonus of Jeff’s picks for the best Web stuff—exclusively for our TechMail subscribers.