You recognise this look, right? The smile is still there but you suspect your new employee’s brain is about to explode.
“Yes, it is all going great” she assures you. The smile is getting more fixed each day and you can almost feel the panic escaping from her pores. Secretly inside, she is screaming “I thought I could do this job but you are pumping me with so much information I can barely remember my own name!”
And you get it. You realise how much there is to take in when you start a new job.
But how do you balance out your need to get her operational fast without blowing her mind?
Starting a new job is like a mental assault on the brain. She is in a new environment, with unfamiliar people, politics and culture. Just like a kid starting a new school in the middle of the year, she is desperately trying to fit in. It is exhausting. And that is before she has even started to focus on what her job responsibilities are and how to prove she is up for the job.
She has met Julie from HR, had coffee with the marketing team and been on a sales call with Bob. She has worked out the quirks of the coffee machine, the printer and the lock on the toilet door.
But how can you help her hold on to all of this information? (that said, she will remember about the toilet door after the unfortunate incident with the CEO’s secretary)
According to recent research by the Harvard Business School*, it takes just 15 minutes a day.
15 minutes and two simple steps
- Block the last 15 minutes of each day in her calendar
- Ask her to write down the key learnings she has taken away from today
It is all about reflection.
The research from Harvard Business School has proven that by spending this short amount of time digesting what you have learnt improves your learning experience significantly.
Researchers ran a field study on some new hires going through technical training. They split the class into two groups. Group one completed the training as normal. Group two was asked to spend the last fifteen minutes of each day writing down the key lessons they had learnt.
In the tests at the end of the training, group two, who had spent that time reflecting on what they had learnt, scored 22.8% higher than group one.
Taking fifteen minutes at the end of their day to reflect was a better use of time than using those fifteen minutes to keep working.
The study reveals that reflection is so impactful because it increases the confidence of the individual to complete tasks and reach goals. It is all about believing in your own ability to succeed.
So how does reflection increase our confidence? And why does this result in improved learning?
Well, as we think about what we learn, we automatically pull on past experiences to help make more sense of it. Research has shown that, in these circumstances, we are more likely to dwell on positive aspects of these experiences. This makes us feel less uncertain about achieving what we need to in the situation we face today. In the case of a new job, it is about learning enough to be successful. With this confidence, we approach the next day with more effort and get more from the task in hand.
Fitting it all together
So far so good: 15 minutes a day results in a new hire that can extract more from the information you are giving her due to her increased belief that she can succeed in this new role.
But generally speaking, getting up to speed in a new job is not just learnt through a training class like those featured in the Harvard study. On most days, your new hire will have new information being thrown at her from many different directions. The good news is that reflection also helps put all this information into context.
According to Andrusyszyn (1997) “reflection is a deliberate cognitive activity where learners connect thoughts, feelings, and experiences related to the learning activity which they are involved in.”
It gives your new hire time to process it all in her head before more information gets thrown her way. Anything that she learns tomorrow or the next day will have a context in which to fit.
This also leads to a sense of achievement. Think back to your first week in a new job. It can often feel like a movie on fast-forward. You remember arriving on Monday morning and suddenly you are leaving on Friday night with a bursting brain and a fuzzy recollection of the bit in the middle. By taking the time to reflect and process her thoughts, your new hire will be able to hit pause occasionally.
A word of caution
The study does show that the vast majority of individuals, when given a choice to either reflect or practice a skill for longer, will choose to practice what they have learnt. So be prepared to make the case for why the reflection is so valuable, and lead by example.
“We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.” – J. Dewey (1933)
*Harvard Business School study – Learning by Thinking: Overcoming the bias for action through reflection.