From Novice to Expert: Creating High-performing Employees at Every Level

From Novice to Expert: Creating High-performing Employees at Every Level

Today, more and more companies realize the importance and value of well-trained employees through an effective training program. Besides its role in helping employees achieve job proficiency, training helps with skills and career development, engagement, and productivity. The investment in training pays off for companies. Accenture found that for every $1 invested in training, companies receive $4.53 in return.

But even with that knowledge, establishing effective training programs can be surprisingly difficult, especially when developing employees into high performers.

That’s because most companies provide training based on how long the employee has been on the job rather than their progression of expertise. Instead, companies should consider the type of training that helps their employees become high performers at every level of their experience, from novice to expert.

Why tie training to the progression of expertise?

Many companies determine employee training by the calendar. If an employee is new, they may receive a list of training courses during the onboard period. After a performance review, they may receive another list. Often, this training plan isn’t tied to their skill progression. While it may be easier to have employee development efforts on a set calendar, the method ignores an individual employee’s needs and overlooks opportunities to help them reach their potential.

The risk of training based on calendar vs. expertise

Let’s say you have two new employees: one is fresh in the field, and the other has several years of related experience. The experienced one will likely acquire skills faster. However, a “one-size-fits-all” training program may fail both employees. It may be too advanced for the new person, leaving them feeling frustrated and unable to perform the job. At the same time, if it is too basic for the experienced employee, they will likely get bored and disengage. In either case, you risk losing both people for different reasons.

This risk doesn’t just exist during onboarding training. It can occur anytime during an employee’s career if the training doesn’t match their needs. In addition to missing the mark for effective training, the company also misses the opportunity to offer advanced training for the employee who is ready to make the most of their skills and advance through their career paths.

How to use progression of expertise to determine training needs

Progression of expertise: Matching training programs to job progression to help employees receive the type of training they need when they need it, based on their skills and experience.

By matching training programs with job progression, you and the employee have a framework for the expected level of performance.

To determine a framework that leads to high-performing employees, you should first evaluate the employee’s level of expertise. Capability assessments can help you identify where your employees are in the expertise progression.

Employees can be grouped into five levels of expertise:

  1. Novice: Novices need a consistent explanation of the what and the why of the job to fully understand what needs to be done. Close supervision is suggested. Training online or in the classroom is effective for these employees.
  2. Advanced Beginner: Advanced beginners can use rules of thumb or guidelines for decision making. At this level, they somewhat understand the context in which they apply. However, they still require significant direction from a supervisor.
  3. Competent Employee: Competent employees use rules and reasoning to understand what is and isn’t important in a given situation. These employees can make more complicated decisions than novices and advanced beginners.
  4. Proficient Employee: Proficient employees understand the why and how of the job and use their experience and knowledge to solve problems independently from supervisors.
  5. Expert Employee: Expert employees have a deep knowledge of the job and immediately see what needs to be done. They can prioritize actions in familiar and new situations.

After identifying the employee’s level of expertise, you can determine how much support they might need to reduce the risk of operations issues. For example, someone new to the job will require more direct training and supervision, while someone with more expertise requires less.

Once you’ve determined the amount of support the employee needs, consider the type of training they need. Online, instructor-led, simulation, and on-the-job training are used at all stages, but the pace and depth of the courses differ and can be tailored to the employee’s expertise.

Setting clear employee career paths with training

Training progression should align with job progression so employees see a career path. As employees improve their skills and proficiency, they form an experienced pool of candidates to fill jobs at the next level.

In today’s competitive environment, companies need employees to perform their best at every level. By ensuring employees have the needed training based on their progression of expertise — and not the calendar — you can optimize their training to create a high-performing workforce.

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