This blog has been written by Shirley Berry, Me Learning’s Director of Strategic Solutions.

Staff churn in the civil service is the highest since 2010, according to the Institute for Government’s Whitehall Monitor. NHS Workforce Statistics released in 2023 show 170,000 workers left NHS jobs in England over a 12-month period. One in four councils in England report staff turnover in excess of 20%.

This reflects what I’m hearing in my own conversations with clients, especially across the NHS. Staff churn is a real and pressing issue and it’s piling the pressure on an already weary workforce. With more and more Trusts procuring or implementing EPR and other systems, technology is adding to the pressure, impacting wellbeing and pushing people to reconsider their options.

Many, including those across the wider public sector, feel huge responsibility because the services they provide are vital, sometimes a matter of life and death. They want to commit time and effort into onboarding new starters (whether they’re permanent, temporary or agency colleagues) because they understand the frightening consequences of not getting it right. However, the current workload and scale of onboarding is daunting and feels unsustainable and that’s impacting staff morale.

Many of the reasons behind the churn are out of an individual organisation’s control. But I think they can, and should, do more to support the onboarding process, so new starters have a full and consistent onboarding experience.

Done right, induction programmes set employees up for success and have a hugely positive effect – they’re productive more quickly and, equally important, they feel valued, so they’re invested in you much sooner. Good induction includes process, people and performance related aspects and many organisations do these bits really well. In these cases, they relieve pressure on existing teams so they can focus on what really matters.

However, what I see less often is an appropriate amount of time helping new starters get up to speed on the software they need to do their job, such as the ‘right’ way to complete tasks on a system and understanding the impact of getting it wrong (because in my experience, the why is as important as the how).

This, coupled with the fact that training for software is almost always focused on the here and now, (the needs at the time of initial implementation), means increased risk of inconsistencies and errors creeping in down the line, especially when there are high rates of staff turnover. For organisations, it means anything from missed KPIs and complaints, increased exposure to litigation and reputational damage, through to patient harm and increased risk for vulnerable citizens.

When we’re talking patient safety or protecting the public from harm, consistency is critical – everyone using the same function in the same way for the same purpose. Without this, too much is open to interpretation, and we have to rely on existing employees to train new starters when they join beyond system go-live.

So, what’s the solution?

To achieve maximum benefit and the very best outcomes, we need to consider the needs of employees who will join in a month, six months, even a year down the line. In most cases this can easily be achieved without additional budget or project time, it just needs a bit of forethought and the willingness to lead with, and fully utilise, technology-led learning.

We also need to recognise that classroom training for learning new software isn’t the answer and nor is the traditional train-the-trainer approach. Our experience, and our work with the University of Sussex, shows that repetition equals knowledge retention. So, we need something people can repeat as often as they need, until it ‘sticks’.

A programme of interactive eLearning is a highly-effective and consistent way to train the existing workforce, allow them to refresh knowledge whenever they need and provide a ready-made training resource for new starters. It also supports those who change roles (and therefore need to use the system in a different way) during the system’s lifetime.

Similarly, with a programme of learning designed to support and embed new processes and culture change, it’s best to opt for a media which provides an off-the-shelf resource for future new starters. Video and animation are great for this because they’re impactful and easy to digest.

Learning technology has moved on considerably in recent years. It offers organisations innovative and cost-effective ways to train many people at once during the initial implementation and provides high-quality training materials for onboarding, without extending the project timelines or adding extra costs. The advantages are many and we owe it to our committed public sector colleagues to think about how decisions on training will impact the ease, or difficulty, of onboarding new staff.

Any technology-led learning solution can be blended with classroom training for specialisms, complexities or peer engagement – this combination, in my experience, is a winning formula.

I’m more than happy to talk about, or demonstrate the art-of-the possible, or share how we’ve helped organisations create outcomes-focused training that’s as beneficial and impactful for new starters as it is for existing staff, without adding cost.

Equally, if you just want to sanitise some ideas about your own programme, advice on what questions you need to ask internally, or how to really dig-deep with your software or implementation partners to ensure their training provision is going to achieve your outcomes, I’m always open to an informal chat.

Shirley Berry, Director Strategic Solutions, Me Learning:

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