Continuous Onboarding through Continuous Improvement

People want to work in organizations that value their expertise and provide them with opportunities to grow. Long-term plans for keeping employees on board in our systems require a balance of continuous onboarding strategies and professional development opportunities.

The School District of Menomonee Falls (SDMF), Wisconsin, has a strong commitment to continuous improvement. This commitment can be seen at all levels in the organization. The district employs adult learning frameworks that support the ongoing development of all employees. The model’s multiple proficiency levels and stages provide clear direction for those entering the organization. They also serve to re-recruit and offer new challenges and growth opportunities for returning team members.

SDMF’s Corey Golla, Director of Curriculum and Learning, and Sue Lee, Learning and Improvement Specialist, explain how the district’s staff development approach is used to continuously onboard employees.

How are the continuous improvement proficiency levels introduced to employees?

The adult learning framework continues to be refined by SDMF leadership. Proficiency levels are chunked and employees receive hours of formal training. Coaching conversations are immediately introduced as critical for supporting all staff. Golla tells us, “Beyond the introduction, our leaders speak consistently and often about improvement and the coaching is a constant for our staff.” Lee describes how coaching is integrated in teacher development experiences:

“The adult learning framework is the foundation for beginning coaching conversations. The expectation for teachers new to the district is to show proficiency as measured by meeting a stage 1 in all categories. Veteran staff are moving toward the stage 3 in all areas. More than just scoring teachers, conversations both formal and informal focus on moving from being compliant using the tools and strategies to being committed to the process of continuous improvement.”

How does ongoing training support continuous improvement in the district?

Golla describes the value of continuous improvement in the district, “We can’t expect improvement if we don’t invest in developing the people that will be on the front lines of the work.” Professional development is more than formal training experiences for district employees. A constant thread of reflection supports the learning of adults and students. “Frequent conversations between coaches and staff, staff and staff, and staff and students occur so the process of improvement becomes the culture,” Lee explains. Employees are trained to identify the goal and how they will know if they are successful. Golla adds, “Our mantra is ‘Every employee is a master problem solver’.”  

How does ongoing development of staff support re-recruitment of employees?

Trust and collaboration is a cornerstone to the district’s re-recruitment process. Golla explains how these two values define the approach to developing staff:

“If we speak clearly and often about our trust in staff and share that the investment in PD is intended to develop our best resource, our people, then the development is understood and appreciated. The best employees in any organization want to be challenged and developed professionally.”

SDMF serves as a model for what right looks like when it comes to continuously onboarding and valuing our employees. We encourage you to reflect on ways your organization provides growth opportunities for employees. What strategies used in SDMF can help you foster continuous improvement and higher levels of employee retention?


Erica Callaway, Studer Education℠

Feature image: BRKNA

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