Stages of Learning – Training New Employees

May 16, 2018 | Business

Did you see the news that we have some new faces on the Moraware team? Very exciting! It’s great to have the additional hands and the infusion of energy.

As I’ve been helping our new people learn the software, I remembered this insightful description of the stages of learning – a perspective on training that is useful for managers in any industry.

Stage 1: Unconsciously Incompetent

At this first stage, we don’t even know what we don’t know. We don’t understand the scope of the job, nor do we possess the skills to do the work. In order to be teachable, every new employee – even someone with experience – must spend a bit of time in this uncomfortable stage.

Stage 2: Consciously Incompetent

Once you’ve shared a clear outline of your company’s processes and policies, and you’ve made training materials available, the new employee moves quickly to this second stage. Although it’s an important step in the right direction, it’s easy for the learner to feel frustrated and somewhat defeated. “Now I can see what needs to be done – but I can’t do it!” An encouraging word from management can help an employee keep a positive attitude through Stage 2.

Stage 3: Consciously Competent

Time to celebrate! With continued coaching and lots of practice, the learner now knows what is expected and consistently delivers. A new employee at this stage will still need to review the steps, but he can get the job done. Providing checklists and documenting procedures is a great way to empower your employees to do great work at this stage.

Stage 4: Unconsciously Competent

An employee who has performed a job well many, many times may eventually achieve a level of proficiency that no longer requires much thought. Like driving a car with standard transmission! Once you learn it in your muscles, you no longer need to think about it.


An employee who is unconsciously competent can be a terrific asset because she works with great efficiency. But she might not be the best trainer herself. In order to teach effectively, one has to be conscious of the steps needed to complete a task.

Understanding these stages of learning – and discussing them with your staff – can help new people express frustration while still moving toward competence. It can also help people who have achieved Stage 4 learn to move back to Stage 3 when they need to share their knowledge with somebody new.