COMPANY CULTURE

How to Make New Employees Feel at Home

To get new workers up to speed quickly, Van Meter Industrial employs a four-step onboarding process.
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New hires are jazzed at the prospect of joining Van Meter Industrial, says CEO Barry Boyer. The $165 million distributor of electrical and automation products offers generous benefits. But a few years ago, Boyer noticed that fresh recruits at the company's headquarters in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, appeared underwhelmed. So he and Karen Schumacher, manager of learning and development, convened a group of 20 recent hires. "They told us that in the first 90 days, there wasn't enough to connect them to the organization," says Boyer. "They felt alone and uncomfortable." Drawing on the group's suggestions, Boyer and Schumacher designed a program to anchor new hires quickly and firmly in Van Meter's culture.

Step 1: Meet an Ambassador

Each fresh recruit is matched with an ambassador, who may hail from any part of the company. An ambassador spends at least 12 hours the first week acclimating a new hire to all things Van Meter, which includes introducing the new person to every employee in the office.

Step 2: Shadow Other Employees

The new hire shadows a veteran employee in her own department and as many as a dozen employees in other parts of the company. The goal is for everyone to understand what happens upstream and downstream from his or her own job.

Step 3: Take Classes

After three months, new employees gather for two days of "foundations" training. Taught by in-house experts, the training covers personality styles, customer service skills, safety, an industry overview, health and wellness, and Van Meter's values.

Step 4: Debrief With the CEO

Boyer tops off the process by sitting down with each foundations class and taking questions. "Their questions are so detailed and thoughtful," he says. "It's obvious how much they've learned."

Last updated: Jun 8, 2010

LEIGH BUCHANAN | Staff Writer | Editor at Large, Inc. Magazine

Leigh Buchanan is an editor-at-large for Inc. magazine. A former editor at Harvard Business Review and founding editor of WebMaster magazine, she writes regular columns on leadership and workplace culture.




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