If I had a dollar for every time I heard, “What we do is fairly complex, and it typically takes new hires about a year to become fully integrated into our culture and learn how we do things,” I'd be a very wealthy man! If it is really taking that long, here is the reality you need to face: you are either hiring the wrong people or you are not doing what it takes to ensure that they are fully productive in the shortest amount of time, which should not take more than 90 days!
In my previous posts over the last few weeks, I have addressed what you need to do to implement an effective recruitment and selection process to better ensure you are hiring the right people. So for the purpose of this post, I am going to assume that you now have an effective system in place to hire top talent. Now it's time to ensure that your initial investment in the hiring process was not a waste.
To do that, you need to develop and implement an orientation ramp-up program that gets your new employees fully productive and integrated into your company as soon as possible. At most companies, the orientation/training process is profoundly disorienting: dealing with a flurry of forms and paperwork, trying to figure out the work process, learning the office lingo, etc. The typical orientation process extends indefinitely because you can never really be sure when you’re done. And even if you have a good on-boarding plan, you need to make sure it is implemented in full with every new hire and not fall back on the typical excuse, “we got busy, so there’s your desk, read this stuff, and let me know if you have any questions.” Taking this 'approach' will ensure future failure with your new hires, prolonging what you believe to be a “hiring the wrong people” syndrome.
One of the best examples of a successful ramp-up program comes from my good friends, Aldo Bello and his wife and partner, Marilyn Finnemore who own Mind & Media, a communications and technology company based in Alexandria, VA. To combat this new hire syndrome, they developed and implemented a program called “Mind & Media University” (MMU). MMU is designed to walk new employees through the initial HR items and gives them an in-depth orientation into the company’s culture and operational processes. All employees are required to complete MMU during their first three months on the job. And all existing employees, including Marilyn and Aldo, were also required to go through MMU to ensure that they experienced firsthand what they were expecting others to do. A great example of leadership!
During MMU, each new employee is assigned a mentor to support them through the process and who can answer any questions they may have. The program begins with a set of 12 interactive presentations and a companion workbook, which introduces employees to Mind & Media’s company values, team responsibilities, production processes, and in-house lingo. After these courses have been taken, employees are then mentored through all the company’s processes over the remainder of the three-month period.
“By the end of the third month, they will have experienced a project from conception to distribution,” explains Finnemore. “They are completely dialed into our culture and how we do things.” At the end of the program, employees “graduate” by creating and giving a presentation to the rest of the company on a topic that will boost the entire company’s knowledge, skills, or productivity. This presentation demonstrates employees’ ability to follow Mind & Media’s communication processes and allows them to share their experience and knowledge with the team. Upon completion of this project, the company has a short celebratory ceremony where employees are presented with a “Communication Architecture Certificate of Achievement.”
“The rewards of the MMU program are great, for both the employee and for the company,” says Bello. “Left on their own, it would take new employees a year or more to learn everything necessary to be fully integrated. With MMU, our employees are fully integrated and moving forward independently in only a few months.”
I will continue this discussion in my next blog with another great example from Mark Scott, the CEO of Mark IV Builders in Bethesda, MD. In the meantime, please respond and let me know if you are utilizing a methodical orientation process and how that has helped to ensure your ongoing success.