International rotations are key
At International Paper (IP), job rotations are a major part of the onboarding plan for IT-bound college recruits, according to Jeffrey Mayhew, the company's program manager for global HR transformation. Above and beyond the generic corporate onboarding program that covers basic company ethics and corporate vision, recent graduates who are hired for IT positions are funneled through a three-year program in which they participate in two to three rotations where, optimally, they gain equal exposure to IP's information management, process management and business management strategies.
"The idea is to give individuals broad exposure to all functions of IT to see how it's interconnected and to set them up to be a future leader in the organization," Mayhew says. IP also makes sure the new recruits (usually between 10 and 20 people) bond with one another. He organizes social activities like sports events and group community service projects to foster a sense of team unity. "In today's challenging world of recruitment, it's important that we keep people once they come in the door and not turn them over again and again," Mayhew says.
Hunter Jones went through IP's rotational IT onboarding program right out of college in 2005, and he's been with the company ever since. After stints in IT operations, a business-facing group and the Rapid Application Development Services team, Jones took an IT business information manager position in IP's Industrial Packaging group in Memphis.
The flexibility of the program helped him figure out exactly what role he wanted to play in IT, says Jones, who believes the team-building activities that encourage camaraderie and relationship-building are key to IP employees' overall job satisfaction. "Building community is very important from the standpoint of retention," he says. "People are much more likely to stay if there's a network of people who care about them and are interested in their development."
A peek at back-end 0operations
Manjit Singh is also a proponent of onboarding as the gateway to job satisfaction. Singh, director of enterprise applications at Hexaware Technologies, has been with the global provider of IT and process services for three years and participated in the company's onboarding program, which included a two-week trip to India to work with the IT staff handling day-to-day operations. The idea behind the trip was to give U.S. employees a feel for Hexaware's back-end operations so they could better understand and anticipate customer pain points and requirements, Singh says.
In addition, the time spent with the overseas group helped foster personal relationships, which, in turn, bolstered productivity. "With 10,000 employees, it's difficult to keep in touch over the phone or relate to people helping you out on a project," he explains. "By meeting them firsthand, you can pick up the phone and call someone you know. It ensures a quick turnaround as opposed to getting lost in the corporate bureaucracy."
Another key aspect of Hexaware's onboarding program, according to Singh, is its buddy system, through which each new hire is assigned a buddy -- a seasoned employee with a similar job function who helps acclimate the new employee both on the job and off. Buddies might steer new hires to the resources they need to do their jobs, or perhaps help them find schools for their kids if they've relocated from another area.
These programs helped Singh develop a sense of commitment to Hexaware, something he didn't have for his prior employer, which had no onboarding program. "There, we were thrown into the fire without any support, so you didn't feel like you were part of the company," says Singh, who spent less than a year in that job. "If a person isn't comfortable, they won't stick around for a long time. Onboarding helps make that connection."
Stackpole, a frequent Computerworld contributor, has reported on business and technology for more than 20 years.
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