|Military Aircraft and Missile Systems|
New Employee Experience aims for excitement beyond first day
BY DARYL STEPHENSON
It's your first day on the job at Boeing. You're excited, thrilled and, oh my goodness, scared to death.
Suddenly you have lots of questions about basic things that never surfaced in orientation. How do I use my badge to open a locked door? Do I really fit in here? How long will I be doing this current job? And what is the meaning of all those strange terms that people dished out at the staff meeting a moment ago?
You'd like to ask someone but: You don't know whom to ask; you don't want to bother your busy supervisor; and you surely don't want anyone to think you're uninformed.
So, you keep mum and struggle through. And as a result, you make the kinds of rookie mistakes that you and your co-workers may laugh about later - but today may make you feel as low as the floor.
Certainly there is a better way to get started. At Boeing Military Aircraft and Missile Systems, members of the Leadership Team believe they've found one in the New Employee Experience.
This isn't your standard new employee orientation. Oh yes, there are the usual briefings and handouts about benefits, salary, work rules and security. But along with that are fun activities, like learning how to fold and fly a paper airplane, going on a scavenger hunt, touring a fighter-aircraft production line, sitting in the cockpit of an F/A-18 Hornet, or, best of all, flying in a domed F/A-18 simulator.
There's also a personal connection to top leadership - lunch with top executives and a welcome from Military Aircraft and Missiles President and Chief Executive Officer Jerry Daniels.
Most importantly, there's a long-term approach to new employee involvement and development. There are programs for rotation assignments during the first two to three years of employment, coaching, mentoring and social activities after work. It's all designed to sustain the "wow" feeling that employees have when they join the company, says Mary Cisiewski, a St. Louis-based People department professional who coordinates the New Employee Experience.
"We want our new employees to be successful and to feel enthusiastic about coming to work every day," she said. "It used to be that we would put people in jobs and just leave them there. Getting good people to stay with your company means knowing your employees - and always giving them the chance to be involved, develop and try something new. We want to energize and re-energize our people."
Daniels got the ball rolling in April 2001 when he asked the Military Aircraft and Missiles Leadership Team to come up with a new kind of employee orientation. "I am primarily concerned with college hires during the first two to three years of their careers," Daniels said.
Under the guidance of Bill Stowers, vice president and general manager of Supplier Management and Procurement, the Leadership Team later that spring developed the essential elements of the New Employee Experience - an expanded orientation process that would feature a combined checklist-handbook, peer sponsors, mentors, exposure to rotation programs, meetings with senior executives, formal training plans, gifts, an after-work social program, fun activities, trips, and networking.
Cisiewski became coordinator in the fall and set about benchmarking new employee orientation programs at other Boeing sites and at other companies, such as Southwest Airlines and Walt Disney Co. She found that new employee orientation was a hot topic among U.S. companies, and those that were known to have successful programs were a little wary of freely sharing information.
"Some organizations (outside Boeing) would share information about their orientation programs, but wouldn't allow me to observe. Other companies considered their orientations proprietary, and suggested that I attend their orientation courses at my expense," Cisiewski recalls.
In the end though, she learned what she needed to know - and came back convinced that Military Aircraft and Missiles was on the right track in developing an extended orientation program to help new employees become better connected to Boeing strategy and culture.
The New Employee Experience debuted as a pilot program in October 2001, and full-scale implementation began in January 2002.
A half-day orientation program takes place once a month with groups that range from 25 to 50 people. Every other Tuesday and Wednesday, small groups of new employees take turns in the F/A-18 flight simulator. There are also periodic group visits to the Boeing Leadership Center, located just outside St. Louis.
Cisiewski emphasizes that the personal aspects of the New Employee Experience - the coaching, mentoring and REACH programs - make it stand out.
"The REACH program is a social element, in which the new employees do things together away from work, like going to sports events or concerts," she explains. "It is run by employees, with the board being composed of newer employees who plan events and activities. There are two good things about this program - the employees exchange phone numbers and they build a network. The new employees immediately know that they have friends - people with whom they can keep in touch through their time with the company."
The New Employee Experience also places a heavy emphasis on job rotation and development. The business unit's functional groups have specific measures for developing employees during the first, second and third years of employment.
"Each functional organization is designing some type of growth and development element for their new employees," Cisiewski said. "The process is not yet standardized, but we plan to take a survey to see how things are going."
Cisiewski and others involved in the New Employee Experience don't want to stand pat. They plan to keep improving the process as new data and feedback come in. Plans are under way to bring the New Employee Experience to other sites, and perhaps even make certain aspects of it available to veteran employees.
The whole idea, says Cisiewski, is to emphasize to employees, new and not so new, that they bring value to the Boeing team.
"They are our future leaders," she said, "and they are the ones who will make sure that Boeing continues to be a great place to work."
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