New Orientation Program Dares Employees To Soar-And They Have

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CU: Bayer FCU

Category: Recruiting & Retention

Bayer FCU created a new employee orientation program as it sought to start employees off on the right track and build a culture that grows the business.

Called "Dare to Soar (Successful Orientation Achieves Rewards)," it includes a training and support system that follows employees during their first months on the job. Among the tools are guided learning programs, expectation agreements and mentors.

"We wanted to put a program together to make sure that our new sales and service culture started as soon as the new employees came through the door," said Christine Martin, COO at the $238-million BFCU. Martin said that she and Melody Neague, AVP of Recruitment, Training and Corporate Culture at BFCU, came up with the program as an addition to the credit union's already successful educational opportunities for existing employees.

"Our university program started in 1999," Neague said. "It offers staff entire training programs through which they can earn associate's, bachelor's and master's degrees."

With that program, employees earn a 1% salary bonus with each AA degree and 2% with each BA and MA.

Dare to Soar concentrates solely on new employees, Neague said. "We want to make sure we motivate them to want to work for our company right from the start," she said.

Rolled out in May, the program has gotten tremendous feedback, the women agreed.

"They like the fact that we take the time to share with them what we offer at the credit union," Martin said, explaining that the program includes detailed, one-on-one discussions with HR staff about employee benefits.

After 90 days on the job, employees are asked to complete a follow-up interview as the final phase of the Dare to Soar program. It includes a survey to determine how well the orientation program worked for them. Martin said statistics from the surveys are compiled to illustrate positive influences as well as areas that need to be improved.

The program starts with the "Transition Program," which includes:

* Delivering benefits package to employee's residence prior to starting date.

* Sending an e-mail message to everyone, introducing the new employee and highlighting past experience.

* Offering an orientation program that includes games and activities that engage employees in the process of learning.

* Holding a quarterly Welcome Reception.

* Celebrating birthdays and anniversary with electronic cards sent by Human Resources.

* Receiving a videotaped welcome from the CEO that presents his thoughts on the focus, strategy, values and core competencies of BFCU.

* Presenting new employees with a welcome box full of office supplies, a junior portfolio with "Soar" stationary, pen, highlighter, whiteout, mug and company shirt.

The second step, Martin said, is "New Job Comfort."

"This program recognizes the emotion and works to create a dynamic, motivational atmosphere that erases doubts and concerns, leaving the employees confident that they made the right decision to work here," she said.

This goal is achieved through various means including focusing the orientation on corporate culture, strategic goals and values, discussing career advancement opportunities, and sharing details about how the company makes its money and how employees contribute.

Finally, new employees participate in "The Buddy Program," which hooks them up with a one-point access to operational information. Buddies, or mentors, within their job segment are assigned to be the general contact person for the first 90 days.

"The buddy is not just someone on the teller line," Martin said. "It's someone who has been with the company for a long time and can answer operational questions."

She said this portion of the program has met with a few challenges and is being refined.

"If the new employee doesn't have one person who is available to go to, they end up going to different people each with different opinions and ideas," Neague said. "This confuses and upsets the new employees."

The program is now in place at BFCU's 12 branches-cattered from the East to the West coasts. "Our new training facility has wonderful features that allow us to conduct meetings on computer screens," Martin said. "While it's not the best way, we can interact with employees in California, New York and Connecticut through the phone lines."

Martin and Neague both said the notion that new employees will take their training experience from BFCU and leave has not been an issue.

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