The new employee experience at Mead & Hunt

As you know, first impressions are so important. As I write this, the snow is rapidly piling up in Wisconsin; if you came to visit us now for the first time, your impression might be that we have perpetual winters here and never see green grass or flowers (not true but feels that way these days!).

Many companies use the orientation experience as a first impression for new employees. At Mead & Hunt, we talk a lot about onboarding. The words onboarding and orientation are often used interchangeably. However, they serve different functions. Orientation tends to be about the how-to’s and usually lasts a day or two. On the other hand, onboarding isn’t an event. It’s a process that can sometimes last over a year. It involves management, HR, and employees. It’s a critical time during which trust and loyalty are developed between employee and employer, and it sets the stage for the employee’s career.

We believe onboarding starts with a prospective employee’s very first contact with us – their “first impression.” Whether it’s researching our company on the internet, talking with one of our career fair ambassadors, or knowing someone who works at our company, these interactions set the stage for opinions about our organization. They often help make an initial determination about whether someone thinks our culture and values would fit with their own.

Next is the application and interview process. Creating an enjoyable experience during a phone or in-person interview goes a long way to develop a positive relationship with a prospective employee.

Once someone is offered a position with us, we don’t pressure him/her for a quick answer. Once the offer is accepted, we also are willing to postpone the start date if necessary. Occasionally a new employee is not able to start with us for several weeks after the accepted offer. That’s OK. Because they are a good fit for the company and the position, we’ll wait.

The first day of an employee’s career at Mead & Hunt is designed to be welcoming – whether it’s a lunch with the team, a gift bag on their desk, or a sit-down with key staff. His/her workstation is complete and assembled with all the software needed to get off to a running start. They also receive a “culture buddy,” someone who can answer questions (sometimes as simple as “where are the office supplies kept?”) and have access to learning videos on our intranet.

Soon after starting, every employee travels to our office in Madison for a two-day culture program. This visit is less about policies and procedures and more about introducing employees to our culture and values. Both the CEO and CHRO, as well as others from our corporate management departments, spend considerable time with the new hires, sharing our history and future as well as emphasizing our values of “we take care of people, we do the right thing, we do what makes sense.” The employees also meet other new employees from different locations and business units and have a chance to tour Madison with one of our employee volunteers familiar with the area.

Following the visit to Madison, employees return to their home department/office and work on a career plan with their manager. This establishes performance goals, expectations, and career aspirations. HR conducts 3-month and 6-month follow-up meetings with all new employees to see how things are going and if there is anything we can do to improve the hiring process, onboarding/orientation, and whatever else they have in mind. Involving employees with office events, educational experiences, and interesting projects are additional ways to maintain enthusiasm and enforce in their own mind that they made the right choice coming to work with us.

As you can see, onboarding is much more than filling out paperwork and learning policies and procedures. It’s an essential process for developing a good relationship with candidates and employees. It sets the tone for a productive and rewarding career at Mead & Hunt. What are your thoughts about this? Have you had a good onboarding experience you’d be willing to share?

Wendy Culver, SPHR

About the Author

Chief Human Resources Officers have to make urgent decisions and Wendy Culver, an HR veteran, easily handles them on the fly with a “do what makes sense” philosophy. Applying that concept plus a “do the right thing” mentality simplifies many decisions. “Not surprisingly, doing what’s right and what makes sense almost always equates to what’s best for both the employees and the company,” Wendy says.

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