Last year, automotive supplier Faurecia decided to revamp its onboarding program, so the company surveyed its employees to understand what was helpful and what was -- well, not so much. Their biggest suggestion: Shorten it. It was a whopping 18 months long. "We discovered that the process was a little bit outdated, a bit too lengthy for employees," says Elizabeth Fleming, Faurecia's HR manager. "Realistically, a six-month process is much more sustainable, and it's much easier for an employee to get their arms around."

There's now a lot to pack into those six months, including mapping out personal objectives, a two-day orientation in Auburn Hills, Mich., networking and a series of specialized training sessions. "We love to train, that's for sure," says Fleming.

Now that the onboarding overhaul is in place, Fleming shared some elements that made the cut:

1. Shop Floor Induction. Like the name sounds, this aspect of Faurecia's onboarding is a rite of passage of sorts. All new employees, be they sales associates and administrative support staff or more directly involved in plant operations, spend a solid week working on the production line during their first month, so they have a better understanding of what's being produced and the process.

"Obviously sometimes it takes them out of their comfort zone, but that's the whole point, right?" says Fleming. "Sometimes it's easy when you're far removed from the plant to lose a little bit of the understanding of the reality of what we're trying to do, and at the end of the day what we're trying to do is produce a quality product safely for the company."  

The induction doesn't end there: At the end of their week spent making parts, employees are asked to provide feedback to the plant manager on what they've noticed about how the production line works and what they think could be improved. "You do have some people who get a little bit irritated working on the plant floor on a hundred-degree day," says Fleming. "But all and all, the feedback we get is very positive."

2. Face Time with Vice Presidents. Another element of Faurecia's onboarding is a 1½ day orientation at the Auburn Hills tech center. These orientations are held quarterly, with about 60 new employees from sites across the country in each. Vice presidents from each of the company's divisions are expected to give the presentations -- in person. "We think it gives a more personal touch," says Fleming. They talk about core values, training opportunities through Faurecia University and career development, "all of the facets that make our company what it is, but maybe are a little bit hard to get your hands around when you're out at a specific site." The orientation also has some socializing built right in -- past events have featured a friendly corn hole competition or bocce ball tournament -- so new hires in different parts of the operation get a chance to cross-pollinate.

3. Lean and More Lean. New hires have their "first taste" of Faurecia's lean practice, the Faurecia Excellence System (FES), at orientation, learning what lean means and where it is visible in the plant. After that, within their first six months of employment, they're required to take a two-day "deep dive" into the finer points of FES at Operations Systems School (OSS), an interactive, workshop-based environment that's part simulation of processes, part real-life observation on the shop floor and talking with site supervisors and Group Autononome de Production (GAP) leaders. GAP is the small-team structure at the heart of Faurecia production. "It's typically in one of our plants," Fleming says of OSS, "and they get a really good understanding of what it means from an operational standpoint."