Michelin North America deployed a revamped and formalized onboarding process across its sites in 2012, and included input from employees.

Workforce: Successful Employees Require a Solid Start

March 9, 2013
Early intervention, such as onboarding, is important if you want to keep employees for the long term Michelin North America welcomes new employees with a formal and personalized onboarding process Onboarding Generation Y employees requires communication, feedback and Day One impact

Michelin doesn't hire employees simply to fill open positions. The end game is to develop people for long and successful careers with the company.

That mission, explains Sherie Burdett, begins with the onboarding process.

"We believe that nurturing our workforce -- from the beginning -- through programs that help them become engaged in their careers contributes to the overall success of the company," explains Burdett, onboarding manager for Michelin North America. 

See Also: Manufacturing Workforce Management Best Practices

"When engaged employees work with passion and feel a profound connection with the company, they drive innovation and help move the organization forward," she adds.

Michelin's onboarding process includes pairing new recruits with "ambassadors." The ambassador's role is to ease the new employee's transition into the workplace by assisting the recruit in understanding his or her specific work area and the company culture, and by serving as an advocate for Michelin. 

The company's onboarding effort doesn't end there, however. Indeed, the process consists of what Burdett describes as five "streams": 1. Pre-arrival 2. First Days 3. Welcome to Department 4. A Better Way to Start 5. Two-way assessment.

"Each stream is designed to onboard the employee as quickly, efficiently, thoroughly and positively as possible," explains Burdett.

First Impressions Matter 

Such early intervention is important for companies who want to keep good employees for the long-term, says Gerald Ledford, a senior research scientist at the Center for Effective Organizations, Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California. 

"Research shows that more than half of all turnover happens during the first few years of employment. This means that it is very important for companies to get off on the right foot with new employees," he says. "They need to begin establishing a strong connection, and defining the company's employment brand, as soon as possible. Connecting and branding need to begin during the hiring process -- when the company makes a first impression through its early contacts with a candidate -- but must be reinforced in the early days of employment."

Day 1 Critical to Gen Y

The early intervention may be particularly important when it comes to hiring Generation Y, or men and women born about 1980 or later. This demographic is expected to comprise approximately 50% of the workforce by 2014. 

For this demographic, early intervention translates to Day 1 on the job. Author Jason Ryan Dorsey, a Gen Y-er himself, explains why: "Many Gen Y-ers decide on our first day at work whether or not we will stay with an employer long term," he writes in "Y-Size Your Business: How Gen Y Employees Can Save You Money and Grow Your Business."

Generation Y recruits want information about career development sooner rather than later, and onboarding is a good time to begin having that conversation "even if follow-through doesn't occur until later," adds Alexia Vernon, coach, trainer and author of "90 Days, 90 Ways: Onboarding Young Professionals to Peak Performance." 

Moreover, communication is important to this group of workers and not simply communication about a company's benefits package. They need to feel engaged, they need to understand their role in the company's success and they want feedback, Vernon says.

"Informal feedback, even during the onboarding phase, is important. Don't wait until a formal feedback session," she advises. "They want to know so they can self correct."

That said, many best practices related to onboarding Generation Y are appropriate for onboarding any new recruit, regardless of the employee's demographic or length of time in the workforce. The same holds true for worst practices. With that as prelude, Vernon offers up this list of onboarding no-no's: 

  1. Don't bring in new hires when people "don't have time to really show them the ropes or provide the support they need."
  2. Don't make onboarding a one-shot deal. (At Michelin, the formal onboarding process concludes after one year, at which time the employee transitions into the normal process of career management.)
  3. Don't overlook an informal network of people resources, such as mentors and peers.
  4. Don't forget to include the direct manager in the onboarding process. 

The Center for Effective Organizations' Ledford is emphatic on the final point, as well. "The first line supervisor plays a critical role in onboarding -- the supervisor is the face of management for the new employee."

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