High-tech companies have long been known for their aggressive recruiting efforts on engineering college and university campuses. The brightest stars from academe are highly prized for their technical expertise and innovative ideas, and most importantly for their enthusiasm. Once they leave school and join the corporate ranks, most new hires are eager to hit the ground running. Too often, however, companies drop the ball. The new employee-given little more than a desk and a stack of materials to read-founders for far too long before getting a chance to contribute. The excitement and entrepreneurial spirit begin to fade. Daylong orientations aren’t enough to remedy the situation. Nor are rotational training pro-grams, in which individuals spend time in various departments, often feeling more like visitors than contributing members of a team. In organizations that need to respond quickly to dynamic market conditions, both practices waste talent. To overcome those limitations, many companies have developed assimilation programs that help young engineers get to know the company and begin planning their careers, and help managers and the company learn about new hires’ goals and strengths. Some of these programs begin immediately and some start after a few weeks of months. One such program that has been successful at National Semiconductor for many years starts after the first month of employment. This is just about then the new hires have begun to wonder, “What is it going to take to be successful here?” The program, called the College Hire Assimilation Program (CHAP) consists of several elements spread out over a year. These include a Peak Performance workshop, a day of networking and team building, and a series of seminars on technology, human resources and leadership and influence skills. Later in the year, CHAP members participate in a variety of two-and-a-half-hour symposiums on technical, human resource, and business issues important to National. Small-group discussions with corporate presenters generate ideas and challenges, and show the new hires that, through their questions and comments, they can influence these senior people. That makes it clear to new hires that they are expected to contribute to the corporation’s mission from the earliest stages of their careers. In addition, each new hire is assigned a management adviser-someone other than the employee’s day-to-day supervisor-to facilitate the process of career discovery and growth. This CHAP Adviser Program places new hires into a partnership with knowledgeable, visionary and experienced managers within their own groups. Managers and their advisees meet at least once each quarter for a year. Managers help new hires translate their career missions into specific assignments or work activities. A similar program is in place at the Charles Schwab Corp. called WINGS. While similar to the CHAP program in many respects, it is also quite different. At Schwab new hires rotate through a series of assignments over the course of a full year before they are placed in a full-time regular job. Next week I’ll expand on this assimilation program. However, whichever kind of program you put in place, you will immediately notice that the employees are more productive and over time their turnover should be significantly lower than for those who did not participate.
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