New employees at Sun Microsystems begin their orientation sessions after being hired with a computer game. It is part of an attempt to integrate new people, improve the image of the company, get feedback, and start training. Looking over the shoulder of a new employee, one would see the person playing a computer game called ?oDawn of the Shadow Spectors,?? battling evil forces that are trying to destroy Sun’s network. Before Sun changed its orientation program, an employee’s first day at work consisted mostly of filling out paperwork, as in most companies. Some new employees waited 2 weeks to get e-mail, and people who worked remotely sometimes waited weeks or months before meeting their managers. The chief learning officer at Sun said, ?oWe wanted to make a better first impression,?? unlike that made on an employee’s first day if the company/manager is not ready and the person just sits there. That can make a bad impression that is lasting. Now at Sun the onboarding starts as soon as a person accepts a job. The new employee logs on to the company’s new hire website and learns about the company by playing video games. The person sees a welcome video from the CEO and connects with other employees via social networks. New employees also fill out their W-4s, I-9s, and other paperwork on the website. Sun, which has about 34,000 employees, believes orientation should start the moment a person is hired and continue until the person is productive. A Houston-based company, El Paso Corporation, which employs about 5,000, has a different onboarding process. New hires attend a first-day orientation and then another a month later. During their first week at the company, they get an e-mail with links to everything from ordering business cards to joining the credit union. Before the new system was instituted, employees sometimes waited to even get a computer. One company official noted that new employees ?owere here but just sitting around because they didn’t have the tools to work.?? Now they have a workspace, computer, and network access on their first day. An advertising agency in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, takes yet a different approach. Zimmerman Advertising, which has about 1,000 employees, wants employees to understand the company, so new hires log on and learn from the new hire website what the company does, its client philosophy, and about its leadership. Then they meet for an hour with the CEO who talks about how he built the company. New hires get a 30-, 60-, and 90-day training checklist that must be completed on time and signed by their supervisor. They also have an opportunity to provide feedback via the website. Modern onboarding systems help new employees understand what the company is all about so they are prepared to integrate into it, says Zimmerman’s Vice President of HR.
1. The case introduces three companies of very different sizes with three different onboarding approaches. What differences do you see in their approaches? What similarities?
2. Are there important ideas missing from all three approaches? If so, what are they?
3. Which approach sounds best to you? Why?
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