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September 01, 2008
New Hire Orientation Program Sets Tone for Continuous Learning

From Day 1, new hires at Verizon Wireless learn that the company values learning and that it offers many development opportunities to employees throughout their careers.

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Launch Your Success Story, a half-day orientation program, is aimed at immersing new hires into the Verizon Wireless (www.verizonwireless.com) culture, says Lou Tedrick, staff vice president of workforce development for the wireless voice and data network operator. “It provides a good understanding of ‘who’ Verizon Wireless is, our mission, values, who employees are,” she says. The program also welcomes new hires to the company and sends a clear message that there are numerous career opportunities available to them.

The orientation program uses a blended learning approach. Tedrick explains that in addition to participating in discussions and activities, participants view a DVD about how the company’s products and services have developed over the years, its leadership philosophy, and other employees’ experience working at Verizon Wireless.

After the 4-hour session, new hires are given a checklist of tasks they should complete at various intervals over the next few months, including a series of self-paced online training courses that generally must be completed within their first 30 days on the job, she says. Many of those courses delve deeper into specific topics that are touched upon during orientation, such as safety issues and the company’s code of conduct.

Supervisors of new hires receive a separate checklist, which includes tasks such as showing new hires where the restrooms are, introducing them to other people on their team, discussing priorities and departmental goals, making sure they know how to use their voice mail, and reviewing benefits, says Tedrick.

HR generalists facilitate the orientation program after completing an in-house, 2-day certification program. They are trained in adult learning theory, and they watch a DVD about teaching the orientation program, according to Tedrick. The trainer certifying them teaches the entire orientation program to them and leads a debriefing session on his or her approach. The HR professionals then teach a portion of the program themselves and receive feedback from their trainer and peers.

“They really learn how to take whatever fruit they’re given by participants and make lemonade out of it,” Tedrick says.

In addition to other job-specific training, Verizon Wireless supports ongoing learning through its tuition assistance program, which provides up to $8,000 per year to full-time employees and $4,000 per calendar year to part-time employees to pursue business-related education at an accredited institution, she says. Fifteen percent of Verizon Wireless’ workforce participates in the tuition assistance program.

Retention is higher among employees who participate in the tuition assistance program. “Our participants and graduates actually stay longer with the business than those who don’t participate,” she emphasizes.

In addition, Tedrick says that the company has identified a “definite link” between good performance and the tuition assistance program and between internal mobility and the program.

Before implementing a new hire orientation program, Tedrick suggests that employers do some homework. “They really have to have a good sense of who they are as a business, how they want to welcome” new hires, and that how they welcome new hires is aligned with how the employees will actually be treated on the job.

She adds that orientation and tuition assistance programs require the full support of the executive team.

This year, Verizon Wireless was named for the seventh consecutive year to Training magazine’s list of “Top 125 Training Organizations in America,” ranking fourth among U.S. companies.

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