How to keep your new IT hires from jumping ship

Savvy companies use IT-specific onboarding programs to bring new hires into the fold and keep them there. Here are their best practices.

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International rotations are key

At International Paper (IP), a rotational job experience is a major part of the onboarding plan for its IT-bound college recruits, according to Jeffrey Mayhew, the company's program manager for global HR transformation. Above and beyond the generic corporate onboarding program that covers basic company ethics and corporate vision, incoming graduates taking IT positions are funneled through a three-year cycle in which they participate in two to three rotations where, optimally, they gain equal exposure to IP's information management, process management and business management strategies.

"The idea is to give individuals broad exposure to all functions of IT to see how it's interconnected and to set them up to be a future leader in the organization," Mayhew says. IP also makes sure the group (usually between 10 and 20 employees) bonds together, using social activities like sports events and joint participation in community service as ways to foster operation as a team. "In today's challenging world of recruitment, it's important that we keep people once they come in the door and not turn them over again and again," Mayhew says.

Hunter Jones went through IP's IT rotational onboarding program right out of college starting in 2005 and has been with the company ever since. After stints in IT operations, a business-facing group and the Rapid Application Development team, Jones recently took an IT business information manager position in IP's Industrial Packaging group in Memphis, Tenn.

The flexibility of IP's rotational program helped him figure out exactly what role he wanted to play in IT, says Jones, who believes the team-building aspects that encourage camaraderie and relationship building are key to IP employees' overall job satisfaction. "Building community is very important from the standpoint of retention," he says. "People are much more likely to stay if there's a network of people who care about them and are interested in their development." (See video for Jones' take on how IP's onboarding has inspired him.)

A peek at back-end operations

Manjit Singh is also a proponent of onboarding as the gateway to overall job satisfaction. Singh, director of enterprise applications at Hexaware, has been with the global provider of IT and process outsourcing services for three years and participated in the company's onboarding program, which included a two-week trip to India to work with the IT staff handling day-to-day operations. The idea behind the trip was to give Singh and participating co-workers from the U.S. a feel for Hexaware's back-end operations so they could better understand and anticipate customer pain points and requirements, Singh says.

In addition, the time spent with the overseas group helped foster personal relationships, which, in turn, bolstered productivity. "With 10,000 employees, it's difficult to keep in touch over the phone or relate to people helping you out in the course of any given project," he explains. "By meeting them firsthand, you can pick up the phone and call someone you know. It ensures a quick turnaround as opposed to getting lost in the corporate bureaucracy."

Another standout to Hexaware's onboarding program, according to Singh, is its buddy system, which assigns new hires a buddy of the same or similar job function. The buddy's role is to help acclimate the new employee, whether that means assisting in finding schools for their kids if relocating or steering them to the proper resources to get a job done.

These programs helped Singh feel a commitment to Hexaware, an experience he didn't have with his prior employer, which had no onboarding in place. "There, we were thrown into the fire without any support so you didn't feel like you were part of the company," says Singh, who spent just shy of a year at that post before leaving. "If a person isn't comfortable, they won't stick around for a long time. Onboarding helps make that connection."

This article, How to keep your new IT hires from jumping ship, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Longtime Computerworld contributor Beth Stackpole recently chronicled how five companies are coping with BYOD.

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Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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