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Case Study: Fast Start – EMC’s Onboarding Program

A recent presentation to i4cp’s Chief Learning & Talent Officer Board featured Tom Clancy, VP of Education Services, and Kaelyn Phillips, Senior Marketing Program Manager at EMC. The technology and cloud-computing firm employs approximately 60,000 people worldwide and has a presence in more than 80 countries. Phillips led the development of EMC’s new onboarding program, Fast Start.

EMC’s Onboarding Challenges

Prior to the March 2013 debut of its new global onboarding program, Fast Start, EMC found its pathway for new hires lacking in multiple areas, according to Tom Clancy. “EMC has a pretty mature education function offering many different things—technology courses, sales courses, partner and customer courses, academic alliances, etc.,” he said. “But we had new people coming onboard and too many tools and processes not meeting the mark for those new employees.” Clancy says that Kaelyn Phillips was charged with fixing this. “Her charter was to put together a globally consistent, compelling, multi-business unit, role-specific, companywide onboarding program with tracking metrics, robust content-rich materials, and to do it at little or no cost. She queried HR, the different business units, sales, marketing, management, and others across the globe and came up with one tool that would meet everyone’s needs.”

Inconsistencies and confusing content

Under the old system, Phillips explained, new hires were sent to four different websites in search of onboarding content. “There were too many groups involved in onboarding, and most were providing very little value to the experience. We had a siloed set of legacy solutions owned by recruiting: HR, EMC University, which is our education group, and education services. Each managed a site, leading to redundancies, and infrequent updating left content stale. The onboarding process just wasn’t consistent.”

Lack of onboarding leadership

Although company leaders were interested in ensuring that EMC had an onboarding process in place, they had not explored the benefits a strong onboarding program could afford or the potential business impact that would be felt if new hires were ramped-up ineffectively or too slowly. Those circumstances added to the conditions signaling the need to redesign and improve onboarding at EMC.

Fast Start is the answer

Phillips worked with stakeholders from the education services team, recruiting, and HR to evaluate options, and the group chose internally developed Fast Start as the most robust platform. She explained: “Fast Start was built out because about a year ago we took the paper-based onboarding program we had and converted it to an online solution. Much of the outline of what we’ve done is based on what we already had in Fast Start. We’ve just improved on it and added to it.”

The Fast Start platform offered what Phillips characterized as “a centralized, globally consistent onboarding experience for all new hires, regardless of business unit or role. All the information they need to become successfully integrated into EMC is now located within Fast Start. And it’s laid out in a manner that provides them a roadmap to success. New hires simply need to follow steps and they will become productive in their new roles.”

A look at Fast Start

Upon accessing Fast Start, a new hire inputs his/her function and role to be directed to the appropriate Welcome Screen. Pictured above is the screen that greets new sales and presales professionals. Phillips explained that the welcome screen fulfills two functions—providing a landing page that facilitates completion of critical day-one HR-related tasks and introduction of the new hire to expectations of the Fast Start onboarding process.

For an international organization such as EMC, the day-one HR functions differ according to location, Phillips said. “Because Fast Start is a global program, links were created to send users to information specific to their country, but in a way that consolidates all the information.”

All hires get a company overview

With day-one activities complete, the new hire moves into the Know EMC section, which remains constant across all roles. This portion acquaints new hires with the company, providing an overview, along with sections for HR resources, general resources, and intranet sites. Here, the user finds information on social or community movements within EMC, as well. The material may be revisited by the employee at any time during their tenure at the company.

A customized ramp-up to productivity

Phillips called the Learn Your Role section “the meat of Fast Start.” Varying by role, specific learning activities are presented with the objective of quickly moving the new hire to productivity. “I worked with each role in EMC and determined what actions are most useful for a person beginning the role,” Phillips explained. “More importantly, what do current employees wish they had known when they were new hires?” The section’s activities cover a six-to-12-week time frame with the completion time varying by role.

While each role is unique, Phillips pointed out some common themes, such as time frame and page layout. Sales roles have e-learning options with specific content linkages. She noted that EMC business units are free to customize content to meet their needs, and added that some link to sites they’d already created in order to leverage existing content.

Milestones mark new hires’ progress

“The last piece of Fast Start is the Training Milestones section,” Phillips observed. “To ensure that the new hire stays on track, it lifts out the key steps that must be completed in order to be officially considered onboarded. Each of these milestones can be found in the Learn Your Role section but are highlighted here. These are often the most important activities the new hire must complete.”

Tabs on the right side of each screen vary by function. In the illustrated screens, Sales Accreditation refers to a continuing development program for sales and presales employees.

eduTube is EMC’s own version of YouTube, offering a library of online videos. The Mentor Program tab provides guidelines for new hires about finding a mentor and setting up mentoring arrangements. Every function has access to the Questions, New Hire Discussion Board and eduTube tabs.

Once a new hire has completed Fast Start, additional learning opportunities are available, Clancy says. “We have Fast Start, and then we have New Hire for about 15,000 people in the company. The New Hire training is face-to-face, done at corporate, and brings in all the executives. It lasts about a week. That’s still considered on-boarding. Then employees transition to ongoing programs, such as sales accreditation for sales and presales employees.”

A coaching tool

Fast Start has proven to be a helpful coaching tool for EMC managers. Phillips explains that “because the site provides a vast list of activities and timelines, it can help managers discover their new hires’ strengths and areas of growth. It also helps those managers begin a cadence of weekly conversations with their new hires. The site should drive these discussions and can help promote deeper dives into issues that may extend beyond the scope of onboarding,” said Clancy.

Encouraging results

EMC rolled out Fast Start in Q1 of 2013, and Phillips called early results “fantastic. Each quarter we survey new sales and presales employees. In the most recent survey, 100% of respondents said that Fast Start prepared them for their new role. That compares with only 82% for the year before.”

Phillips explained that 70 unique job roles have been included in Fast Start thus far, with more to be added. “With 60,000 people, there are many roles and we can’t get to them all right away,” she said. “So we created a general role that presents a generic set of activities that a new hire can complete. Regardless of role, the employee can become familiar with the company and understand how to ramp-up.”

Better measures ahead

Measurement is another area to be expanded, Phillips said. At present, the company can track the number of people visiting the Fast Start site (how many times one actually goes into the site) and the number viewing the site (clicks in the site during a user’s visit). Other metrics currently in use are qualitative—a sales and presales onboarding survey and a HR survey. As the program evolves, Phillips expects to add a tracking dashboard that will enable both users and managers to track individuals’ progress through the Fast Start program.

On-boarding program design: Seven lessons learned from EMC’s Fast Start

For HR, learning, and other organizational leaders interested in establishing or expanding their onboarding programs, EMC’s experiences in developing a globally consistent onboarding experience offer these valuable ideas:

  1. Begin with the basics and make them relevant. The first section of EMC’s Fast Start program ensures that employees complete all required documents and activities applicable to a new hire’s first day of work. For its global workforce, the company customizes the section to provide location-specific forms and information.
  2. Provide a comprehensive company overview. EMC includes company-specific information in Fast Start, along with links to organizational resources that support success throughout an employee’s tenure.
  3. Create general and role-specific content. The Fast Start program features content customized to 70 employee roles and more are being added. Designers included a general role to make the onboarding program inclusive for workers whose roles are not yet completed in the system.
  4. Design a clear pathway and include rewards. EMC’s program includes milestones that clearly communicate steps new hires must take to accomplish on-boarding. Their completion reinforces new employees’ efforts by providing a tangible record of progress.
  5. Identify ancillary applications of on-boarding programs. EMC recognized that its onboarding program produced information that enabled Fast Start to act as a coaching tool for managers.
  6. Check program effectiveness. Surveying participants to gauge program effectiveness enables EMC to gauge on-boarding success.
  7. Plan for measurement. EMC started with a few meaningful metrics and is in the process of adding a dashboard to provide additional measures of onboarding activity and program outcomes.
Carol Morrison
Carol Morrison is a Senior Research Analyst and Associate Editor with the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), specializing in workforce well-being research.