How companies bring in new hires influences whether employees stay and ultimately, the costs for recruiting and employee turnover.
That explains why cosmetics maker L’Oreal developed a comprehensive “on-boarding” system to help new hires acclimate. Its “Follow-Up and Integration Track (FIT)” program lasts 18 to 24 months and runs from mentoring to ensuring that employees experience the company’s products.
“Everything starts with a successful welcome,” Ana Gloria Sanchez, human resources manager at L’Oreal Travel Retail Americas, pictured above. That even means having the new hire’s computer and IT tools ready on their arrival and meetings arranged with their supervisor and others key to their job.
Sanchez shared L’Oreal’s experience at WorldCity’s HR Connections on Sept. 19, as participants weighed the discussed respective on-boarding” strategies.
L’Oreal developed its FIT program around 2007 because of high employee turnover, sometimes up to 15 percent, Sanchez said. One area of concern: integrating new hires into the company and its culture.
Preparing employees for corporate culture
Paris-based L’Oreal works with a “culture of confrontation,” common in France. Its drive for top quality often means “in-your-face” questions – a style that can rattle people from Latin America, Asia and other areas accustomed to a more conciliatory approach, she said.
Yet even in France, “the reputation of L’Oreal is about excellence, but also the reputation is that it’s merciless and ruthless, and you’d better be prepared for that,” said Olivier Bouclier, a Frenchman who serves as associate dean of executive education at the University of Miami School of Business.
“Now, he’s being confrontational,” joked WorldCity President Ken Roberts, prompting laughs.
L’Oreal’s FIT program now deals head-on with the confrontation issue. Online video presentations explain that someone at work may say, “I disagree with your idea,” and at L”Oreal, “that’s how we learn,” said Sanchez. “So, you are sensitized.”
Knowing a company’s culture in advance can help more than new employees. It also can aid job candidates better prepare for interviews, said Lorena Keough, a managing partner in Miami for retained executive search firm Diversifed Search. “It’s about managing expectations.”
How does HR make sure managers take responsibility for the successful welcome and on-boarding? Do you have training sessions or measurements on performance? , asked Claire Fischer, senior HR business partner at DHL Global Forwarding.
“You need the support of the management team to explain why it’s important. And I have competitions between [supervisors],” said Sanchez, who also gives “qualitative feedback” to individual managers.
At Starbucks, employees complete a survey about their supervisors, and based on those results, HR knows “want we need to coach the managers on,” said Isabel Montes, HR manager for Latin America for Starbucks Coffee Co.
Helping motivate employees
How do you keep employees happy, so that you can retain them?, asked Francisco Maldonado, general manager of CORCIN, a training center from Santiago in Chile.
The HR team works to understand the employee’s motivation and career plan – for example, whether they aim to stay in their country, go regional or go global, said Sanchez.
“To have happy employees, they need to have a sense of purpose in their jobs. They need to understand how their jobs make a difference” for the company, customers and society, added Sanchez. L’Oreal makes sure employees experience its products to see what they mean to consumers.
How has what you’ve learned from the program affected how you choose executives and employees?, asked Marjorie Kean, also a managing partner in Miami at Diversified Search.
The company looks for talent with multi-cultural backgrounds who can speak different languages and are resilient, said Sanchez. Yet even while English is the common language, speaking French is an asset.
Sanchez said she learned French during her two years working in Paris, where cultural differences sometimes weighed. For example, in her native Mexico, lunch was a time to relax with peers and chat about the weekend. In Paris, her manager expected she’d meet top executives to network over meals.
“In France, I was so stressed, because I’d be asked, “How is Mexico? How is marketing there?“ I felt, “Oh, I didn’t study for this,” Sanchez said of those lunch sessions.
Helping employees learn the ropes in a new city
At L’Oreal’s office in Miami, where many employees come from overseas, integration also means helping new arrivals from overseas to learn the ropes of living in a new place: neighborhoods to rent in, cars to buy, cellphone prices and more. Often, employees help each other in that process, said Sanchez.
DHL also welcomes many people new to the area and has partnered with Citi, which sends a representative to the office to help them with bank accounts. It also works with a realtor to help newcomers with housing, said Giuliana Castro, senior HR business partner at DHL Global Forwarding.
While HR staff would love to take new hires around to meet the crew, DHL uses a simpler plan. It asks the new hire to write a brief description of who they are and where they sit, asking others to come by and say hello. Then, it posts a photo of the hire and their note on its online bulletin board.
“So, it’s the employee introducing themselves to the world,” Castro told the group.
Have you been able to measure the impact of mentoring on employee retention?, asked Ariel Regatky, head of talent management for Latin America for Citigroup, Latin American division.
Results from mentoring are tough to measure: “It’s more qualitative than quantitative in the end,” Sanchez said.
What can be measured more broadly is that the on-boarding push and other programs have slashed L’Oreal’s employee turnover to roughly 6-7 percent nowadays, said Sanchez.
“In the beginning, the culture of L’Oreal was the swimming pool: We throw you in the water,” said Sanchez. “Now, we explain to you that this is why we are doing it.”
HR Connections is one of six event series organized by WorldCity to bring together executives from multinational companies in greater Miami. The HR series is sponsored by Diversified Search , University of Miami School of Business Administration and employment and labor law firm Littler Mendelson.
WorldCity is organizing its second annual HR Americas conference for Nov. 6-7 at The Biltmore Hotel to feature many HR leaders visiting from Latin America and other parts of the United States.
For more information on the conference, visit www. www.worldcityweb.com/HRamericas or contact Nilda Bernal, WorldCity’s director of events, at 305-441-2244.