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Best HR Ideas for Training & Development

The editors of HRE announce their choices of the most noteworthy HR ideas for training & development that were launched last year.

Monday, March 1, 2010
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DHS New Employee Orientation

Danbury Hospital/Danbury Health Systems, Danbury, Conn.

As Phyllis Zappala tells it, the orientation program at Danbury Hospital "actually put people to sleep about 12 years ago." Though it was improved 10 years ago, it wasn't until last year, in response to the Gen Xers and Yers coming in, "that we realized we needed something all ages would be comfortable with, that would actively engage them so crucial information we're required to deliver would get through," says Zappala, Danbury Health Systems' senior vice president of HR.

What the DHS HR Learning Center team devised, and launched on Nov. 16, 2009, is a multi-faceted two-day program called "DHS New Employee Orientation: A High-Energy Intro to Our Level of Care."

The program encourages participation every step of the way. Included are: "participation points" rewarded to employees for asking questions, with points going toward coupons to local eateries; a game called "NEOpardy," modeled after TV's Jeopardy game show and sporting the acronym for new-employee orientation, in which contestants win prizes for retaining information; a virtual tour of DHS' more than 40 sites; and visual modules featuring images of real DHS employees at work throughout all of the material, with a program-ending greeting of, "We're happy to add your face to this place."

Feedback survey results are all in the high 90s for engagement, participation encouragement, overall satisfaction and more.

"Incomers of all ages are doing this together now," Zappala says, "actively taking in input that everyone can relate to."

New to Veteran Forums

Northrop Grumman Corp., Sunnyvale, Calif.

The defense industry has an aging workforce, so Northrop Grumman was already involved in knowledge-transfer activities with employees close to retirement, says Robert Hyde, director of human resources for the corporation's Marine Systems division.

But, those activities became more proactive, he says, after one of the younger employees, assigned to work on a proprietary software system that was written in Fortran -- a programming language developed in the 1950s -- said, "Wouldn't my time be better spent teaching our veteran employees how to use MATLAB?" a fourth-generation language.

"And it was like, click, bingo, off we went," Hyde says. "It just became obvious that these new folks were going to have either tools or skills that we didn't use as a business and could use to move forward."

The result, New to Veteran Forums, involved the selection of 10 new employees in the Electronic Systems Sector, who made presentations in February 2009 before a panel of senior technologists and managers. Each new employee, whose project was approved, was designated the project leader and assigned a mentor to help with the internal funding, scheduling, execution and reporting processes.

One of the ideas, Hyde says, saved in excess of $1 million for each top-secret product unit. Other projects included a social-networking Web site within the organization's security firewall, an engineering modeling lab for hands-on experimentation and lunch-time lectures by subject-matter experts.

The program continues this year in the Electronic Systems Sector, Hyde says, and other campuses are being encouraged to add the program to their own best practices.

Shared Resources for Employees Impacted by Layoff

Washington State Department of Personnel, Olympia, Wash.

The State of Washington is not the only employer to face budget shortfalls and layoffs recently. But it's probably one of the few that chose to turn its restructuring into an opportunity to broadcast and market its reputation as a caring organization.

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Knowing layoffs would soon hit many of its agencies, the state's Department of Personnel convened a cross-agency team to develop a one-stop source of information and resources for employees who would be impacted. Through collaboration, the team came up with coordinated, consistent information that eliminated duplicate efforts across state agencies and launched its shared-resources program in January 2009.

The program, which has now helped about 1,000 people, includes a comprehensive resources checklist, layoff-information sessions held statewide, Web-site tools and resources for those affected, a walk-in resource center for job-search coaching and classes to upgrade skills, and workshops on change and stress management.

Users of the program have given it an average satisfaction rating of four, on a scale from one to five. In addition to helping those affected, the program has reduced call-center congestion and wait time at state agencies, such as the unemployment office, benefits office, retirement office, etc.

"Our belief is that getting the word out, directly from the source, is the right thing to do," says Melia Olsen, the department's program director. The way layoffs are handled "leaves a lasting impression on current and future employees, and that's what we're really trying to do."

See the 2010 Best HR Ideas.

See also:

Contextualizing Cleverness

Worst HR Ideas

The Architecture of Change

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