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Onboarding & Career Development: O’Shea

Chronus customer Tess Fyalka, Director of Employee Development and Engagement at O’Shea, walked us through how their onboarding and career development programs work. We’ve provided an edited video and transcript of the interview for your convenience.

Why Onboarding & Career Development?

Tess Fyalka, Director of Employee Development and Engagement at O’Shea: Founded in 1902, O’Shea is a commercial construction company based in central Illinois . We’ve enjoyed steady growth over our 113-year history, but in the past 10-12 years in particular, we have been expanding at a very rapid rate and we’re moving into new communities across the region.

O’Shea enjoys an excellent reputation for quality and we also enjoy a really strong culture of respect within the organization. But in the immortal words of leadership guru and author Marshall Goldsmith, “What got you here, won’t get you there.” And like many on this call today, we know that to be true.

When we bring new hires into the organization, they’re bringing their processes, procedures, and their cultures from their previous organizations, and that is for better and for worse. As we grow and enter new markets, our objective is to be deliberate in creating systems that will ensure our new hires learn the O’Shea way in terms of our processes, procedures and culture.

Additionally, we really want our new hires to be actively engaged in the organization because they’ve been integrated into the organization, and that they appreciate what this organization is all about. And again, that doesn’t just happen by dropping someone into a position. You really have to be deliberate about creating that, and so that’s what brought us to Chronus.

Goals for O’Shea’s Career Development Programs

In December of 2014, we purchased our Chronus software and began creating a system for onboarding and employee development. Our goals for onboarding were to create a deliberate process for integrating new hires into the organization so they can become proficient, and frankly profitable, faster. We wanted to set up our new hires for success, and we wanted to ensure they’re trained in the O’Shea way and best practices.

We also wanted to create a process for ongoing feedback. And we wanted to streamline the paperwork process. Of course, we really wanted to perpetuate the culture of the organization.

How O’Shea’s Onboarding Works

If we look at the structure and the implementation for new hires, there are two phases. The first phase is the pre-boarding phase, and it begins with me.

It starts two weeks prior to the new hire’s start date. We connect the individual to the portal so to complete any necessary paperwork, read the handbook, watch videos about O’Shea. This also allows the new hire to kind of get to know teammates and others within the organization by reviewing the profiles that are on the portal.

So I remain a primary contacts within the first three months, and then phase two begins, which is essentially the new hires’ week-by-week training program with various subject-matter experts within the organization.

For example, the new hire’s first week might involve training on our safety programs, it might include an introduction to our accounting system, and so forth. So, for each week of the training program, it’s spelled out who the new hire needs to contact, what outcomes are expected, and what he or she needs to achieve during each individual training session.

While the onboarding or training template is customized for each new hire, it’s important to note that I’m not creating these from scratch. So, these templates were created in skeleton or general templates early on. Additionally, I’ll meet with the new hire throughout that three-month phase one process, and just talk to them and assess, how are things going, what do we need to improve, what’s really worked for you. We continually want to fine tune, and improve, and change as we go along.

How O’Shea’s Career Development Works

So let’s look at the career development portion of the program. Now, once the new hire completes the onboarding process, they’re integrated into our employee development program. So now, it’s what we refer to at O’Shea as our player development program, and through this initiative, employees work with their supervisor, and they identify SMART goals. As I’m sure you know what SMART goals are: Strategic, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Timely.

These goals are tied to three things:

  • A strategic plan
  • The vision of the department
  • The individual’s personal career and development goals

We don’t want to be creating goals simply to create goals. It’s really important that each goal helps the individual grow as a professional within the organization. It also encourages leaders within the departments to really consider opportunities to improve their departments. And it ensures that everyone is considering their goals from a strategic standpoint.

Now let’s look at the mentoring connection plans within the career development portion of the program. These are designed to ensure that new hires complete training on specific processes and procedures.

We have been very fortunate in that generally this is being embraced very well and the percentages are nice. But what’s really important in our organization of course, is that number one, new hires feel that they are truly set up to succeed. They’re not just left to figure it out. And number two, the O’Shea team understands the value of the onboarding process and supports it.

Now, as far as using Chronus for employee development, this has allowed us to get goal plans out of the electronic files and in front of employees so that we are actively, truly developing them. These aren’t just, “Oh yes, goals we created at the beginning of the year, but we don’t really revisit them.” So, the career development program allows us to keep goals in front of the employees, just like the onboarding program helps us make sure we’re tracking where our new hires are in terms of their training on our systems.

Question & Answer

Kira Fickenscher, Customer Success Manager at Chronus: Great presentation, Tess! Now let’s move on to Q&A.

So, Tess, what are some of the biggest or most interesting learnings you’ve had from deploying both the onboarding program and the career development piece of it?

Tess: I would have to say the onboarding is so much fun in that you’re really helping people be more successful at what they do. If I had to say that there is a challenge, the challenge is always in changing behaviors and helping people who maybe didn’t have these opportunities in their careers appreciate how critical they are. I can tell you one gentleman always says, “I just so wish someone had done that for me.” I really think it speaks to how our workplace is changing in how we’re setting up our existing people and our new hires to succeed.

Kira: Have you noticed changes in the new hires since starting strategic onboarding compared to what you noticed prior to deploying the program?

Tess: Most definitely. The difference in where individuals who came on to O’Shea before the onboarding program and after is night and day. There’s no greater testament to this working. So we’re going back and sort of re-boarding individuals who came on before the program.

Kira: That’s great. You might have mentioned this earlier, but does your onboarding program cover pre-boarding prior to the employee start date and how do you handle that?

Tess: Yes, they are brought into the system two weeks prior to their start date. They can begin to become familiar with us and complete the assessments as time allows so their first day isn’t spent filling out forms. Then they can hit the ground running and really get into more substantive learning and meeting people.

Kira: Thanks Tess for telling us more about your program!


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