Expert Topic Benefits of Proper Employee Onboarding

There is a lot of work that goes into finding the right candidate for an open job. With a record number of breweries in the country and job seekers looking for the right fit, there is often a strong focus on the selection process.

After screening the resumes, and initial calls, rounds of interviews, and finally an offer to the right candidate, the real work begins. Onboarding an employee is a critical step to making sure the budding business relationship starts off well and lays a foundation for long, fruitful employment.

At Mass Bay Brewing, the parent company of Harpoon Brewery, each new hire gets a call from Richard Ackerman, the vice president of human resources for the company. He uses his cell phone so that new hires have access to it for done the line and then followed up the offer phone call with a formal letter of employment.

“From the beginning, they have access to me,” he says.

Once the offer is accepted a 70-page employee handbook is provided as well as a check list and information packet for the business nuts and bolts like email and security setups, as well as other nuts and bolts that come with being part of a larger company.

In addition to Harpoon, Mass Bay also runs the Clown Shoes and Long Trail brands. Ackerman, who also heads up IT for the company, says that having a uniformed process for multiple locations is important to maintaining a framework.

Hardware and processes are only one part of proper onboarding.

The modern beer industry likes to talk about community and a sense of purpose and belonging. Many prospective employees are drawn to the fun nature of the industry, as well as the creativity. Others enjoy the scientific or mechanical aspects. Jobs in a brewer are diverse and once people settle into their roles there is not often a lot of chance for socialization or community building.

“Immediately I want to be practicing a personal touch,” says Ackerman. “Our baseline is that we need people who want to be here. That comes from a variety of places, the media, where we post for jobs and how we post for jobs and communicating how we approach community.”

When a new employee walks through the door on day one they are going to be introduced to all that the company has to offer and stands for. Ackerman says there is a 24-point set of ideas and thoughts they are presented with that help outline the company culture.

“We’re not asking people to drink Kool-aid,” he says, “these are basic thoughts but they make up the ideals of the company.”

By having written, and evolving, tenants new employees are able to join existing ones on similar footings and quickly take pride in their surroundings.

New employees at the brewery might also seem some familiar faces. As Mass Bay is employee owned many of the workers take an active role in the hiring process. Ackerman says that existing employees are able to take part in human resources training for the interview process (understanding good and appropriate questions to ask during the hiring process) and can schedule time with prospective employees or can sit in on group interviews.

This also helps foster community and can get employees from different areas of the company interacting with each other.

There is also an internal mentor program the company uses, called Firkin Friends.

“That is a program where someone who doesn’t have a direct relationship with a new hire helps show off the company’s culture and roots,” says Ackerman. “It could mean having a controller paired with someone in marketing, or someone on packaging with administration.”

The intention, he says, is to make sure it is not someone in a supervisory role or involve with human resources.

The mentors “have a list of what we expect them to teach and communicate beyond just where the bathrooms are and tips for parking.” They can also help with introducing and deciphering industry jargon and acronyms.

Aside from the practical, the benefit of these relationships are the intangibles. A way to easily learn the ropes and to be welcomed into the fold. Ackerman says the company tries to match people with complimentary styles and personalities so that it’s easier for folks to get along and fall into a good vibe.

“This has helped us significantly,” he says.

Of course, employees are greeted with a welcome beer on their first day.

On boarding takes a while. Ackerman admits that there are a good few days at the start that are a blur of paperwork and in-house training, and then re-education on computer systems, or other equipment.

Having patience with new hires and giving a guiding hand is also part of fostering a good community.

Around the three month mark new employees are also invited to a meeting with the company president. There, Ackerman says the goal is to get a read on how the new hire is adjusting but to also solicit feedback on the company through fresh eyes.
“It’s so much more valuable than a survey monkey,” he says. “We get feedback on how the process was, how the experience was, and if the connections are working.”

This also helps tweak and adjust the onboarding process for future hires.

Ackerman says that no matter a brewery’s size, brining on a new hire is a chance to build the community that the industry often talks about.

“There is a lot of excitement in the onboarding,” he says. “For a lot of people it will be their first foot in the door of the industry so doing it right is important for everyone’s longevity. It shows off community and lets people really express their passion.”

There are always going to be checklists, he says, of the 100 things to do to bring a new employee into the fold, but adding the personal touch, the human element is going to be critically important to the long term viability of the relationship.

“We have to make the efforts early and make them sincere,” he says. “It’s competitive out there so we need to make sure we’re embracing their passion and making the most out of this.”

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