Fifteen months into his position as a retail zone manager with Hormel Foods, Bill Vincent is as effusive as ever about the onboarding orientation that acclimated him to the company. It wasn’t his first experience; Vincent came with a resume that includes at least two other well-known consumer packaged goods organizations.
“I’ve worked for companies where it’s, “Here’s your desk – go hit your sales number,” he said, using the admitted exaggeration to illustrate an important point. Companies often go all out to attract talent, but fall short when it comes to bringing newly hired team members into the fold.
That’s not the case at Hormel Foods, where the recently launched Inspired Hires program is getting rave reviews inside the company and out. In fact, it just won a silver Stevie Award, capturing the attention of 60 judges from all over the world who had more than 600 nominations to consider.
Kelly Fleming manages Inspired Hires. The recruiting specialist has north of 25 years with Hormel Foods, so when she says this is big, it’s worth a listen. “It’s been transformative,” she said.
Inspired Hires hinges on the simple premise of bringing new salaried team members to the company’s home base in Austin, Minn., right away, before they get knee-deep in jobs that are scattered throughout the United States. “Everyone being here learning the same material in the same way at the same time – it takes pressure off managers,” she said. “It eliminates a lot of confusion.”
In addition, it fosters a sense of belonging that Amy Sheehan, director of talent acquisition for Hormel Foods, believes is a game-changer as far as retention goes. “People decide to stay with a company – or leave – within 60-90 days of starting,” she said.
That statistic is among the chief reasons Inspired Hires belongs to the Hormel Foods recruiting team, a change from the previous system. It’s not just a shift in job duties; it represents a different philosophy regarding the value of onboarding.
Everyone being here learning the same material in the same way at the same time – it takes pressure off managersKelly Fleming, recruiting specialist
Highlights of the three-day Inspired Hires program include introducing new people to the Cultural Beliefs of Hormel Foods, a breakfast with senior leaders, a goodie box chockfull of Hormel Foods products, tours of the SPAM® Museum and the flagship Austin (Minn.) Plant, and a favorite interactive exercise – the Discovery Map. The program also imparts necessary information about benefits, how to navigate the company intranet and other housekeeping items that tend to give rise to myriad questions during a team member’s early days. Depending on hiring trends, anywhere from 200-300 team members go through Inspired Hires every year.
“The feedback has been amazing,” Sheehan said. “People who have worked at other places are saying they’ve never seen this.”
Vincent agreed, impressed by the simple fact that all of the speakers and presenters showed up on time and ready to go. “There were eight or nine speakers on the first day. Everyone was on schedule and still able to entertain questions and listen to feedback without going over. You could feel the pride they have in the company and the strong traditions here.”
He also made quite a few connections with his 25 classmates. “In sales, you don’t always meet people in the plants or other locations. Now when we have a production issue or challenge, I know people to call.”
Like most Inspired Hires alumni, Vincent also has a mentor or ambassador at his location; someone with whom he can grab a coffee or otherwise tap for help, advice or feedback. In the meantime, Fleming connects with Inspired Hires participants several times during their first 18 months to “see how things are going” and to gain valuable feedback that she uses to further refine the Inspired Hires program.
“We’re a big company, but we’re in a small town. I think that small-town feeling comes through,” she said.
According to Sheehan, so does her enthusiasm.
“Kelly is very passionate about Inspired Hires,” she said, adding that the program could easily have fallen flat if it weren’t for the executive buy-in and the all-around support and commitment of managers and presenters.
Vincent summed it up this way.
“It’s the best program I’ve seen.”