HR Administration

Optimas Award Financial Impact National City Corporation

By Maryann Hammers

Sep. 7, 2011

National City Corporation knew it had to face reality. It was earning areputation as a revolving door, and something dramatic had to be done to keepgood people from fleeing. In 1999, nonexempt employee turnover soared to 51percent. The bank and financial services company–which is based in Clevelandand has more than 1,100 branch offices and 33,000 employees–had to confrontthe sad fact that many workers took flight within 90 days of being hired.Turnover was so widespread that the early-exiting employees became known in thehuman resources department as “quick quits.”

    “Our work environment was not as supportive as it could have been,”concedes Gene George, human resources division manager. “We threw people tothe wolves and expected them to hit the road running. We offered some training,but not a supportive work environment.”

    Realizing that it’s nearly impossible to win customer loyalty and provideexcellent service if you can’t even keep your own workers, National City in2000 developed a department called the National City Institute. Its purpose wasto find a way to thoroughly engage and assimilate new hires from their first dayon the job, so they would be less likely to quickly quit. The institute isstaffed with instructors who have backgrounds in pre-employment assessment andselection systems, instructional design and delivery, performance-managementconsultation, and management development. The Early Success program is designedfor new entry-level, nonexempt employees.

    “Instead of sending them to orientation and just saying, ‘Here are yourbenefits,’ we now offer a welcoming environment, a support network, and aseries of classes where they learn techniques and tools,” George says. “Wearm them with product knowledge, so they can be successful early on.”

    A “buddy system,” which matches a new employee with an employee peer, hasbecome the most effective and popular component of the program. To ensure thatmentoring “buddies” have the right stuff to effectively support new workers,they attend workshops to learn coaching skills. “The buddy system bridges thegap between what new employees learn in training and what they need to know onthe job,” George says. “It provides a support network and someone to answerquestions.”

    New employees attend a series of customized one-day and half-day workshopsthat teach them the skills, knowledge, and behaviors necessary to assimilatequickly and successfully into their new jobs. One course, called Plus, providesan overview of National City’s corporate objectives, employee benefits, andbrand. Another course, People, Policies and Practices, augments the employeehandbook and showcases National City as an employer of choice. Top-NotchCustomer Care focuses on how to provide service and be a strong team player.

    Workshops for hiring managers, such as one titled Getting Ready for Your NewEmployee, focus on orientation and retention techniques by teaching managers howto select buddy-sponsors, create a supportive work environment, clearlycommunicate, gradually allow employees to take on more responsibility, and helpthem achieve career goals. The program, which cost $2.5 million to launch andabout half that amount each year to maintain, reaps an impressive financialreturn. New employees are 50 percent less likely to quit in the first threemonths on the job, a savings of at least $1.35 million a year. They are also 25percent less likely to be absent, for an annual savings of $306,000. Since theprogram was launched, sales have increased $3.7 million.

Workforce, May 2003, p. 50Subscribe Now!

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