First Stop for New Hires

07.02.2013 | Posted in News and Events

It’s a warm summer afternoon at the Joyner Visitor Center, and the guests smile as they climb into the air-conditioned comfort of two tour buses idling in front of the building’s glass rotunda. These aren’t prospective students checking out recreation and dining opportunities or parents assessing transportation and housing options. They’re two dozen of the university’s newest faculty and staff, and they’re in the middle of new employee orientation.

Amy Grubbs at front of bus.

Amy Grubbs tells new employees about the wonders of NC State; especially Howling Cow ice cream.

As the buses pull out of the parking lot and head toward Centennial Campus, video screens come alive with a slideshow describing the nearby landmarks. As we move along, a GPS system cues the part of the video that corresponds to our location in real time. It’s a nice touch for a technology-rich university.

At the front of the lead bus, Amy Grubbs augments the video with additional information about NC State traditions, places and people. There’s a murmur of admiration as the bus stops on Main Campus Drive, balanced between Lake Raleigh’s placid waters to the right and the sleek glossy profile of the Hunt Library’s modern façade on the left.

As the bus continues, Grubbs touches off a passionate discussion of Howling Cow Ice Cream. Isn’t it time to stop for lunch? Grubbs, manager of NC State’s new Onboarding Center, agrees. Soon she’s handing out tickets for a free lunch at Fountain Dining Hall as the bus motors down Sullivan Drive.

Welcome to the Pack

Over lunch, Grubbs shares her vision for the new center and talks about the challenges of helping new employees navigate their first few weeks at the university.

“The first month is information overload for them,” she says. “It will be so much easier for them to come to us. They’ll know exactly who to talk to and we’ll be available as long as they need us.”

Onboarding staff in Joyner Center.

Center staff show their Wolfpack pride. From left, Emily Harrell, Angela Nicholson, Chelsea Nuzum and Amy Grubbs.

Not only will the staff in the Onboarding Center handle new employee orientation, they’ll also create employee ID cards on site, verify employment eligibility and help with issues like parking, tax forms and benefit selection. And they’ll introduce new faculty and staff to an online checklist that automates many of the common steps involved in beginning employment.

The overarching goal, Grubbs says, is to help employees feel that they are part of an amazing organization.

“We want to help start that sense of Wolfpack pride,” she says. “Welcome to the Pack. That’s our motto.”

It helps that the Onboarding Center shares space in Joyner with Enrollment Management and Services, which operates the facility as a front door to the university, complete with informative kiosks, publications and programs for visitors and prospective students. The enrollment management staff generously agreed to share its conference rooms and tour buses for onboarding activities.

Service is Top Priority

Grubbs is joined in the endeavor by staff members she recruited from across campus: onboarding specialists Chelsea Nuzum from the Friday Institute, Angela Nicholson from HR and Emily Harrell from Campus Enterprises. The three are valued both for their warm personalities and their years of experience on campus.

“The biggest thing I was looking for was people committed to customer service,” Grubbs explains. “Service is our No. 1 priority.”

New employees mingle in Joyner Center.

Enrollment Management and Services generously offered to share the Joyner Visitor Center with the onboarding staff.

Grubbs and her team have the distinction of standing up the university’s first Business Operations Center – the first of seven centers focusing on particular human resource and finance areas.

“It’s been exciting to develop and fine tune the processes we’re going to follow in the center,” Grubbs says. “And it’s been fun building our team.”

The team is led by Nikki Price – the division’s human resources director – who worked with several volunteer committees of HR professionals, information technology experts and representatives of numerous campus offices to shepherd the complex project to completion. Organizational development professional Stephanie Kelber spearheaded the process improvement effort for more than a year. She’ll continue to provide assistance with training at the center.

More Consistent Experience

The reorganization had a lot of moving parts, but the payoff is a more consistent onboarding experience for employees, Grubbs says. Still, she’s leaving nothing to chance. Although her team now handles new employee orientation for everyone, for the first three months they’ll provide onboarding services on a pilot basis to just three entities on campus: the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the Office of Information Technology and the Facilities Division.

That will give the team a chance to refine processes and work out bugs without impacting the entire campus. Beginning in September the center will open its doors wider, providing onboarding assistance to all departments at NC State.

“We’re definitely monitoring our processes closely to make sure they work the way they’re designed to,” Grubbs says. “So far we’re getting very positive feedback.”

That sentiment is echoed by John Craig, the center’s first client, who started a new job in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology this week. As a recent graduate with a Master of Fine Arts, he already knows a lot about the culture at NC State. “But there were quite a few benefits I didn’t know about,” he says. “I’m really interested in the tuition waiver.”

The successful launch of this first BOC, Grubbs emphasizes, won’t be a single division’s accomplishment. Success, in this case, truly has parents all over campus, from central HR and finance to the many divisions, departments and colleges that make up NC State.

“For the Onboarding Center – and for the BOCS as a whole – the key is partnering with other campus units,” she says. “We don’t own all these processes but we partner with the people who do. Those partnerships are going well and we appreciate how open people are to collaborating and sharing services.”