Boot camp helps new recruits

EMC Canada shapes up employees for future leadership roles
By John Ewald
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 02/10/2014

When people hear the term “boot camp,” they typically picture military recruit training. But for global IT infrastructure solution provider EMC, the term refers to its innovative, standardized approach to ensuring new hires are well-prepared and equipped for the job.

As a global company, EMC has more than 60,000 employees in 86 countries around the world including Canada, the United States and India. And for a large organization, it is crucial to ensure there is a standardized process for career development and employee recruitment and retention.

With this in mind, EMC in 2004 developed a Global Services Associate Program (GSAP) to evaluate and assess the performance of new hires, according to Adam Wellwood, senior manager of human resources and corporate security officer at EMC Canada in Toronto.

“GSAP is a multi-week training boot camp program that helps EMC effectively prepare new recruits to the company. It’s a scalable hiring approach with the aim of providing technical training, performance management and accelerated time to productivity.”

Regardless of their location, new hires are sent to EMC’s Franklin, Mass., headquarters for the training, which relies on a structured format with an eye toward facilitating accelerated learning, says Wellwood.

“The goal is to build out the bottom of the workforce pyramid, at the early stages — ramping them up to be future leaders within EMC.”

Going into the program, new recruits have already been assessed for their technical and problem-solving capabilities, as well as strong communication and customer relations skills.

The GSAP initiative is designed to take onboarding a step further by introducing new hires to the EMC work culture via role-based training in technology, services and best practices.

New hires are paid their regular salary and receive a weekly expense allowance. The on-site component of the GSAP lasts between five and eight weeks, depending on the position.

The complete program length is around 18 to 24 months — associates are expected to complete boot camp and successfully meet expectations for the duration of the program, and also remain at the organization for at least three years from time of hire.

“GSAP is more than just a training program,” says Janine Paye, GSAP director in Toronto.

“Associates must complete assessments and lab exercises during boot camp as a means of demonstrating their learning; however, the learning and feedback does not stop there.

Associates have a formal mentor assigned to them at the end of the boot camp. Associates also receive regular feedback from their manager in the form of bi-annual performance assessments for the duration of the program.”

There is a lot of structure, from transitioning to the respective field offices, one-on-one coaching sessions, to ongoing mentor programs for the associates, says Wellwood.

The range of staff who participate in the program include associate systems engineers, associate project managers and associate customer service engineers, associate delivery specialists and technical support engineers. Training groups can be as small as 12 or as large as 48, and of different cultures and languages from all of EMC’s global offices.

Acclimation to culture, values, products

New recruits become acclimated to EMC’s culture, core values and products. This also includes soft skills such as business etiquette, customer management and presentation skills training.

“As an employee, the soft-skills work, such as delivering presentations and whiteboarding skills, was something I really found useful,” says Darryl Pinto, associate systems engineer at EMC Canada in Toronto.

“Given that the role of IT is changing in our industry, we need the technical skills and the soft skills as well, especially if we’re dealing with customers.”

The GSAP goes deeper than traditional onboarding programs by investing in employees and ensuring staff retention remains high.

GSAP team leads are on hand to provide coaching and leadership along the way, while the new hires practise technical and professional skills.

And the peer-to-peer interaction and networking opportunities often prove invaluable for many of the participants.

“There was a greater sense of community between my peers and also the team leads,” says GSAP alumna Laura Pudlo, a project manager at EMC Canada in Toronto.

“We had a great class that studied together and had dinners together. After GSAP boot camp, we would also organize monthly calls between the students to discuss best practices we have learned on the job. This way, we were not all making the same mistakes but could learn from each other in the field.”

Companies such as EMC realize it is more cost-effective to invest in and develop staff within the organization, especially considering that the cost of employee turnover often outweighs the cost of creating a career development program.

And when it comes to attracting and recruiting top talent, taking a comprehensive and ongoing approach to career development can help new staff acclimatize to the company’s culture and methodologies — while ensuring they are well-trained, productive and motivated.

John Ewald is a Franklin, Mass.-based senior team lead (marketing) for the Global Services Associate Program at EMC.

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