A program that began as an innovative approach to new employee onboarding two years ago has since become a secret weapon for integrating new team members in the COVID-19 pandemic environment.
Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Corona Division’s sponsorship program aims to better welcome new employees and immerse them in team culture from the day they get the job. And, while it isn’t news to anyone that reporting to a new job can be daunting, forging new bonds, working relationships and friendships in a socially-distanced pandemic setting can be a little more difficult. NSWC Corona’s sponsorship program ensures every new team member has someone ready to show them the ropes and the program can be executed virtually.
“Corona’s sponsorship program is really centered on creating a welcoming environment for new employees as they integrate into our team, but it also fosters a culture of inclusion that enhances employee engagement at all levels,” said Corporate Operations Director Tomas Beauchamp.
Immediately upon selection for hire, human resources personnel work with the incoming employee’s supervisor to determine a suitable sponsor within their division. Ideally, the sponsor will not only belong to the same work group, but will have familiarity with the new employee’s position, duties or processes so they can better assist the new team member. The new hire is then notified that they are paired with a sponsor and provided with contact information and an introduction.
“Personally, I moved a lot throughout my career, and there is always that uneasy feeling of the unknown when you’re coming into a new organization because you don’t know what to expect,” said Human Resources Director Liza Rosa. “We hire talented employees from all over the world and never want anyone to feel alone or uninformed during the process, so this program gives you a sponsor right off the bat who can help alleviate those feelings. Immediately upon selection, you’ve already got someone you can count on to help you and guide you. They know the organization, they know your division, and they know everything you’re going to need to know when you get here.”
Part of the post-selection hiring process also includes a new employee questionnaire. The form is used to capture some of the employee’s skills, background, work history and even hobbies, family and interests. The questionnaires are shared not only with sponsors and the chain of command, but also with department and division heads. The idea, Rosa said, is to provide background for casual conversation while also learning about the new team member.
“Nobody is just a name here, and we try to make that very clear when someone is coming on board,” said Rosa. “Work is a very large part of many peoples’ lives, so we endeavor to make the onboarding process a warm, genuine and personal experience. We all know who they are, where they’re coming from and even what sports teams they like before they walk through the door. It’s part of the blueprint for what we do and it contributes to the teambuilding effort.”
Once assigned, sponsors make immediate contact and follow a consistent check-in drumbeat with regular communication between the sponsor and new employee conducted via phone calls, text messages or virtual platforms.
“When COVID came and some of the more in-person interaction was reduced, it became more important than ever to check in consistently with our employees and continue that mentorship and professional interaction,” said Rosa. “This program gives you a sense of still having that regular interaction with colleagues, even when we’re not on base. We’ve been able to follow all the steps we set forth in this program throughout the pandemic setting without loss of efficiency or results.”
Both sponsors and new hires provide documented feedback biweekly to the workforce development team. The feedback assists the command with ongoing program development and captures lessons learned, while also providing supervisors with an opportunity to mitigate any issues as they arise.
“Employees who feel valued are happy employees, and happy employees are productive employees,” said Rosa. “Productive employees work together to fulfill the unique NSWC Corona mission and support our nation’s warfighters. So, in the end, it’s not just a sponsorship program. It really is much bigger than that.”
Rosa said the sponsorship program helps to ensure a new team member’s first glimpse at the organization is a positive one. The human resources and workforce development teams conduct regular training on roles and responsibilities of sponsors and peer mentors, and the sponsorship program has been integrated into the monthly command supervisory continuum.
While sponsors serve as guides through the initial transition into Team Corona for the initial period of three months, they often become unofficial mentors and coaches as the employees navigate and progress in their careers. The command’s workforce development team hopes this program can be used as a best practice across multiple commands.
“As we have seen throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the command’s sponsorship program provides another avenue for our workforce to stay connected, fosters innovation, and enhances workforce engagement,” said Beauchamp. “That all results in our employees being able to feel and perform at their personal best.”
NSWC Corona Division has served as the Navy's independent assessment agent since 1964. With more than 3,800 engineers, scientists and support personnel, Sailors and contractors, NSWC Corona is located in Norco, California, with detachments in Fallbrook and Seal Beach and personnel in 14 additional locations. The Naval Sea Systems Command field activity provides transparency for warfighting readiness through data analytics and assessment, engineers the fleet’s Live Virtual Constructive training environment, and assures the accuracy of measurements as the engineering advisor for the Navy and Marine Corps metrology and calibration programs.