Employee Orientation Is an Ongoing Process at The DuPont Merck Pharmaceutical Co.

May 1, 1994
When Wilmington, Delaware-based E. I. DuPont De Nemours & Company Inc., and Whitehouse Station, New Jersey-based Merck & Company Inc. formed DuPont Merck Pharmaceutical Co. in January 1991, they began operations with approximately 4,300 employees. The new enterprise needed all its employees to hit the ground running with a clear understanding of their responsibilities. In addition, because 85% of its work force transferred over from DuPont, the new company needed to synthesize and rechannel the talents and energy of these employees, as well as those who came from Merck.

To ensure complete acclimation for employees of DuPont Merck, Sonia Koplowicz, orientation programs manager, recognized a need for a comprehensive, consistent orientation process. She solicited proposals from vendors and selected a design team headed by R.C. Taylor & Associates, training and development consultants in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Together, they conceived a three-tiered approach to new employee orientation they call orienteering, a process of introducing new employees to their work units, divisions and the company as a whole.

Work-unit orienteering shapes an employee's perception of the company and his or her role in it.
During this first tier of the process, which begins when an employee is hired, employees gain a clear sense of direction, define objectives, identify resources and assimilate company values. They're coached by their supervisor, a sponsor and an administrative coordinator who form an orienteering team to help the employee transition smoothly into the new environment and quickly become a valuable contributor.

To aid in the work-unit orienteering process, Koplowicz and R.C. Taylor worked with West Chester, Pennsylvania-based The Writing Center Inc. and Bensalem, Pennsylvania-based Feeney/ Megelsh Design to develop an orienteering kit. The kit's design incorporates four posters associated with the company's mission and vision, and the orienteering process's title, "The Road Taken." The kit contains a video, "Making a Great First Impression," which contrasts the usual one- or two-day orientation event with a customized orienteering process in which new employees are guided by a dedicated team, four booklets containing guidelines for each team member and an Implementation Guide.

The guide serves as a training manual for the employee's supervisor. It summarizes the advantages of an effective orienteering process and explains how to customize the process for each new employee, how to form the work-unit orienteering team and how to define each team member's role. In addition, it contains a master checklist that summarizes team members' key actions.

To create the checklist, Koplowicz drew upon the expertise and experience of innumerable resources within DuPont Merck, such as compensation experts and benefits specialists. Information that they indicated should be conveyed to new employees included: administrative services available; the budgeting/financial process; how to obtain business cards/personal stationery; travel procedures; tuition reimbursement procedures; and the work schedule. Koplowicz organized this information by two criteria: who should provide the information and when the information should be provided.

Company orienteering ensures that all employees adapt to DuPont Merck's culture.
Through presentations complemented by three videos, a workbook and handouts, the employees learn during this second tier how they as individuals, their jobs and their work units contribute to meeting their company's goals. This half-day segment is scheduled after the employee has been on the job for 30 to 90 days. By then, the employee has assimilated knowledge of the company's goals, mission and shared values and has enough work experience to understand the company message.

The company segment includes:

  • Pre- and post-program assignments to ensure preparation and follow-up
  • A short welcome by a member of the executive management committee
  • Overviews of company history, culture, product development and the industry
  • A one-hour Break-N-Learn for which human resources managers at display booths provide take-away materials and informally answer questions about their groups' responsibilities and services.

Company orienteering is followed by a divisional segment.
Sometime between 30 to 60 days after the company segment, a new employee's supervisor schedules a half- to full-day division orienteering program. The purpose of this third tier is to help the employee bring the company goals and vision into focus at the division level. The structure of this event is left open to each division as long as they follow these guidelines:

  • Reinforce the company goals/vision
  • Share and refine the employee's personal commitment statements
  • Incorporate division objectives.

Through DuPont Merck's three-tiered employee-orienteering process, Koplowicz and her design team have gone beyond a one- or two-day orientation program to ensure DuPont Merck's employees a work environment in which everyone knows the company values, vision and goals. Says Bill DeLorbe, vice president of human resources for the The DuPont Merck Pharmaceutical Co.: "We're creating an environment built on quality, diversity and performance that allows us to recruit, motivate, retain and recognize our people. That's the key to our success."

Personnel Journal , May 1994, Vol.73, No. 5, p. 67.