Acculturation initiative drives better talent management

  • Published
  • By Marisa Alia-Novobilski
  • Air Force Materiel Command

It’s often said that you never get a second chance to make a great first impression.

For the Air Force Materiel Command, making sure new employees receive a great first impression is key to talent management and the driving force behind the continued success of the enterprise acculturation initiative.

Launched in late 2019, the AFMC acculturation effort focuses directly on the experiences of new employees from initial contact through the first two years of employment. The intent is to ensure new hires have the tools, knowledge and resources available to support them as they begin to contribute to missions across the spectrum and throughout their two-year probationary period of work.

“Through this program we help new employees to get familiar with the organization, our people and the AFMC and Air Force culture. It’s a holistic approach and includes all aspects of bringing a new employee onto the Air Force team,” said Amanda Smith-Nethercott, AFMC Career Development Manager. “We have standardized procedures across the command and created a toolbox of resources to support new hires as well as their supervisors in ensuring a great experience for employees as they immerse themselves into the AFMC culture and onto their work team. The response has been tremendously positive across the board.”

A 2018 review of AFMC civilian on-boarding revealed a lack of consistency in processes and trainings for new hires across the command. Employees often experienced long wait times to obtain base and Air Force network systems access, training delays and more, limiting their ability to be fully productive members of the AFMC team. Many employees also lacked a full understanding of the command’s missions and the impacts of AFMC on the success of the entire Air Force enterprise.

By leveraging technology and standardizing new hire procedures across the command, the acculturation initiative has reduced timelines for newcomer base and system access; increased access to mission, training and benefits information; improved readiness of supervisors and work teams to accommodate new employees; and increased satisfaction with the on-boarding process across the board. Virtual new employee orientation programs were established at each AFMC location, ensuring new hires received the information and support they needed to work at the command, despite many starting employment in non-standard environments due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“COVID-19 provided us with challenges, but at the same time it forced us to look at new ways of reaching our personnel. Many of these new practices based in technology will continue for the long haul,” said Smith-Nethercott.

While a number of initiatives have impacted the success of the acculturation effort, the team attributes a large part to their novel Newcomers Feature on the USAF Connect mobile application. As job offers are accepted, new employees are invited to download the application to access information ranging from pre-employment paperwork to benefits information, facility maps, command information videos and more. The newcomer feature continues to rank as the most used on the AFMC instance of USAF Connect, and the team has received multiple requests from Air Force as well as external government agencies who desire to duplicate it for their own use.

“The app has probably made the biggest impact on our efforts to reach new employees and ensure that they can track and complete required paperwork prior to orientation day,” said Lindsay McNeely, AFMC Workforce Development Specialist. “The checklists keep them on-track and the ability to reach out for support directly through the app has really made the new hire process much smoother across the board.”

To augment current efforts, the acculturation team published a new employee handbook that provides comprehensive information on the command and all aspects of Air Force Civilian Service, setting the foundation for a successful career. A new assessment is also at the final stages of development, to be sent to employees at the completion of their two-year probationary period.

“We currently collect data from new employees and their supervisors at the 30-day point to assess satisfaction with the on-boarding processes and timelines. We continue to receive high marks in categories ranging from job satisfaction to customer service and more,” said Smith-Nethercott. “The two-year assessment will help us identify areas where we need to drive greater focus as we support our new hires throughout the acculturation process.”

The AFMC acculturation team has also chartered an external working group with representatives from across the mission set to help identify shortfalls in efforts and to develop and implement new processes to address command needs. Additionally, the team is working with the command diversity, equity and inclusion officer to develop a training video for new hires on diversity and inclusion and continues to work with the Air Education and Training Command to leverage best practices and improve new hire experiences across the enterprise.

“The bottom line is that talent management matters. An employee’s early experience with an organization sets the stage for their future success, and we want to do all we can to make sure that our civilians have the foundation to achieve and succeed at AFMC,” said Bill Snodgrass, AFMC Director of Manpower, Personnel and Services. “This is an ongoing effort and key to the AFMC We Need. We need to prime our people and our mission for success, and that starts on day one.”