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News | Jan. 20, 2022

Continuous Process Improvement project improves efficiencies, effectiveness of new employees and teams

By John Dwyer III DLA Troop Support Public Affairs

What are the organizational impacts of new employee onboarding delays, and how can the processes improve? That is exactly the question the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support Continuous Process Improvement team asked in 2018, and ultimately answered December 2021.

Six projects and a little more than two years later, the impacts are an estimated $2.7 million in cost offsets over a three-year period, and several weeks of productivity per new employee, CPI Branch Chief Maximo Ayala-Ortiz said.

“We had to be honest with ourselves. How much was it costing the agency … to take an average of 37 days to get [new employees] ‘fully functional,’” Ayala-Ortiz said.

The initial request for CPI’s expertise was specific to bringing new employees into DLA’s Pathways to Career Excellence Program, and grew to study the onboarding of other employees as well. All told, the improvements identified reduced “Phase 1” onboarding time by 83%, Ayala-Ortiz said.

He described “Phase 1” onboarding as the time ranging from a new employee’s first day physically “in the seat” to the time they had the most basic resources – things like a government ID card, laptop, mobile device and systems and software access - to start training and operating within the agency.

While DLA has several excellent training programs that fully encompass the processes and actions required for bringing in new employees, he said, most supervisors don’t use the processes often enough to develop or maintain “muscle memory.”

“Part of the problem is that supervisors are not onboarding new employees regularly,” Ayala-Ortiz said. “They’re doing it once every few months or years. There may be a lack of understanding or familiarity.”

To help better understand the process themselves, CPI enlisted the assistance of DLA Human Resources Specialist Andrea Firth and the DLA Troop Support Organizational Alignment team supervised, at that time, by Christina Miller.

“Our (HR) contributions were more so mapping out the hiring process early on,” Firth said. “I think it helped them more clearly identify the roles and responsibilities and added clarity to help identify areas of improvement during the onboarding process.”

Miller and the OA team were involved in the mapping process as well and worked with CPI to find where and how those improvements could be made.

“We figured out what the hiccups were, what the challenges were … and we established a conversation about how to overcome them,” Miller said.

Established onboarding checklists would help “set everyone up for success at every level,” she said, and avoid situations like those she had experienced in her career.

“One time I received an employee in a different career field from the team I was supervising,” Miller said. “I went through as much of the onboarding as I could, but about two weeks later it was determined that the new employee should have been assigned to a different team. I could’ve saved time for me, the employee and the organization if I’d had a desk guide or written [Standard Operating Procedure] for the process.”

Those types of products are part of the prescribed improvements identified by CPI, Ayala-Ortiz said.

“We are working to help formalize products such as a desk guide and a training curriculum to compliment and go beyond the very helpful DLA [Enterprise Newcomers Getting A Global Entrance] products that the agency already uses,” Ayala-Ortiz said.

He said ENGAGE is an excellent tool for a ‘Global Entrance’ to DLA, as the program’s title suggests, and CPI is hoping to help create an increased awareness of the program while creating more tactical guidance to go with it and help first-line supervisors with the specifics of the onboarding process.

Ayala-Ortiz and Miller were both grateful for the teamwork and hopeful about the potential impacts of the CPI projects.

“It really was a great experience,” Miller said. “I learned a lot about the whole [hiring and onboarding] process. The importance of what they’re working on … That whole onboarding process is critical.”

While some of the initial projects were completed as of December 2021, others related to varied aspects of the onboarding process and are still ongoing.

DLA Troop Support employees can access CPI resources and information at eWorkplace, and even submit projects for CPI consideration using the “Submit an Idea” button listed on the page.