HR Answers: Revamping New-Hire Training

manager shaking hands and greeting new hires at the office
By Peggy Pascale , Kellyanne Labenski

6 minutes

Affinity FCU creates onboarding program to provide stability, clarity and resources to new recruits.

Many would agree that the world turned upside down in 2020, so last year, Affinity Federal Credit Union started brainstorming how to move forward at a time when most of us were still getting re-oriented. Affinity’s People & Culture team put the focus on attracting, onboarding and retaining top talent that aligned with our culture of accountability and well-being.

Taking into consideration the new hybrid work environment, the Great Resignation and our CU’s ambitious goals for growth, our team started with a vision: to leave the new hires saying, “Wow—I really made a great decision by accepting a job at Affinity FCU. I feel prepared to begin adding value immediately.”

That vision prompted us to create ways we could intentionally welcome new hires to an environment of stability and clarity at a time when little was stable or clear. It was time to move past the Great Resignation and begin the Great Regeneration. We targeted our new program to kick off with our first new hires of 2022, who began employment on Jan. 4.

Finding and Welcoming Top Talent

To get started, we first looked closely at our hiring and onboarding process at various stages from the perspectives of candidates and new hires and asked some key questions:

  • How do we get the attention of top talent?
  • Can we provide them with helpful information about Affinity upon acceptance?
  • Can we make a smooth hand-off from acceptance to job performance?
  • What is included in a comprehensive orientation?
  • What information do new hires need to learn—about our culture, our structure and our outreach?
  • How do we accommodate their unique training needs based on role?
  • And how do we make this process interesting, welcoming and fun?

We knew one thing for sure: From recruitment to first impressions, our new hires needed to experience a seamless onboarding process. But first, we created a more visible recruitment strategy by advertising on LinkedIn, Indeed and other sites. We also reexamined and upgraded our human capital management system, so we could leverage capabilities that helped us exchange information with the new hire well before their first day. Then, we created a digital onboarding experience to welcome new hires to the organization and enable them to easily complete paperwork remotely/digitally.

As a result of this new digital experience, we have even gained efficiencies, especially in our onboarding platforms. New hires can now navigate our learning management system to complete on-demand courses on their first day. Prior to this upgrade, new hires did not have access to our LMS until the end of their first week of employment.

Since we did not know if we would be hosting the new hires in-person or virtually due to the pandemic, we prepared for both environments. Each had unique characteristics. For a welcoming in-person experience, we created a “business center” by updating a section of our headquarters, located near our training rooms, by equipping it with workstations, office supplies and access to an updated library of books. This provides the new hires an area they can use to complete their on-demand training, check their email and explore our resources. We also refreshed our training rooms with a coat of paint and updated systems. In addition, we gave the training environment a nostalgic feel by showcasing memorabilia, awards and resources we use as the foundation for culture development.

In preparing for a virtual experience, we developed a process with our IT team to ensure all new hires were properly outfitted with the necessary systems and equipment, which would be shipped to their homes so they would be ready to participate on their first day of employment. In a virtual training environment, the need for engagement is crucial and requires thoughtful design that includes videos, breakout activities and games.

Orientation Overhaul

The design of our new orientation offers a balance of live sessions and on-demand training. Selected employee experts serve as guest speakers who provide overviews of such topics as the history of credit unions and Affinity FCU and an overview of our total rewards package as well as our products and services. We also intentionally included modules addressing culture, organizational structure and—the highlight of every orientation—a visit from our executive leadership team. A social component was also added to one of the afternoons of this four-day orientation program. We host a virtual happy hour, which includes snacks mailed to the new hires’ homes to enjoy during the event. This happy hour provides new hires an opportunity to meet employees from a variety of areas within the credit union. By the end of the week, the new hires not only gain a clear understanding of Affinity, but they also leave feeling well-connected to their fellow new hires.

In addition to these newly formed orientation-week connections, new hires are matched with a buddy through our newly developed Buddy Program. This program is comprised of a group of volunteers throughout the credit union who serve as ambassadors for the new hires during their first couple of months. This provides not only an opportunity for our current employees to develop their leadership skills but extra support for the new hires.

Hands-On Training

Once they have completed a comprehensive four-day new hire orientation, new frontline employees from our contact center and branches attend a week of in-person, hands-on systems training. Since both areas are responsible for working directly with our members, we made the decision that both groups would attend the same training, which supports the initiative of providing consistency and alignment in our processes and procedures to create the optimal member experience. During this training, employees learn about our systems and how to navigate the different platforms effectively to assist members.

Throughout the week, new employees complete hands-on activities and assessments to measure knowledge retention, whether that is by accessing data within our core system, using our customer relationship management system to submit referrals and follow ups, making calls through our phone system, or demonstrating how to prevent fraud or handle oneself in a robbery situation. Upon completion, frontline employees then return to their departments, where they can observe interactions, listen in on calls and apply what they learned.

To ease the transition from training to being on the job and to further drive consistency, management is provided with resources to support the onboarding process. Managers receive a calendar of events that highlights key activities the new employees should focus on. On each new day/week, the new hire can apply learned concepts and build upon their knowledge. After they have had the opportunity to apply their learning, frontline employees then return for additional training to build upon their systems knowledge and elevate their product/service understanding.

As new hires acclimate to their new roles at Affinity, ongoing support is provided through their managers, assigned buddies, our LMS and our People & Culture team. We are confident in our new onboarding process. We strongly believe that regardless of an in-person or virtual environment, we have developed the components necessary to leave new hires saying, “I can’t wait to serve the members of Affinity!”

Peggy Pascale is a CUES member and part of the People & Culture team at Affinity FCU as a learning & growth specialist, primarily focused on supporting employee growth in leadership competencies as well as influencing Affinity’s culture development.

Kellyanne Labenski is a CUES member and learning solutions manager at Affinity FCU who believes that everyone is capable of learning—they just need to have the drive, tools and support.

$3.7 billion Affinity Federal Credit Union, Basking Ridge, New Jersey, is a full-service, member-owned and community-focused financial institution with a mission to nurture your financial well-being. With more than 20 branches across the tri-state area, Affinity FCU is the largest credit union headquartered in the state of New Jersey, proudly ranking in the top 2% of all credit unions in terms of asset size. The Affinity difference is about people helping people on a deeper level and understanding what YOU need to make your unique dreams a reality. For more information, please visit

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