What a difference a week can make.

Vancity Staff

Vancity staff at one of our new prototype branches.

Late last year, Vancity launched its new Employee Immersion program. Up until that time, we had a pretty traditional employee orientation. Sometime in the first few weeks on the job, new employees spent a day learning about the organization, our benefits packages, where they fit into the organizational structure.

As a mission-driven organization, we needed a way for new employees to deeply experience the organization they are joining. Last year, HR led the way to a very different way of thinking. All new employees now have fixed hire dates, and their first week on the job is at our Immersion program with a cohort of other employees from across the organization. They spend a week learning about the co-operative principles, the history of Vancity, our vision of Redefining Wealth, our model of values-based banking. They visit community partners to learn how Vancity invests in community organizations to help them create positive impact in our community. They spend a day at a branch and a half day at the call centre to learn how our member service ties back to our approach. They map out the impact Vancity can have in community (a module I helped co-create and deliver regularly). They immerse themselves in what Vancity is, so, when they actually start their jobs the following week, they understand how to best apply themselves to help achieve our vision and strategies.

At the end of that intense week, if new employees are not excited about what they experience and what the organization is doing, we’ll thank them, and pay them a small fee for their time and lost-opportunity cost. We recognize that the Vancity vision isn’t for everyone, and it’s okay if some people opt out of the organization based on their experience of the Immersion week, because in order to achieve what we’re attempting we need people who are engaged and committed and rowing in the same direction. So far, however, no one has opted out.

Because its such a transformational program, not just new employees are getting “immersed” this year, but also all people changing roles in the organization and all people leaders. That way we level-set the entire organization around our mission, and engage all our people in our strategies and business model. It’s a hell of an investment, one that I believe will pay off.

This week, I’ve been attending the Immersion program in one of three senior leader sessions held this year. It’s been an honour spending time with peers and colleagues, challenging each other to look at what we’re doing differently, learning more about the organization I’ve worked at for more than seven years and growing in my understanding of our potential to continuously improve the way we serve our members and the organizations and businesses in our communities.

It’s an exciting time to be at Vancity, we’re leaning further and further into our mission. I know at times I can seem perhaps like too much of a Vancity cheerleader, but programs like this Immersion and the areas we’re investing in to become a social-purpose financial institution are a strong reason why I’m so passionate, committed and inspired.

13 comments

  1. JP Lasaleta says:

    Thanks for sharing Willam!

  2. William says:

    Thanks Greg and JP!

  3. Ron Shevlin says:

    Awesome. Hey, I’m curious about something: Do any Vancity employees work from home?

  4. Matt Monge says:

    Very cool, Will. We’re moving in a similar direction at Mazuma for many of the same reasons. Glad to know we’re in good company. :)

  5. Mark Orlan says:

    William, this approach to on-boarding new employees clearly will help Vancity break down the silos that limit the profitability of most organizations. If you can begin to transform an organization right from the hiring process, and encourage open, cross-departmental communication, you’ll be building a strong culture that can only help maintain Vancity’s leadership position for the long term. This is real sustainable transformation…not those band-aid approaches that are promised to be completed in a year or two. Bravo to you and the leadership team!

    • William says:

      Thanks Mark. It’s been a huge amount of work for HR and many across the organization, but I believe it will be transformational.

  6. Bobby C says:

    Awesome! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Chad says:

    Great idea. Too often new hires are given a quick tour, a manual, and orientated to the tasks of their new role — I think this is the standard in many organizations. To take the time to get 30,000 foot view of the organization, values, impacts, and work stream help the whole thing fit together and make sense. Let us know if you’d ever like us to host a tour for the new hires as a VanCity supported community organization.

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