The first impression a new employee has is usually a lasting impression.   In 1999, Carmichael Lynch Spong (CLS), the Twin Cities’ fourth-largest public relations agency and ranked 75th largest in the nation, created a new employee orientation program.  New Agent Training was designed to provide new employees with the tools necessary to practice the “CLS Way.” This award-winning program gives the staffers what they need to become acclimated and productive faster and have the tools and information necessary to produce best-in-category work for CLS’s select list of big-name clients.
• In CLS’s  October 1998 employee orientation survey, staff members said they felt CLS did a good job on the first day of employment, but improvements were needed training to handle day-to-day practices and procedures.
• Staffers also said they would like to see the CLS introduction last more than one day.  Most indicated they weren’t always sure where and who to consult for information.
• In CLS’s annual client audit, clients said they wanted CLS staffers to have solid business acumen, creative thinking and practice exceptional project management skills.
• The client audit also indicated that retaining talent on a project is extremely important.
• A 1998 Retention Survey conducted by Manchester Partners International cited among the top methods that employers are using to retain employees are better orientation programs.  In today’s low unemployment economy, this is a critical component in obtaining and retaining skilled employees in a variety of functions.
• An informal audit of CLS’s local and national competition indicated that few firms offer a program as comprehensive as CLS’s New Agent Training.
New Agent Training was designed to provide staffers the tools necessary to become accustomed to and practice the “CLS Way.”
  • Challenge and motivate staffers with a convenient, organized and fun new employee orientation and training program.
  • Achieve 100 percent participation in New Agent Training.
  • Attract new talent by using New Agent Training as a recruiting tool.
  • Reduce the cost of recruiting and training new employees through a reduced turnover rate.
  • New Agent Training, CLS’s interactive new orientation and training program benefits staffers with a convenient, organized and fun way to learn.
Create and launch the New Agent Training program based on CLS employee and client’s goal to produce best in category work.
Target Audiences
  • Primary: All new CLS staffers; average age of 35 and 7.5 years of experience.
  • Secondary: Prospective CLS employees; an average of 15 candidates per year who build the bench for future employment.
Create and launch the New Agent Training program based on CLS employees and clients needs to produce best in category work.
Identity: A New Agent Training identity was designed to integrate the program and excite CLS staffers.  The identity was applied to an introduction package, a reference guide and nine orientation sessions.
Program Structure: CLS’s New Agent Training committee designed the program structure to include a “Welcome to CLS” package for each new employee on the first day.  The package includes free coupons to local retailers and parking, maps of downtown, a comprehensive list of where to go for banking needs, restaurants and CLS staffers recommendations on where to entertain clients. 
A customized directory of CLS professional services was developed as a reference guide.  The directory is an easy to use guide for frequently asked questions on where to find and who to go to for information.  This includes accounting, human resources, travel and policy questions.
Nine customized programs were developed to train employees on key business practices.  The programs all carry the “agent” theme.  1) Get Smart, The CLS Way on account management; presented by a partner 2) Meeting Q!, Interactive Department presented by the director of CLS interactive 3) The Reporter who Loved Me presented by CLS’s director of Media Relations 4) Goldfinger – CLS’s approach to award winning programs presented by a senior counselor 5) From Creative Services with Love – how to work with CLS’s creative services department presented by creative services manager 6) Miss Money Penny –understanding administrative procedures presented by the Office Manager 7) Dr. Evil’s Pleasure Dome -an insight to the firm’s history presented by the managing partner 8) I Spy New Business -the CLS approach to new business presented by the director of new business 9) 007 meets 008 - accounting procedures made easy presented by a member of the accounting department.
Rollout and Schedule: New Agent Training was introduced at an all-staff meeting in May 1999. A teaser package with spy glasses and a mysterious scroll invitation was placed on each employee’s desk.  Attendance was 100% at the kick-off meeting.   By June 1, 1999 all new employees were introduced to the program and participating in the orientation sessions.
Orientation sessions were scheduled for each new employee over his or her first eight weeks of employment.
Ongoing Program Enhancement
Surveys were handed out at each of the nine sessions.  The input was used to evaluate the session information.  The customized directory of services was designed with a three ring binder to allow pages to be easily replaced when needed.
Objective 1) Challenge and motivate staffers with a convenient, organized and fun new employee orientation program.
  • Nearly 80 percent of employees said the sessions provided new ideas and information that will be valuable in their work.
  • Nearly 80 percent said the program met their expectations.
  • Nearly 90 percent said they felt New Agent Training was a valuable use of their time.                                 
“The session was very informative and I will be able to apply today what I learned.”                                
Objective 2) Achieve 100 percent participation in New Agent Training.
100 percent of new employees since June 1999  have participated in New Agent Training.
95 percent have completed all of the training sessions.
Objective 3)  Attract new talent by using New Agent Training as a recruiting tool.
Nine employees started in 1999; all inquired about CLS’s training and orientation program and cited New Agent Training as an important consideration for joining the agency.  All nine employees are still employed with CLS.
Objective 4)  Reduce the cost of training a new employee through a reduced turnover rate.
Turnover for 1999 was at a low rate of 12% as compared to the public relations industry average turnover rate of approximately 30%.