Dienzo part of onboarding panel at ACWA conference

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Many companies and public agencies now have what is called an “onboarding” process to acquaint new hires with the company culture and other aspects of the entity, and three human resources directors including Eileen Dienzo, director of human resources with Rancho California Water District, comprised a Dec. 5 panel on the subject during the Dec. 3-6 Association of California Water Agencies fall conference in San Diego.

Dienzo was joined on the “Onboarding to Success – Improving the New Employee Experience” panel by Roberta Perez, human resources manager of Cucamonga Valley Water District, and Patricia Slaven, director of human resources and administration of ACWA Joint Powers Insurance Agency. ACWA Joint Powers Insurance Agency is legally a separate entity from ACWA although it works closely with ACWA and with ACWA member agencies.

“Onboarding has truly transformed over time,” Dienzo said.

Onboarding is the process of integrating new employees into the operation.

“What it means is we need to get new employees on the right track to provide value,” Dienzo said.

From a company benefit perspective onboarding not only increases the value of the staff members but also reduces turnover.

“Nowadays retention is not just about salaries and benefits,” Dienzo said. “It’s really about successfully assimilating employees into the culture.”

Slaven cited industry statistics that employees who have undergone the onboarding process are 59% more productive and 58% more likely to stay with the company or agency after three years, and she added that employees with onboarding experience have 63% better customer service feedback.

“They’re engaged. They’re ready to go,” she said.

Dienzo has been with the Rancho California Water District for nine years but has been a human resources professional for 25 years. She began her career with the city of Riverside and with the city of Rialto before joining the RCWD.

She said that human resources professionals now have an expanded role.

“It’s really beyond hiring and firing,” Dienzo said. “It’s really about developing a culture and incorporating a lot of the details.”

The development of a new employee includes familiarity with other departments. When Dienzo joined the RCWD she asked to be a ridealong with an operations crew and was told that the district had never previously done that.

“We need to make our employees feel valued and part of our team,” Dienzo said.

Dienzo said that the onboarding substance needs to be reflected in the words and actions of top-level management.

“We want to make sure that whatever I’m telling them it gets repeated,” she said.

The onboarding includes activities after the new employee is hired.

“It’s not going to be just a single event,” Dienzo said. “The initiation is not just one piece.”

The process could last for up to a year and could also include annual reviews.

“It’s going to take that time to get employees acclimated into that culture,” Dienzo said.

The culture is included in the interviews of the potential hires.

“That first interview is part of that onboarding process already,” Dienzo said.

The company culture includes vision, mission, and values.

“Now they know what truly their role is,” Dienzo said. “They actually feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves.”

Dienzo said that ACWA and other professional organizations assist human resources personnel as well as employees.

“They are actually helping us develop these trends,” she said. “We want to make sure that we’re keeping up with what’s relevant, what’s effective.”

“There is something about human resources professionals. We share information,” Perez said.

The onboarding process also applies to employees who are promoted to management.

The Cucamonga Valley Water District has approximately 130 employees. Dienzo’s previous positions had approximately 3,000 employees with the city of Riverside and about 500 employees with the city of Rialto; the Rancho California Water District has approximately 50 staff members.

“It’s such a nice place,” she said.

Joe Naiman can be reached by email at jnaiman@reedermedia.com.