The content below is a supplement to our Weekend Post article dated 24/05/2014.

An extract from an interview between Nicole Black, UK Market Manager for Mercer and journalist Phillipa Lamb (02/04/2014):

PL: Mercer is a global human resources consultancy firm specialising in talent, investments, retirement and health. They have 20,000 people around the world with about 3,000 here in the UK. Nicole Black is their UK market manager and she told me why they recently decided to revamp their induction process.

Nicole Black: I think it would be fair to say it was very PowerPoint heavy, so a lot of telling and not much interaction and obviously with a big complex business it is difficult to try and create something that is engaging that people from all across the different business lines and different levels can use and understand and keep their interest and engagement through that.

PL: An induction session at Mercer typically involves around 30 new starters. They’ll be welcomed by someone from the market leadership team who introduces them to the company and the ways they can make the most of their career at Mercer. Then the newcomers take part in networking activities and icebreakers and cover some essential compliance basics. After that the bulk of the induction revolves around a brand new tool called The Big Picture. I’ve seen this Big Picture and it literally is a big picture isn’t it?

NB: It is.

PL: It’s a huge space and it goes on the wall, very colourful. Describe it for me.

NB: The Big Picture itself is a big picture, it’s probably about a metre and a half by a metre, it’s very colourful, very bold and I guess the best way that I can describe it is it’s a visual representation, a drawing of our strategy and of the things that are important to Mercer and for colleagues to know about.

PL: Nicole told me more about how the Big Picture works.

NB: We start off by getting people into groups and we actually lay it on the table face down so people don’t quite know what they’re in for, and then we get initial reactions, turn it over, get initial reactions, and then very quickly we go into section one which is all about our vision, where we’re going. It covers key things like our mission and our vision and our values and it also brings out some of the key focus areas for the business over the next five years. But it’s not a telling thing, it’s very much self-directed learning. So we get each person in the group, which is typically between eight to ten colleagues and they go through a series of different activities, reading out cards, discussing things as they go along, and so it’s much more engaging than listening to someone talk about the content.

PL: This induction method is a brand new innovation for Mercer and when I met Nicole they’d just launched the Big Picture idea so it’s early days but I asked her how people had engaged with it so far and what Mercer is hoping to achieve.

NB: It was probably by about eight minutes in that we really saw people engage and that was when we put down an activity that had a whole heap of different statements about our company and some numbers that we needed to get them to put in to fill in the blanks. And so immediately we like a bit of competition, we want to get things right and you’ve got colleagues from different areas who have different pieces of knowledge, they start working on this together and suddenly they’re engaged with it and the content material and really thinking about actually how many clients do we have? And those types of things, rather than just telling them.

PL: So this half day, I mean from what you’re telling me there’s a whole range of activities and it’s collaborative and it’s great, people walk out with a picture of the organisation, where they fit and what you’re trying to do, what else are you trying to give them? I mean what would you feel would be a successful outcome of it?

NB: Some of the challenges that we have as a business is we do have different lines of business within our organisation so making sure that people really understand what Mercer does across the lines of business not just the one that I happen to work in.

PL: So it’s really anti silo?

NB: Absolutely yeah and increasingly to solve the issues of our clients. We need to work together in getting that outside in, you know, how does our client actually think about the issues they’re facing and therefore how can we best help them rather than the other way round which is we have these capabilities and solutions what can we sell? So that’s really important. So I think that’s a definite key thing. I think the other thing is for people to really see that we are an exciting business to be in. We do have good growth potential and a plan of how we’re going to get there and that actually everyone has a role. And I think what these materials do is really make that clear, give people a chance to unpack it and come away feeling, I have joined a company that knows where it’s going and with good prospects for growth.

For more about how to effectively bring new employees into your organisation, look out for Deirdre Elphick-Moore’s article in an upcoming edition of the Weekend Post (published in Port Elizabeth). You may also contact us on

A new approach to “onboarding new hires”
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