About three months ago, I walked in the door of Hawaiian Airlines as their new Director of Employee Benefits. Before doing so, I heard everything from ‘Hawaii is very different than the mainland’ to ‘working for an airline is not like anything you have ever experienced.’ They weren’t wrong, but this doesn’t mean I am ready to run back to the mainland. Why? Because as I walked in the door I activated four principles, which have made me feel more than comfortable in my new job. I learned these lessons through trial and error when starting three very different corporate benefits positions over the past 10 years. So, if you are starting a new benefits job, no matter what level, here are my two cents on how to feel welcome, secure, and successful in your first few months:

1) Bring in Donuts (or Malasadas in Hawaii) and a Fruit Platter – The way to someone’s heart is through their stomach, right? As an HR guy, I know I should not be talking about winning hearts (especially on day one of a new job), but you understand my point. Quite simply, everyone loves donuts, the wellness gurus will appreciate the fruit, and if you are really lucky, someone will email the entire department that YOU were the one who brought in breakfast.

2) Meet the HR Executive Assistant ASAP – The HR Executive Assistant knows everyone. Trust me. They will also be the go-to person for many of your initial needs, such as supplies, company information, completing paperwork, remembering names, etc. Plus, they work directly for the big HR boss. For all these reasons and more, it will be in your best interest to meet them as soon as possible to develop a positive rapport, which will pay dividends as early as your interview process. I have it on good authority that a very positive initial experience with the HR Executive Assistant during my interview process actually helped me land one of my corporate benefits positions.

3) Spend Time with the HR Historian – You have amazing benefit ideas for your new company but you know you have to balance such ideas by “taking time to smell the roses.” Instead of waiting for the roses to bloom, accelerate the process by sitting down with the HR staff historian to tap into their mind. This will allow you to get a better idea of the company culture, department dynamic, gauge their opinion of and get recommendations for your initial ideas, and minimize comments like “you’re new and will learn how we really do things” by others.

4) Get a Quick Win – You may have great ideas for consumerism, wellness, and other exciting employee benefit opportunities for your new company. But why not take advantage of something that is bound to get you a quick win at the outset of your employment: perform a benefits compliance audit. As we all know, employee benefits has become extremely complex and regulated over the past few years. Federal audits and reporting requirements are increasing. This combination presents a great opportunity to perform an audit as you are bound to find some areas of non-compliance within your organization’s benefits program that can be addressed, thus reducing corporate exposure and liability and getting you immediate recognition.


Contributing Editor Ed Bray, JD, is director of Employee Benefits for Hawaiian Airlines.

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