LHP University engineers Swapnil Dorle, left, Shawn Wiegand and Syamantak Sengupta work on a problem beneath banners of some of the colleges attended by current and previous LHP University students. PHOTO BY ANDREW LAKER
LHP Software has launched an in-house, six-week crash course for new employees to faster integrate them into what for many is a complex and diverse new work environment.
This month, the Columbus-based software design company is ushering its fourth cohort of 19 new hires through the program, called LHP University.
The company has seen significant growth in the past few years. In October, it celebrated its 10th anniversary and announced plans to construct a $5 million headquarters in Columbus. By 2014, the company expects to double its employment to more than 400. The new employees are expected to earn an average annual salary of $75,000.
Co-founded by former Cummins Inc. employees David Glass and Ryan Hou, LHP develops custom software and provides engineering services at customer locations.
Glass said LHP Software employs 250, but the company is growing so quickly that it has 200 openings, despite aggressive use of recruiters.
“It’s a good month if they can find 10,” Glass said.
LHP typically hires employees with solid education credentials — but they often lack real-world experience, said Zach McClellan, LHPU manager.
The program bridges that experience gap and reduces the time employees usually need to acclimate themselves to the work environment, he said.
McClellan said that real-world work environments often confront employees with situations that cannot easily be replicated in classrooms.
McClellan, a former Major League Baseball pitcher, experienced that himself when he joined the Kansas City Royals and a quarter of his teammates could not speak English — yet teamwork was vital for success.
Similar situations occur in business, and somehow the team members have to find a way to work together.
The classes include instruction in a classroom setting and presentations on diversity, as well as role-playing and tasks that require teamwork.
“If you immerse people in a situation, they learn,” McClellan said.
Glass said the idea for the program stems from his time at Cummins. When he joined the company in 1993, he and eight other new employees were given a task: Design from scratch within three months software able to control an engine. Glass likened the project to writing an operating system for a computer.
It was “very intense (and) an incredible learning experience,” Glass said.
At the end of the project, the team felt a great sense of accomplishment.
A similar project five years later solidified Glass’ assessment that putting new employees through such an experience early in their training would give them that same sense of accomplishment while teaching them about the importance of communication and teamwork.
At the end of the LHP program, graduates give a presentation on what they have learned, and the company brings in customers and executives to convey the program’s importance, Glass said.
When companies recruit the best talent and make a commitment to them, it also helps with recruitment and retention, Glass said.
Graduates of the program provide feedback to LHP to improve the experience.
“I want them to feel ownership of the program,” McClellan said.
LHP employee Jacob Rauser, 22, a mechanical engineer, said that during his studies at LHPU he got a lot of hands-on experience in electrical engineering, which is critical to the work he does to design, validate and calibrate on-board diagnostics for heavy-duty diesel engines.
Rauser completed the training earlier this year after moving to Columbus from Michigan with his fiancee, Jessie Soumis, and 2-year-old daughter, Sofia.
He also said the classes taught him about diversity and teamwork. Columbus and LHP have a much more diverse population than school, Rauser said, and the classes definitely conveyed the importance of diversity and cultural differences.
The program also is a good way to get to know your co-workers, Rauser said.
“I think it’s a really good program,” he said.
Pennsylvania native Vincent Zipparo, 22, who is part of the current cohort, said the program also teaches new employees about office politics and how to resolve or avoid conflicts. For example, he said new employees are encouraged to confront their superiors if they see a problem, but to do it in private to not undermine authority.
Zipparo said that after just two weeks in the program, he already feels as though he has learned more — in confidence and capability — than in a semester in college.
Yiyuan Chen, 24, said LHPU helped him, especially with cultural differences.
Chen, a native of Jintan, China, came to the U.S. about three years ago to study mechanical engineering at Purdue University.
Chen said in China, people tend to be more reserved and less likely to speak up, but LHPU instructors encouraged the employees from the very beginning to keep communicating, to keep sharing their ideas.
“That’s very beneficial to me,” Chen said.
He said that training came in handy when he started working off-site with a client. Everything was new, he said, and he had to ask a lot of questions to familiarize himself with the work and the way the client and its employees operate.
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