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Highlight Stories

Inspiring a Culture of Innovation

RAI and its subsidiaries are committed to developing a robust talent pipeline by enabling employees to own their personal and professional development. In 2014, Research and Development (R&D) at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company created the New Hire Onboarding (NHO), an annual program, to enhance its innovative culture within R&D by engaging newly-hired employees at the center of R&D. 

In 2016, approximately 24 new employees were selected to participate in the NHO program, which is led by seasoned employees who are able to pass on years of knowledge and experience. Participants are divided into teams, based on departmental, Social Style, and Myers–Briggs personality types, to foster exchange and style flexibility development through networking. Each team is assigned a challenge based upon current business opportunities.

In addition, all groups shared a common challenge to ideate on the next big opportunity around corporate sustainability.

Teams have several months to apply ideation techniques that are taught in the beginning of the year to aid in generating solutions to the challenges. The ideation techniques are geared toward building proficiencies in creativity, innovation and meeting facilitation. NHO participants also learn the Kepner‑Tregoe technique, a logical decision-making and problem-solving process. This process is utilized to filter ideas and identify best solutions. Participants are also taught “ice‑breakers” to promote conversation in group settings, as well as team‑building exercises to develop group unity. These techniques are used within the program, but can also be applied throughout participants’ careers. 

After selecting their top ideas, each team creates and conducts a formal presentation to its managers and to the R&D leadership team. The most promising ideas may then be integrated into R&D work streams. This year, the presentations were commended by participants’ managers, the NHO steering committee and the R&D leadership. According to Daniel J. Herko, executive vice president of research and development at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and executive vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at RAI Services Company, “2016’s class generated impressive ideas around the challenges and we look forward to NHO participants bringing an innovative culture to R&D.” 

During the year, teams were encouraged to network at all levels across the company to increase breadth and depth of knowledge pertaining to the challenges. In this respect, participants recognized personal and professional growth that will be beneficial throughout their careers at the RAI companies.

“Being new to RAI, this program has been invaluable in allowing me to collaborate outside of my day-to-day responsibilities while also broadening my perspective of the RAI operating companies. Personally, I feel more prepared to lead change within the organization and I feel challenged to think outside the box. NHO and fresh thinking for Transforming Tobacco are natural connections.”
2016 NHO participant