Having a successful company culture means starting your newest employees off with a good onboarding experience that helps them understand their role, the company’s values, and how these overlap.
What’s company culture got to do with the onboarding experience?
When it comes to employee and employer relations, company culture goes beyond a vague mission statement. It’s a reciprocal connection. When an employer offers support, guidance, and respect to their employees, employees in return show higher levels of productivity, satisfaction, and retention.
Gallup’s 2017 study on employee engagement makes clear the bottom line on company culture: “engaged employees produce better business outcomes than other employees do—across industries, company sizes, and nationalities, and in good economic times and bad.”
Similarly, according to a study by Deloitte, 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a distinct workplace culture is important to business success. A strong company culture will attract talent that shares similar beliefs, values, and passions.
A no good, very bad first day
Many companies are running into scenarios similar to the following. They find a promising new employee with the right skill set and goals that match the company’s vision. The employer is confident they’ve acquired a solid addition to their team.
However, the excitement begins to dwindle once the new hire starts. Though it might not be apparent to the employer, the employee’s morale begins to decrease within hours of their first day.
For this hypothetical employee, their first day starts with a standard orientation that includes barely any interaction with colleagues. They’re given a perfunctory office introduction tour, but communication goes little further than the traditional “hello” and “welcome to the team.”
Even more demoralizing is when the employee is taken to their workspace, only to find it unprepared, with no telephone line connected and a dusty box of old files as the only décor.
When the employee and supervisor finally meet, it’s brief and not very enlightening. The employee is given a stack of introductory work to do, with scant information on upcoming projects or goals.
This is an example of an underdeveloped, if not completely absent, onboarding process, and a poor display of company culture.
Related: 7 Ways to Improve Company Culture
Getting it right from the start
In an article for the Society for Human Resource Management, Ben Peterson, CEO of BambooHR, underscores the importance of taking advantage of an employee’s first day to communicate company culture and provide a welcoming atmosphere.
“Setting expectations and introducing objectives” is one of the most important aspects of onboarding, according to Peterson. Employees need to know what’s expected of them, what to expect from their employer, and more broadly, what the company’s long-term expectations are.
It makes sense then that socialization is the second most important part of the onboarding experience.
“New employees need to get to know the job and get to know their new coworkers. Social interaction is critical,” Peterson says. Whether it’s buying the employee lunch or participating in team-building activities, there’s multiple ways to demonstrate that your company culture is about valuing employees and taking time to appreciate and get to know them.
New employees can also benefit greatly by pairing with a mentor. Unlike a supervisor, a mentor can be like a helpful buddy, answering questions and ultimately acquainting the employee with the company culture.
Happy experiences make happy employees
As we’ve discussed, company culture is golden for ensuring you have happy employees that stick around longer. The question is how to establish a positive onboarding process that shows, and doesn’t just tell, what your company culture is.
It’s important to start off with an assessment of your company culture. Can you define it beyond whatever’s in that stale “company vision” statement? Do you have real and describable goals, values, or passions that your company seeks to embody? Do you want to work together with other people who share these same goals, too?
If you said yes to the above, then you’re on the right track.
The next step is to look at the status of your current onboarding process. Is it a little too close to the dismal situation we described earlier? If so, it’s time to infuse your company values into the way you’re treating your new employees.
The onboarding experience should feel genuine
Communication really is key in the onboarding process. Many employers fail to consult with employees past the three-to-six month marks. For a successful onboarding experience, employers should be strategic about consulting with their employees.
Best practices say that leaders should regularly schedule casual sit-down meetings with their employees. Topics can include where an employee is currently at in their workflow, what they’re looking to accomplish soon, and any educational or professional goals they’re undertaking. The best leaders, however, also take the time to ask about their life—pets, families, hobbies. Show that you have a real interest in your employee as a whole person and that you want to see them succeed in all areas of their life.
By using these methods of authenticity and sincere interest in all aspects of onboarding, you and your employees will both have a better understanding of each other’s needs and expectations, and best of all, you’ll be far more likely to foster genuine respect for one another.