Culture-focused onboarding is less about the admin and more about the story behind the brand and its people. Of course, the paperwork is necessary, but if you really want onboard for success, it goes further than the final signature. Culture-focused onboarding is about your company values, the workplace culture, and everything in between.
This is our guide to an onboarding process that prioritises company culture, and how a culture-first approach to onboarding can benefit your organisation.
Understanding Culture-Focused Onboarding
It’s no secret that a successful onboarding process is absolutely essential to employee engagement and retention later down the line. In fact, we’ve written extensively about the link between onboarding and employee retention. And yet, many organisations still fail to create an effective onboarding process that welcomes new employees.
Starting a new job is a huge transition in an employee’s life. They're not just signing on for a few hours of work; new hires are committing to a job that will take up the majority of their week. That’s where company culture-focused onboarding comes in. Here’s a quick definition:
Culture-focused onboarding, also known as cultural onboarding or culture-oriented onboarding, is a comprehensive process designed to introduce new employees to the organisation's values, beliefs, norms, and overall work culture. It goes beyond simply familiarising new hires with their job duties and responsibilities and places significant emphasis on integrating them into the company's unique cultural environment.
It begins with your company's mission and vision. Your new hires should understand what the goals and core values of your organisation are. However, it's not enough to just tell them – you need to show them. Your company's culture needs to have a physical manifestation to prove that you're not just saying these things for their benefit. In the onboarding process, show some real-time applications of your company culture. Bring up examples of mission and vision manifestations in progress.
Transparency and honesty are the key. If you want to stay in the loop with your employees, you need to offer them the same courtesy. Show your new hires how the company has succeeded through the company culture, as well as the ways in which it failed. Who knows, they could even bring some new plans or thoughtful innovations for growth to the table.
Before showing off the company culture, you should ensure that it's a healthy culture. Create a safe space for communication, inclusivity, and diversity before adding a new employee to the mix.
Key Elements of Culture-Focused Onboarding
Pre-boarding and Onboarding Activities
Before the official onboarding process takes place, send your new team member a welcome booklet before the official onboarding process with everything new hires need to know on their first day. This can include your mission and vision statement as a business, company policies, the organisation's successes, and more.
On their first day, in addition to all the necessary paperwork and admin, your priority is to help the new hire get more comfortable and meet their new teammates. It shows them that they have a real place in your company culture and that they're not just an employee number – they're a valued part of the team.
Show them around the office, what their working environment is like, and the people they'll be in contact with the most. Take new employees to a team lunch for a more comfortable setting to get to know their coworkers. It's also a great way to form a real connection with new hires; they'll be far more relaxed when it comes to reaching out for help with any problems.
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Mentorship and Buddy Programs
Having an experienced member of the team to guide your new hire is a helpful concept in the onboarding process. Starting a new job is daunting for anyone, younger employees and more experienced ones alike. Regardless of their level of experience, your new hire should feel comfortable and at ease, not scared to make mistakes.
Start a mentorship and buddy program at work. Assign a willing teammate who's been around for a while to mentor them in the job for a couple of weeks during the onboarding process. They can answer any questions the new employee might have, show them the tricks of the trade, and give them the support they need.
This mentor should be a good advocate of your company culture, for example, if your company culture prioritises innovation and creativity, the buddy or mentor should be an outstanding example of someone who innovates and is willing to take calculated creative risks. If collaboration is the central element of your company culture, this chosen advocate should be a passionate team worker and should be able to involve the new hire in ideation sessions or lending a hand on tasks from day one.
Set up some timelines for your buddy or mentorship program. For example, they can offer weekly feedback with your approval, set daily goals, and fun activities for lunch. These programs can speed up the onboarding process, improve communication with your team members, as well as raise morale overall.
Cultural Immersion Experiences
The onboarding process makes the transition into a new workplace easier for everyone. The recruitment processes are nerve-wracking, and employee onboarding is a way to make them more comfortable. From the get-go, you should include new hires and existing employees in the organisation's culture wherever possible. Have little rituals to keep the onboarding program interesting with a little routine.
For example, have regular team meetings to show how everyone helps each other out, even from other departments. Present a united team for cultural onboarding, and keep that spirit consistent, regardless of whether employee onboarding is taking place or not.
Oversee interactions between your new hire and your customers or shareholders; don't cut them out of the intricate parts of the business just because they're new hires. Your employee handbooks should explain how each team member takes part in interactions with third parties, so give them a chance to get to know your people on a personal level.
Although culture-focused onboarding is important and beneficial for everyone, don’t overwhelm new employees. Take off some of the pressure and let your new employees feel welcome by taking part in what they feel ready for.
Offer multiple channels of support to really exhibit and teach culture in your company. Check on your new hire at the end of every day in the onboarding process, whether they're in the office or remote employees. Ask how they're feeling, if they're enjoying the job, and if there's a way you can make their lives easier.
It might help to create a space where new employees can reflect on cultural onboarding and the general work environment anonymously. This can help get rid of any lingering fears about causing issues in the workplace and allow you to address their questions and issues. Ongoing support doesn't end after the onboarding experience – keep this level of support up throughout their employment.
Designing and Implementing Effective Culture-Focused Onboarding
It's not enough to just talk about the way your new team members can have an interesting and helpful onboarding journey. You need to take the time to properly design a scheduled and conscious onboarding process that benefits you, your staff, new hires, and job seekers. And then implement it consistently!
It's important to keep in mind that onboarding isn't just a quick, one-day experience. It takes time for your employee to learn the ropes and get comfortable. Make your objectives clear from the beginning and track their progress. Design mentorship programs in advance and offer support along the way. It's a great way to assess the success of your plans.
And, of course, every company culture is different so your onboarding process will be completely unique. To inspire you, here are some of our suggestions for a range of different organisational cultures.
- Include sessions on the company's history of innovation and notable achievements, or highlight these in the employee handbook.
- Introduce new hires to ongoing innovative projects and their potential impact.
- Conduct interactive workshops that encourage creative problem-solving and idea generation.
- Assign mentors or innovation champions to guide new employees in embracing a culture of experimentation.
- Organise team-building activities and icebreaker sessions to help new hires connect with colleagues.
- Encourage cross-functional orientation sessions to foster collaboration between different departments.
- Introduce online collaboration tools and communication platforms to facilitate teamwork.
- Share success stories of collaborative projects and how they have contributed to the company's growth.
- Conduct workshops or role-playing exercises to demonstrate the company's commitment to customer service.
- Involve new hires in customer feedback sessions or surveys to understand customer needs.
- Provide examples of how previous customer feedback has influenced product or service improvements.
- Emphasise the importance of customer satisfaction in the company's mission and vision.
Diverse and Inclusive Culture
- Offer diversity and inclusion training during the onboarding process.
- Showcase the company's diversity initiatives and employee resource groups.
- Facilitate cross-cultural awareness sessions to promote understanding and respect among employees.
- Highlight the organisation's commitment to providing equal opportunities for all employees.
- Set clear performance expectations and goals during onboarding.
- Share examples of how employee contributions have directly impacted company success.
- Introduce the performance evaluation process and how it aligns with the company's objectives.
- Offer training on time management and prioritisation to help employees stay focused on results.
Socially Responsible Culture
- Provide information on the company's CSR initiatives and partnerships.
- Offer volunteering opportunities during onboarding to engage new hires in community efforts.
- Share success stories of the company's positive impact on society through its responsible practices.
- Explain how the organisation integrates sustainability into its operations, possibly giving examples on the tour of the workplace.
- Share stories of how the company has successfully adapted to market changes or industry trends.
- Conduct workshops on agility and resilience to prepare new hires for dynamic environments.
- Provide resources and training on staying updated with industry developments.
- Encourage feedback from new employees on potential areas of improvement for adaptation.
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Remember, signing the contract and letting the new employee through the door isn't an effective onboarding process. Let your new employees get a feel for the company culture and invite them to take part in activities that are helpful, fun, rewarding, and relevant.
One of the best ways to improve and standardise your onboarding process is through XCD’s recruitment and onboarding software. Offering a powerful and consistent onboarding every time, our HR software’s powerful AI-driven tools and automated processes ensure that every step of onboarding is ticked off with ease. Plus, introducing the new hire to the HR and payroll software during onboarding will prepare them to use it throughout their tenure at the company. For HR professionals, it’s a no-brainer.