How to Introduce Company Culture During the Onboarding Process

Use these practical tips to integrate your company culture during onboarding, and beyond.

August 17, 2022

Onboarding is the best opportunity to make a lasting impression on employees—first impressions count. A positive onboarding experience can lead to employees staying longer, higher engagement, and a better understanding of the values and behaviors that make up the company culture. It’s important to create an onboarding experience that puts culture first as opposed to treating it as an additional component.

Instilling company culture early and at every opportunity is advantageous for both the employer and employee. Anyone who has changed organizations can speak to the steep learning curve, which often doesn’t apply to the technical pieces of their role. It refers to the unspoken rules and values that are behind every decision. As for leaders, this upfront commitment to culture supports their employees, allowing them to be productive and effective much sooner.

How can you create an onboarding experience that is focused on instilling company culture?

The first step is to create the space to have a culture-focused onboarding experience. Onboarding is often focused on compliance and paperwork—benefits, payroll, retirement, policies, etc. You can get these out of the way even before the employee’s first day, which will allow you to focus on the more important aspects of onboarding.

You can use a tool like GoCo to send all HR documents. The Magic Docs functionality allows users to digitally sign, complete, and track all forms. Your employee won’t have to scan, print, or email documents. They will be able to complete the entire new hire process in a few minutes, including payroll information and health benefits enrollments. You can also easily collect compliance documents like the I-9 and the W-4 with GoCo.

An automated process for compliance paperwork is indispensable from a productivity perspective, but it’s also a key aspect of the new hire experience. Your new hire wants to focus on their new company; not on signing documents.

Avoid the unnecessary burden of completing onboarding documents and implement an HRMS platform like GoCo to elevate the employee onboarding experience, reduce the administrative burden on your HR team, and allow everyone to focus on the company culture components of onboarding.

Next, make company culture the focus of their first week

Onboarding is not limited to the first day or week of a new employee’s journey. It can take months until an employee is fully productive in a new organization.

By focusing on culture during the employee’s initial week, you’ll increase engagement and set them up for success in navigating the workplace.

    • Set the Tone: Before the employee’s first day, send a welcome video from the HR team, the manager, or the wider team.  Utilize this as an opportunity to set the tone for your company’s culture. Is it casual? Formal? Playful? This message will provide the employee with key insight into what they can expect once they start.
    • Tell Your Story: Storytelling is a powerful tool. Before you can talk about the company’s mission and goals, talk about where you came from. If possible, have an early employee or founder speak about the organization’s history and the roots of the culture.
    • Explain the Company’s Bread and Butter: It’s important for employees to understand how the organization pays their salaries. We call this the organization’s bread and butter. This may not be directly tied to the roles of those in finance, legal, HR, or other support services, but it’s key for them to understand the product or service the organization offers.
    • Organize Fireside Chats: Ask senior leaders to have fireside chats with small groups of employees. These intimate, transparent sessions can be very insightful. Leaders of an organization are spokespeople for the company’s culture and can reiterate that through the way they speak.
    • Encourage Connection: You can share an online directory via GoCo, which includes short bios and pictures of everyone they will work with. Encourage the new employee to reach out to others in the organization to set up lunches, coffee chats, etc. so that they can begin to understand the common values and behaviors demonstrated by employees.
    • Invite Them to Community Events: Ask well-connected employees to invite new hires to company social events, such as playing board games at lunch or attending a fitness class. This is a low-pressure way for new hires to meet others with similar interests, which can foster more connection to the company’s culture.
    • Ask for Feedback! Don’t ignore this important follow-up. Feedback can help improve your onboarding experience for future new hires, but most importantly, it demonstrates to the new hire that your organization is committed to learning, transparency, and continuous improvement.

Onboarding and Culture Tips From HR Professionals

Dedicate Time to Present Your Culture

We are constantly working to ensure that we are providing our team members with a great culture, full of empowerment, recognition, and inclusiveness. One way we introduce our culture to new hires by dedicating a portion of the onboarding process purely to welcoming them to the team. We start with videos that explain some of the projects we’re working on and the core values that drive our company, then we actively introduce them to our team by providing a dedicated space for asking questions and socializing. If you want to introduce your new hire to your company culture, you’ve got to have an idea of what that culture is and how to present it, so that your new employee feels welcomed to participate.

Adam Bem, Victoria VR

First Day as a Complete Observer

For the first day, we allow our recruits to be completely observant of the work processes. They can go wherever they want to see, learn, and explore your unique work culture in order to better fit in. They are even included in scheduled and impromptu meetings to learn about professional interaction and what is expected of them during a typical working day. The onboarding process includes proper introduction sessions, extended office tours, and detailed explanations of the position’s opportunities and limitations. This type of insightful conversion, we believe, should never be limited to formal one-on-one meetings. It should instead be more dynamic, personal, and enjoyable. Many new employees have given us positive feedback about our unique onboarding style.

Michael Woods, Uniwide Formations

Revise Your Employee Handbook

In our interview process, our company values and goals were highlighted, for the new hires. We thought it would be more welcoming and inclusive to include these in employee handbooks. We customized them according to the new employees. It contained the company culture we follow, our 2-3 year vision, and value training programs. Once the employees were clear on this front, we kept team sessions to discuss the employee handbooks with work mentors. This helped avoid any confusion and form a better understanding of what our company represents. 

Our new employees gave two-fold feedback. One, it helped employees feel better to have a guide in a new working place. Second, it helped them realize if they would fit here or not. Knowing your company’s culture becomes essential not only for you to find the right employees but for them to find the right company, as well.

Matt Gillman, SMB Compass

Let New Hires Spend Time with Peers 

When hiring a new employee, there are two major factors that you have to look at.  First, is this the best person for the job and secondly, will this employee be a good fit with the existing team? As an employer, the best person for the job is not always the best person for the team. There is a very fine line between the two. Every employer wants the best employees and they want the best teams within their organization. 

During our onboarding process, we have created a process where our new employees spend 85% of their onboarding time with a group of peers within the department that they have been hired for. This allows management to observe how well the new employee will fit in with the actual team that they will be working with. We always look for the best talent, but we are not willing to sacrifice the good of the team for a single employee. Having the new employee spend 85% percent of their 2-week onboarding process with their new team is 68 hours of their 80 hour period.

William Meyer, We Will Transport it

By focusing on instilling company culture early and at every opportunity, you’ll elevate the onboarding experience and help new employees feel connected to your organization from the very first day.

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