Helping new hires fit in through the onboarding process

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Do I fit onboard?

Welcome to our third blog in a series of articles exploring four ingredients of effective onboarding;

In the last article, we covered how to make enrollment and administration more efficient and ‘new hire led’. The focus of this article is to explore cultural fit.

Culture can be defined as: ‘the ideas, customs, and social behavior of a particular person or society’ and organizations are increasingly seeing value in making their values and expectations explicit. This article explores how you can help communicate your cultural values and help new hires understand how these should guide their ‘social behavior’ and decision making.

Our observations:

We were fortunate to work with a very fast growing IT consultancy business through its first five years, what always struck me was the clarity of their cultural values, they worked on the basis that if you needed support, input or clarity then you needed to seek it out, don’t expect anyone to come and spot your needs, whether you warm to this approach or not, it was explicit from day one. The human comfort zone is hugely influenced by a feeling that you understand how to fit in and by being so explicit, people either stayed for prolonged periods or left very quickly. One of the key things the organization did was to weave its values into their competency framework and encourage networking as a core asset such that when help was required people knew who to approach. In other words, they communicated ‘what’ their values were and ‘how’ to operate successfully within them.

We certainly advocate an approach to onboarding that takes a multi-dimensional approach to cultural alignment:


Communicating organizational values

Start before day one through ‘pre-boarding’ by sharing the values in a variety of different formats, culture is an abstract concept and different people will access it’s meaning in different ways. One of the classic ways to do this is to share videos of senior leaders explaining the organization’s mission and values, but always include tangible examples of how values are demonstrated via organizational decision-making behavior. Consider also providing videos by people across the organization at a variety of levels and different teams where they talk about how they espouse the values through their decisions and behavior. Not everyone will relate to videos, so provide some written case studies and access to people with whom they can have dialogue regarding the values and how they are manifested.

How to operate according to organisational expectations

Having provided examples of expectations, consider providing some interactive activities to illustrate appropriate cultural behaviors, for example create some scenarios and ask new hires to consider how they would respond, give them choices to respond to and offer feedback on their decisions. You might incorporate some real examples from organizational history which reflect proud moments and dark moments and use these to illustrate why they represented appropriate or less appropriate actions.

To make activities less ‘binary’ you could provide a scenario and ask new hires to make a short video about how they would respond and have a local leader offer feedback on their chosen actions.

Finally, provide a list of situations and invite the new hire to ask their peers how they would respond to them, provide an opportunity for the new hire to discuss their ‘findings’ with a mentor or buddy and consider how their experience will guide their behavior.

How to fit in with your local team

As many of us know, the single biggest factor in determining whether they stay or go is the relationship with their immediate manager, so cultural fit must extend to fitting in with their team. Many organizations utilize tools to assess behavioral style (DISC, Social Style etc), consider providing such a tool in the onboarding phase with a de-brief and conversation about how their profile fits with manager and colleagues.

Navigating the local culture can be daunting and confusing, so the provision of a ‘buddy’ is a widely used approach, today, digital platforms mean that facilitating a ‘buddy’ conversation can be done when proximity is a challenge, and also discrete digital conversations can take place in a busy workplace, so consider using a platform that connects your new hire to different people for different types of support i.e. buddy, coach, mentor and manager.

Finally, whilst not specifically an element of culture per-se, we cannot ignore the issue of language.  Clearly you can offer a glossary, but why not provide them with a ‘bingo card’ such that when certain terms arise in conversation they are entitled to call out the term used and request an explanation. When they have completed their card, they can review it with their buddy and check it’s accuracy. They could also be encouraged to add others to the card and ensure they included in future onboarding activities, turning the language from a barrier into a fun way to take control and be participative in it’s dissemination and translation.

“The thing I have learned at IBM is that culture is everything.”

Louis V. Gerstner, Jr., Former CEO of IBM

Understanding an organization’s politics, goals and values, and learning the firm’s unique language are all important indicators of employee adjustment and down the line, are associated with commitment, satisfaction and turnover. We spend more than half of our waking hours at work so establishing a culture that is centred around motivating, coaching, supporting and inspiring is essential in creating a happy workforce.

Want to improve your onboarding experience?

If you would like to discuss your onboarding requirements and how our onboarding Web App can help align your new hires to your company’s culture, connect them with those that are best placed to support them, as well as provide them with an enjoyable onboarding experience, please do get in touch.

Missed the previous blog? Read it here.

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