Company culture has been a buzzword for years now. But it’s not all about office happy hours or weekend volleyball games. It’s also about the values your company represents. You can ensure that your employees represent company values by starting with an employee onboarding checklist.

Company culture is about the values your employees hold and the behaviors that reflect these values. It’s what makes an organization unique. Organizational culture encompasses values and behaviors that "contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organization."

Many companies will go without a full onboarding process, instead choosing an orientation meeting to quickly cover the bases. But taking time for onboarding is well worth the investment.

Employee Onboarding Process

There is at least one major reason companies and employees should have shared values: it helps with retention. The more time you invest in your employees, the more likely they are to stick around. This directly offsets high turnover costs. Nearly 7 out of 10 employees say they are more likely to stick with a company if they have had a great onboarding process.

This isn't an exhaustive guide to HR, but here are a few ideas to create an employee onboarding checklist that will ensure your employees understand your company values from day one. It’s not just about onboarding to organizational standards — it’s about improving the employee experience with "cultureboarding" that connects them to what your company is all about.

Tip #1: Treat it as a process, not an event.

At the very least, business and HR leaders should recognize that onboarding is more than an introductory meeting or office tour. Done well, onboarding can take several weeks, or even months.

Take it step by step. Hold an initial orientation, but treat it as simply the foundation for the rest of the onboarding process. Allow time for new employees to meet the team, clarify their role and ask questions, get to know the office, and acclimate to their desk. The freedom that this allows new employees will make them feel much more at home from the start.

Tip #2: Encourage digital communication and connection.

Onboarding apps and business tools can introduce a new level of collaboration and communication to the onboarding process. Used the right way, these tools can create a digital ‘water cooler’ environment, creating a connected workforce.

At the very least, you can digitize onboarding materials so that new employees can interact with them across their devices or while they are at home. You can also introduce chat features and surveys, so that you have easy access to feedback and new employees have easy answers to their questions. For example, some companies offer an interactive chat from day one.

Content in an employee onboarding journey with pulse survey
Mobile employee communication tools can put your employee onboarding checklist right in the pockets of your people.

Digitizing the onboarding process can simultaneously make it more efficient and engaging.

Tip #3: Focus on the team.

For the onboarding process, it can be tempting to focus in on the employee’s new role with the company. Discussions often become about what project they will be working on, deadlines, expectations, workflows, etc. But there is something important missing in these pieces: how the new employee actually fits in with the rest of the team.

Employees consistently choose to stay at a job because of the positive relationships they have there. These positive relationships start from the very first day on the job.

During onboarding, every new piece of information should come back to how it fits in with the team. This includes route processes for the company, how team communication is managed, the hierarchy of projects and so on. New employees should be left with a clear understanding of how the entire company operates, not just who their immediate supervisor is.

Tip #4: Remember to include key players.

HR leaders will do well to remember that they are not the only ones dealing with new hires. In order for some of these tips to be successful, the onboarding process should go both ways. HR should bring managers, fellow employees and teammates into the process. This will help them connect with the new hire, and for the new hire to feel welcomed from day one.

Week 1: A Sample Employee Onboarding Checklist

If all of this seems like too much, consider expanding your onboarding plan from one day to one week. As we said above, a great onboarding experience is likely to take even longer than that. But expanding the process to a week provides a firm foundation for your new hires and provides a great learning opportunity for HR leaders. There is no set prescription, but consider this employee onboarding checklist as a starting point for organizing week one.

Here's a week's worth of ideas for your employee onboarding checklist:

Monday: Admin Orientation. This is the part most people think of as orientation day. Walk new employees through company processes and tools, their benefits and compensation, and the physical layout of the office. These are the basics, and should make a new employee feel more at home.

Tuesday: Team Orientation. New employees are absorbing a lot of information in their first week. Their second day should be a chance to meet and get to know the team — whether it’s their specific department or the entire company. Figure out a way to break the ice and be productive at the same time.

Wednesday: Customer & Product Orientation. Take a day to walk new employees through your customer profiles and the products or services you offer. A new hire doesn’t have to be in sales for this to be a valuable experience. Someone in IT can feel much more connected to the direction you’re heading if they understand the problems you're trying to solve.

Thursday: Culture Orientation. Wednesday was about the nitty gritty of the business. Thursday should be about the vision and culture of the organization. Let fellow employees share their experiences and offer tips. Encourage new hires to ask questions.

Friday: Live Day. We’ll do it live! Give new hires the chance to put into practice everything they’ve learned in their first week — but make sure to make yourself available for questions, checking in from time to time.

So there you have it! As your company grows, you can refer back to these quick tips and this employee onboarding checklist to evolve your onboarding process. The better the onboarding, the more satisfied the employee and the better they will represent your company values.

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