Company culture has been a buzzword for quite some time now. It’s not all about office happy hours or weekend volleyball games - it’s also about the values your company represents. And you can ensure employees represent company values by starting with the onboarding process.

Company culture is just as much 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, choosing a quick orientation meeting instead. But taking time for onboarding is well worth the investment. 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. Almost 7 out of 10 employees say they are more likely to stick with a company if they have a great onboarding process.

We may not have the exhaustive guide to HR, but here are a few ideas to create a better onboarding process designed to ensure employees represent company values. It’s not just about onboarding to organizational standards - it’s about improving employee experience with ‘cultureboarding’ that connects them with company values.

Tip #1: Treat it as Process, Not an Event 

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

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

Employee Onboarding

Tip #2: Encourage Digital Communication & 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, B. Braun uses Staffbase to offer interactive chat from day one.

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.

The First Week: Your Template for the Onboarding Process

If all of this seems overwhelming, consider starting by expanding your onboarding plan from one day to one week. As we noted above, a great onboarding experience is likely to have an even longer timeline than that. But expanding the process to a week provides a firm foundation for your new hires - and a great learning opportunity for HR leaders. There is no prescription for Week One, but consider this template as a starting point.

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 for the rest of the week.

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 the 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 valuable. Someone in IT can feel much more connected to the direction you’re heading if they understand the problems you are solving.

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 share 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 you are 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 orientation guidelines to create a better onboarding process. The better the onboarding, the more satisfied the employee and the better they represent company values.

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