Integrate Onboarding with Company Culture

By ALAN LAIBSON on MAY 29, 2015

Onboarding is an activity designed to nurture new employees during their first few weeks at your company. It’s both indoctrination and orientation. In fact, onboarding has replaced orientation primarily because onboarding is more inclusive.

Training new employees can be a time-consuming and therefore expensive proposition, especially when the new employees are coming on board in the middle of a project. You need to get them up to speed as quickly as possible so they can do what you hired them to do. At the same time, you want them to be comfortable enough within your company culture so they want to stay around for a while and continue to produce quality work.

Onboarding, then, is a way to accomplish multiple tasks within the same process. It’s actually a more personal approach than most company orientations. Onboarding is a proven method to instill loyalty and trust from the very start.

Before Your New Employee Starts

Begin the onboarding process even before the new employee’s first day. Provide the necessary equipment, facilities, accounts and passwords. That includes a desk, chair, pens, sticky notes, computer equipment, and anything you deem necessary for the employee to be both comfortable and productive. Every business is different; every role may call for different levels of preparation. The more you’re able to do before the first day, the smoother that day likely will unfold.

Additionally, make sure everyone on the team is aware of the new employee’s start date. Your Human Resource department will already know, but confirm that your receptionist and others within the specific department have the name and pertinent details to welcome the new employee properly. It takes a team effort to create a warm and bubbly welcome.

Day One Onboarding Tasks

Welcome new employees with onboarding

An employee’s first day on the job is always stressful for both the employee and your team. It’s like a first date that has to work out well. If you’ve done your homework during the hiring phase, you feel certain that the new hire has the necessary skills and temperament to fit into your company culture, and that first day puts all that to the test.

Greet the new hire yourself. A familiar face first thing in the morning reduces anxiety. A warm welcome puts everyone at ease. If HR requires paperwork, provide that time. The first day should not be about work, but orientation.

If appropriate, give your new employee a tour, or assign someone you trust to do that task. Introduce new hires to the team members, giving them a chance to become familiar with everyone. If appropriate, let them have time to chat and get to know one another. While a team lunch can be effective at the end of the week, a more personal one-on-one lunch is more effective on the first day. Then let the employee settle into the workspace you’ve created.

The First Weeks of Onboarding

Meet with your new employee to offer congratulations, encourage engagement, review the job responsibilities and preview the plan for the coming weeks. Provide time for new hires to review projects and their roles in them. Assign small tasks that force interaction with other team members. Watch for signs of readiness.

You can build loyalty during the first few weeks of employment. Share the company’s goals, vision, mission and strategic objectives. Trust your new hire to assimilate into your company culture by taking a supportive approach. The new employee is multitasking during the first few weeks on the job. Here’s just some of the things they are doing:

  • Putting faces to names and roles

  • Understanding personalities within the political landscape

  • Identifying the company hierarchy and structure

  • Becoming familiar with your company’s place in its industry

  • Learning project goals, scope, and purpose

  • Reviewing any necessary training materials

  • Beginning to contribute

Check in frequently during the first few weeks to make sure the onboarding plan remains on schedule. Repeatedly ask for questions and problems the newcomer may be experiencing. If your new employee feels valued from the very first day, you will have developed trust and loyalty.

The Onboarding Process

Mentor new hires with onboarding

Assign a trusted team member to be a mentor as part of the onboarding plan. Encourage an atmosphere of learning, of give and take, of open questions and honest answers. Make yourself available and check in from time to time. By creating a culture of positive reinforcement and mutual support, you can develop trust both within the team and between your employees and your company. That kind of change takes time and effort.

Tweaking Your Company Culture

Every company develops an internal culture that informs behavior, dress codes and even attitudes. Some corporate cultures are competitive; some are cooperative. Some are aggressive, others more relaxed. Ultimately, a culture should engender loyalty while enabling employees to perform at peak efficiency.

Not all company cultures are easy to embrace. Some force employees through an endless procession of “death marches,” as one project after another faces critically tight deadlines or woefully short resources. Some are too strict or formal to enable employees to properly embrace their roles and make creative contributions.

Regardless of where your company culture sits along the spectrum, you can adapt it to your personal leadership style within your realm of influence. Onboarding a new employee is the perfect time to make small adjustments that fit with the culture you want to cultivate.

People respond to honest engagement. If you are welcoming, focused, loyal, and dedicated, you can create a welcoming environment with a focused, loyal, and dedicated team. If you create an environment that’s conducive to being productive, your team will work hard to get the job done and meet your goals.

The Results of Onboarding an Employee

It all starts before the employee’s first day on the job. If you make the employee feel like a number, you have lost your chance to develop a dedicated employee. The process of bringing new employees up to speed and integrating them into your company culture may take fully a month or longer.

That does not mean that employees cannot be productive much sooner than that. If you successfully bring an employee on board, you create a situation where the employee feels nurtured and wants to succeed. In other words, successful onboarding improves your retention rate, increases productivity, and motivates your entire team. So, make onboarding part of your company culture!

Share something special you have done for your employees as part of the onboarding process. Or share your favorite part of becoming a new employee at your current job. Scroll below to add a comment.

The Author

Straight from the desk of

Alan Laibson

Alan Laibson

Executive Vice President

Alan began his career at Kimmel in 1997 and quickly began creating relationships in the General Construction Division in Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia.