How to Grow Company Culture By Improving Onboarding

Lean East had a client several years ago who provided outdoor construction services. The client valued on-the-job safety so started all new employees with a 40-hour OSHA safety course. This meant that job applicants who joined the company to work outside with their hands spent most of their first week sitting alone in front of a computer watching safety videos and taking tests. What a discouraging start!

Company culture is key to the long-term success of every organization. A culture that melds with core values will have happier employees who provide better service. They will also stay in their job longer. When you do need to hire, recruiting will be easier since more people will want to join this happy, well-respected team.

This post teaches you how to grow company culture by improving onboarding and orientation processes– making sure all new employees understand the culture and add to it quickly. We teach you to focus on the employee’s perspective and design an onboarding with memorable moments that will make employees excited about their new work.

Onboarding and Orientation

Lean East is often asked to help improve onboarding and orientation processes for our clients. You need to understand what each of these terms mean before incorporating our tips.

Orientation refers to the initial welcome a new employee receives into the company, often provided on the first day on the job. Orientations are specific to the company as a whole and share information about the mission, core values, vision, and organizational structure. New employee orientation is often generalized and can include employees with different roles and from different teams participating together.

Onboarding refers to the series of steps that help employees join the company and integrate into their new position. These steps include the job acceptance process, initial orientation to the company, general and specific training, adding the employee to systems, etc. Onboarding is specific to the employee and the job, and typically takes weeks or months to complete.

The Power of Moments

Beginning a new job is a defining and memorable moment for most of us. Our family and friends will ask us about the new company and congratulate us. Wouldn’t it be smart to focus on making this memorable moment a great one?

The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip and Dan Heath is a 2017 book about how to create and capture defining moments. The book identifies four elements that contribute to defining moments: elevation, insight, pride, and connection.

  • Elevation moments make us feel good and inspired.
  • Insight moments give us new perspectives on ourselves or the world.
  • Pride moments make us feel accomplished or successful.
  • Connection moments make us feel close to others.

Certain brief experiences can have a profound impact on our lives. We need to learn how to create such moments intentionally.

Powerful Moments in Onboarding

Here are ways to apply the concepts from “The Power of Moments” to grow company culture and improve your onboarding process:

  • Create a sense of elevation. Give the new employee a meaningful welcome, introduce them to important people in the company, or give them a challenging but achievable task.
  • Provide insights by giving the new employee access to training, mentorship, or resources that will help them to learn and grow.
  • Foster pride by recognizing the new employee’s skills and past accomplishments, giving them opportunities to take ownership of projects, and celebrating early successes.
  • Build connections by pairing new employees with a mentor, encouraging them to network internally, and creating opportunities for collaboration.

More specifics are below!

Making Your Employee’s Start Memorable

Here are ways to optimize your onboarding process to create memorable experiences for new employees and grow your company culture.

  • Your job negotiations and employment agreements are a reflection of your corporate values. Ensure everything your company does reflects positively. Underpaying your new employee will often come back to haunt you later.
  • Be sure to have key documents completed prior to the first day of work. This includes all job agreements, payroll setup, a job description for the position, an employee handbook and benefits ready to share, organizational charts and planning documents, etc.
  • Modify the organizational chart so that it shows the new employee by name. There is no better way to generate pride and have the new employee feel included than by showing them how they fit on the team!
  • If your new employee works at a desk, make sure they have a work area and computer ready to go on day one.
  • Arriving at a new job is a stressful situation. Make sure the new employee feels welcomed and valued on their first day by having their manager (or human resources contact or an interviewer) meet them when they arrive. Consider having the new employee show up later than normal for their first day if there is too much going on at the start of the day. This makes them the focus of attention.
  • New employees won’t know normal lunch practices, so make a plan for lunch on the employee’s first day. This might include a lunch with the manager or a lunch with other members of the team they will be working with.
  • Organize a meeting (or encounter) with the owner or top manager in the area. This can be just a quick visit, but be sure the owner knows the employee’s name, manager, and one fact about their background. For bonus points, have the owner describe the organization’s core values.
  • Plan your onboarding for the employee. List the training that will be required and who they will need to meet with. We suggest using a checklist that you can personalize.

Involve Your Employee in the Process

The suggestions above will require you to have a good process and be organized. We have developed onboarding systems before and encourage you to involve the employee in their onboarding experience. For example, create a checklist of what needs to be completed and make the employee responsible for scheduling the actions. Ask the new employee about their preferred learning style and then try to accommodate it. Some people learn better by reading manuals and procedures while others learn best by doing. Don’t assume – ask!

Here are a few additional tips:

  • Be intentional – don’t just go through the motions. Take the time to plan a thoughtful and engaging onboarding experience.
  • Include at least one memorable surprise on the first day. This could be one of the ideas above (like a personal visit from the owner) or another intentional act that will be the employee’s answer to, “How was your first day?”
  • Be flexible. Things don’t always go according to plan, so be prepared to adapt your onboarding process as needed.
  • Get feedback. Ask the new employee for feedback on their onboarding experience. This will help you to improve the process for future employees.

Implement at least one of these ideas and make onboarding more impressive and memorable for your new employees. At Lean East, we have created or improved many organizational onboarding programs. Contact us today if you want some help with improving your onboarding and orientation process.

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