Does Company Culture Matter in Your New Hire Onboarding?

Tina Eaton
June 5, 2018
minuto de lectura
How to Improve New Hire Onboarding
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Nuevo aspecto, ¡el mismo gran producto! HelloSign ahora es Dropbox Sign.

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“Sloppy onboarding turns into sloppy culture.”

If there’s anything HR professional Carly Guthrie has seen during her 15 years in entrepreneurial environments, it’s a wide variety of onboarding. Some good. Some sloppy.

And I don’t know about you, but “sloppy” is down there with “out of business” on the list of things I would want my company to be called.

What I do know is that caring about your organization’s culture is no longer a choice.

“Culture” has transcended beyond a buzzword to become an operations guideline and a beacon for future employees.

Because it varies widely from organization to organization and is but an infant in the business lexicon, it’s hard to arrive at one all-encompassing definition for “company culture.” We think this one does the trick: “Culture is the character and personality of your organization. It's what makes your organization unique and is the sum of its values, traditions, beliefs, interactions, behaviors, and attitudes.”

Before you say your company doesn’t really have a distinct culture—yes, it does. And ignoring it in your new hire, culture-onboarding process could be detrimental to the success of your employees, your HR department, and your organization as a whole.

Why Should I Care About Instilling Company Culture in My New Hire Onboarding Process?

Remember what it was like to take your parents’ car out for a spin for the first time after getting your license or the first day at your current job? New beginnings are always a little disorienting.

When people are disoriented is also when they’re the most susceptible to adapting to new roles, goals, and values. That’s why new hire onboarding is the most impactful time in which to instill your company culture and ensure alignment.

New employees are like sponges. While they get settled in they’ll be absorbing every move you make—whether you’re making them consciously or not.

If their new hire onboarding process is fraught with inefficiencies and poor communication, a new employee could internalize bad habits that will hurt their performance and your culture down the line.

Inversely, if their new hire onboarding process exemplifies well-planned knowledge transfers and streamlined workflows, they might develop more confidence that your systems will support them as they shoot for the big, hairy goals in the future.

During these vital early hours and days, focus not on the practical minutia of paperwork but on those big, lofty missions and attitudes and beliefs you hope your newest employee will not only align with but pass on to everyone with whom they come in contact.

The understanding employees form during the new hire onboarding process will be the foundation from which they represent your company values, serve your customers, and further your mission in everything they do at—and outside of—work.

A strong culture attracts top talent; but a focus on ensuring all employees align with it is what gives you the traction to meet ever-demanding business objectives.

  • A University of Iowa paper found that individuals who felt they fit into the environment at work were more satisfied, performed better, and were more likely to stay with that organization. An employee who doesn’t clearly understand or finds themselves misaligned with company culture is likely to be disengaged, less productive, and chronically dissatisfied. Not only will their performance and outlook have a negative impact while they’re a part of your team, so will their inevitable departure.  
  • Effective onboarding programs that put an emphasis on instilling company culture have been found to increase retention rates by as much as 25 percent and improve productivity by 11 percent.
  • Especially in fields where competition for talent is fierce and a strong market makes moving around easy, job hopping is becoming the norm for employees and more and more expensive for employers. When replacing an employee can cost anywhere from 16 to 213 percent of their salary, it literally pays to boost retainment with solid new hire onboarding techniques. “Replacing talent runs as high as two times annual salary,” says Ben Peterson, CEO of BambooHR. “And it’s not just about dollars. Culture and job satisfaction is hugely impacted, as well as morale, productivity, lost insider knowledge. It’s painful to lose people.”

New hire onboarding is the second-most impactful HR practice after recruiting. Here are some ways to make it work for you by instilling the value of your company culture in your new hire onboarding process.

How do I Instill Company Culture in My New Hire Onboarding Process?

Use Soft Skills to Signal Value in Your Organization

Soft skills like thoughtfulness and attention to detail are hard. They’re hard to define. They’re hard to quantify. But what’s not hard is understanding the effect they have in the new hire onboarding process.

HR’s role in the new hire onboarding process is to make sure your newest employee feels so connected to the team and the culture at your company that they can’t imagine being anywhere else.

The effort you make during this process won’t be overlooked. It will be a new hire’s first impression on which they’ll determine whether they love your culture or they should keep shopping around.

According to Guthrie, “The good will that a great welcome experience generates is priceless.”

Distinguish yourself from other organizations. Show new hire yours in a culture of caring with these thoughtful details:

  • Make new hires feel welcome by ensuring they know where to be, when to be there, and who will be waiting to greet them on their first day.
  • Take first-day-lunch jitters off the table by scheduling an outing with a few other employees.
  • Prepare your team with important details about your newest employee and encourage everyone to introduce themselves as soon as possible.
  • Make sure their work station is set up and any to-dos are clearly outlined in their calendar.
  • Put in the effort to create a personalized welcome packet replete with swag for them and their family.

Even when you’re busy, actually especially when you’re busy, minding these details ahead of time communicates that you appreciate your employees and are excited to have them hit the ground running. If you're interested in a real world example, here's how we built better onboarding at Dropbox Sign.

The Communication Commandment

Whether this is your first or 500th hire, at some point during the new hire onboarding process you’re still going to need to get some work done. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

However, being too busy to keep lines of communication open during the delicate early days can be disastrous for the health of your culture and the longevity of your new hire.

If you’re in a position where new hires are likely to come to you with questions, be interruptible. You can also create an FAQ doc and set up regular touch points to ensure their questions are getting answered.

Whatever you do, don’t send the message that questions and communication aren’t important to you and therefore your company. That will immediately set the tone that yours is a culture of silence and silos. That you can’t be bothered with details. That you aren’t thoughtful.

If that seems unrealistic, consider that the CEO of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company personally conducts every “Day One” event at every single hotel and resort the company opens anywhere in the world.

Focus on the “Why” as Much as the “What”

Instead of expecting a new hire whose head is swimming with new passwords and faces to intrinsically understand the value of their work, help set the stage for them.

It’s key that in these early days, a new employee’s manager communicates the value of what your company is doing and how important their role is in this mission. Don’t just tell them what you expect, explain why.

Apple famously instilled their culture and communicated the value of each employee’s contribution in a note they gave to new hires:


Great New Hire Onboarding Starts Before They Step in the Door

Nothing engages a new hire like showing genuine excitement that they’ve decided to join the team. And what shows excitement? Checking in with them ahead of time to make sure they’re prepared and pumped for day one.  

Ernst & Young built a digital onboarding portal where new hires can take a virtual tour and get answers to some of the most common questions before they even step foot in the office.

MasterCard takes advantage of the excitement of getting a new job with a welcome email that also takes care of some snooze-worthy details. Through an employee website, new hires are able to upload their photo, add important info about themselves, enroll for benefits, and otherwise take care of some of the details that usually suck up a lot of valuable time on their first day.

IBM estimates that new hires who participate in their pre-boarding program are 80 percent less likely to leave the company during their first year of employment.

New hire onboarding offers a great opportunity for HR departments to engage in digital transformation. Aside from developing custom portals to disseminate important cultural content and help collect employee data, Workflow and Content Automation (WCA) software gives HR professionals back the precious time it takes to help guide their organization’s digital transformation strategy.

Build a Lasting Partnership with Transparency

A vital step in a new hire onboarding process that prioritizes company culture is giving participants a complete view of where your organization started, where it’s heading, and where it is right now—flaws and all.

Your history. Your founders. Your long-standing employees. Your daily processes. Content, products, and activities that really define what you’re all about. All of these things help new hires develop an in-depth understanding of your organization and its culture. Better yet, they help employees feel like trusted, integral players in continuing your organization’s story.

A tactical way to immerse new employees in your culture is to partner them with a member of your customer service team during their new hire onboarding training. No matter what department they’re in, eventually they’ll appreciate having this deep knowledge of who they’re serving and why.

Ensure Culture is Consistent

You’ll never get another chance to make a first impression; especially when it comes to desirable talent in competitive industries.  

Your new hire onboarding process is your best shot to tell the story of who your company is and why it’s exactly where they belong. If you want each employee to be on the same page of this story, you better start getting consistent.

Poorly-communicated, inconsistent, or nonexistent cultural messaging will derail a company’s progress toward strategic objectives. When each employee has a different understand of your organization’s goals and mission, how could they possibly align to arrive at the same destination?

Inconsistency can be especially detrimental when multiplied. Remember, one day this same new hire could be onboarding your next employee. Did you instill culture in a way that they’ll be able to accurately pass it down to the generation of workers?

The great news is that digital transformation helps take care of a lot of the monotonous tasks HR professionals used to have to field; giving you bandwidth to ensure your culture shines in every single step of new hire onboarding and continual training.

If you’re still wasting time on high-volume, repetitive tasks; Dropbox Sign can help you automate and streamline processes with our suite of secure and customizable WCA tools.

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