How Onboarding Can Cultivate Corporate Culture Champions

Posted in Talent & Onboarding

Is your onboarding program singing your praises to eager new hires? Or, are you wasting your first opportunity to connect and inspire?

Maintaining a solid corporate culture is a business priority, not just to win the talent war, but because a healthy culture improves productivity, engagement, and retention. And even though the recruitment process provides new hires with a window into your culture, onboarding is where they are really immersed in your culture, so it’s important to get it right.

Culture translates to customer experience, which translates to growth and increased revenue.

“Culture is at the root of customer experience. A culture that encourages, celebrates, and supports employees naturally leads to being centered on customers and offering great customer experiences.”

What’s corporate culture and why we care about it

Unless you’re a start-up, culture is not something you have much control in ‘building’. It already exists, so it’s about maintaining it or massaging it to fit your evolving workplace. Contrary to belief – culture isn’t owned by an organisation. It’s owned by the people working within it.

“Culture is formed from the shared values and beliefs that develop within an organisation, and guides employee behaviour.”

– E Schein, ‘Organisational culture’, American Psychologist, vol. 45

It determines the acceptable social norms and behavioural patterns (like working 12-hour days), and manages expectations around things like feedback, comradery, employee development, innovation and creativity, and even shared assumptions like ‘what makes us better…’.

Studies show a connection between culture and things like reputation, performance, and the attitude of your employees. And the dream is always happy and engaged employees. So, by establishing culture during onboarding, you’re ensuring that new hires can fit in seamlessly without the stress of culture shock.

“Leaders should ensure that every single employee – at all times, at all levels of the company – can clearly define the reason why the organisation exists, how the organisation wishes to be known, and how employees are expected to accomplish their work each day.”


Onboarding = delivering on your culture promises

The first real peek into your corporate soul happens during recruitment and onboarding. So, you wanna make sure you’re delivering on promises. You wanna make sure you’re communicating who you are, what you stand for, and how you work so you are transparent and authentic.

To use an analogy from the online dating world, if onboarding is the first date, you want to ensure the real you matches the profile pic, and you aren’t catfishing a new hire.

If a new hire has joined your organization due to the employee experience and culture you promised them during recruitment, frictionless onboarding that fulfils that promise will win you their hearts.

Conversely, in Korn Ferry’s Futurestep survey, nearly one-fifth (19 percent) of respondents say their new hires leave because they don’t like the company’s culture.

“Especially for Millennials, company culture is key to job satisfaction and companies must ensure they are correctly portraying the culture during the recruiting and onboarding processes.”

– Tim Powell, managing director, ANZ

Kickstart culture with your onboarding program

Assuming your hiring managers did a stellar job choosing the right candidates to join your team, you can use your onboarding program to reinforce your company culture, values, and expectations. Make sure to involve current employees as Culture Champions wherever possible.

Get the right tools for the job

If you’re genuinely a hip ‘n’ happenin’ startup or a throroughly innovative and modern organization, it’s time to put aside paper-based onboarding with your Encyclopaedia-length checklists and manual processing. First thing is first – invest in HR tech that works how you work and aligns with the brand you’re selling.

Communicate with gusto!

Managers influence culture through the signals they send, their feedback, their questions, and their words and actions. To demonstrate a communicative and transparent culture, don’t miss a beat when it comes to your welcome comms.

As soon as the contract is signed, ensure there’s pre-scheduled communication from managers that speaks in your brand voice, demonstrates your culture, and educates new hires on your mission, values, people, and expectations. Spice it up with videos from the team, fun texts and task prompts, and light-hearted yet informative quizzes. (See how we’re making managers look like rock-stars.)

Ask for feedback

As best practice, we recommend onboarding programs last (at least) a full year. Allow new hires to share their experience with you and/or their manager regularly via new hire feedback checkpoints along their journey. With Enboarder, you can set up the system to automatically alert the hiring manager of negative feedback, so they can follow up on any issues before they become too serious.

Pre-board paperwork

Nothing is less exciting than than spending the first day of work buries under a mound of manuals and paperwork. You don’t really want that as the new hire’s first experience at work.

That’s not a first day people will run home and tell all their friends and family about (or hashtag your brilliance on Instagram).

Best to drip feed this information electronically beforehand, so they can get all their ducks in a row, and also so you can use Day 1 / Week 1 to dazzle them with team lunches, getting-to-know-yous, and 1:1s with managers and mentors.

Assign a mentor / buddy

The buddy system has been adopted by many organizations, because it works. An allocated buddy can introduce the new hire to the workplace culture, norms, systems and processes with ease. Having a peer they can comfortably ‘hit up’ with questions or join for lunch in the early days will make a positive mark on their outlook and assimilation into the workplace.

The more you’re able to onboard employees who’re familiarised with your corporate culture (and actually like you!), the more likely they’ll contribute quickly and early, and the less disruption to your workforce and productivity (reducing the risk of culture misalignments and that dreaded disengagement).

Culture-focused onboarding sets new hires up for success (it’s a win for you, too)

Your onboarding program is the first leg in the culture and engagement process and can set up your new hires for success or doom them to failure. The experience is everything.

The other benefit to infusing cultural education in your onboarding program is that it will help to create consistency during rapid growth phases and with mergers and acquisitions, ensuring much loved cultures remain intact.

“… experiences are everything to modern workers, and companies need to provide onboarding experiences – not just information – that mirror the identity of their organisation.”


Do you need to transform your employee onboarding experience to improve first year retention and performance? If your onboarding program is a system of checklists and crappy induction videos that aren’t cultivating culture champions, we can give your onboarding the nourishment it needs, thanks to our FREE Master Guide to onboarding new hires like a HR rock-star.

Ready to rock onboarding? 👉

Become an Enboarder insider!