How a cultural audit can elevate the onboarding process.
By Lilith Christiansen
Only 44 percent of employees believe their employerÂ does a good job bringing new talent into theÂ organization. Strategic onboarding seeks to solve thatÂ issue by moving beyond automating paperwork. Instead,Â it delivers a personalized journey that transforms newÂ hires into fully functioning, integrated members of theÂ team. Todayâs onboarding approaches should provideÂ clear expectations in terms of behavior and interactionÂ with management, customers, and other employees.
Strategic onboarding is made up of four pillars: culturalÂ mastery, interpersonal network development, earlyÂ career support, and strategy immersion and directionÂ (see Figure 1). Cultural mastery is a criticalÂ component, but one that often gets overlooked.Â Providing employees with a sense of formal and informalÂ norms and how to thrive within them enables new hiresÂ to fit in quickly. New hires need to understand the insÂ and outs of company culture in honest and authenticÂ ways, or else businesses risk losing them.
The challenge for many organizations is defining theirÂ culture. There are a few questions that can help startÂ the process: Whatâs the âreal and trueâ story? WhatâsÂ changing as the organization grows and evolves? AreÂ there any hidden perceptions that need to be unearthed?Â Are there any old traditions that need to be carriedÂ forward? Is the organization aspiring to build a differentÂ culture than exists today?
To find out the answers to these questions, organizationsÂ can execute a cultural audit. At its core, a cultural auditÂ is a simple, three-step process that includes asking,Â documenting, and analyzing. Each of these three stepsÂ plays a critical role in understanding and establishing anÂ organizationâs culture.
- Ask. Conduct business leader interviews and useÂ employee surveys and focus groups to get a sense ofÂ what all individuals across the entire organization feelÂ are the core tenets of the company culture. Each level inÂ the organization likely has a different take based on theirÂ day-to-day experiences.
- Document. Take the results of the surveys, focusÂ groups, and interviews and document the corporateÂ values, unconscious expectations, daily behaviors andÂ practices, perceptions (even myths!), and anything ofÂ potential value that helps paint a picture of the culture.
- Analyze. Once the data has been collected andÂ documented, examine it carefully to identify factors thatÂ are consistent as well as differences between sources.Â See if the data aligns with current strategies. Look closelyÂ to see if perceived, actual, stated, or desired culturesÂ emerge. In particular, take note of areas where there is aÂ disconnect between the aspirational culture and the wayÂ the organization currently functions.
By completing a cultural audit, organizations will getÂ a firm sense of their cultureâboth where it excels andÂ where it needs improvement.
Learning and defining an organizational culture is theÂ first step toward integrating cultural mastery into aÂ strategic onboarding program. To bring the culture to life,Â organizations must demonstrate how it supports businessÂ strategy to positively impact outcomes. Some approaches:
- Short videos from current employees are a great way forÂ new hires to get a real sense of the culture in an authenticÂ way.
- Assigning a new hire a buddy at the peer level providesÂ an opportunity for the new employee to learn the cultureÂ from a peer in an easy, low pressure way.
- Hosting a recent new hire panel discussion by bringing inÂ two or three new hires who have been in the organizationÂ for between six and nine months is a good way toÂ communicate actual experience.
- Provide managers with discussion prompts to talk aboutÂ culture and even compare and contrast the companyÂ culture with the new hireâs former employer.
- Social events are also a good way to encourageÂ opportunities for new hires and existing employees toÂ get to know each other and share personal experiencesÂ that illustrate culture and the âunwritten rulesâ of theÂ organization.
By knowing and communicating an authentic culturalÂ story, new hires can plug into the true culture, helpingÂ them succeed and increasing the likelihood that they stayÂ with the organization.
Lilith Christiansen is vice president of onboarding solutions for SilkRoad.