Cultural onboarding, the key to helping new hires fit in!

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Culture: (noun) the ideas, customs, and social behavior of a particular person or society

What’s the culture of your organization? And do your new hires get it?

In the third installment of our blog series on the 4 elements to successful onboarding, we’ll take a closer look at cultural onboarding. Often overlooked in the past, today organizations see the importance of explicitly stating their values and expectations.

We’ll explore how you can effectively communicate your cultural values so that your new hires will know how to apply these values to their decision-making and behavior at work.

Let’s start by looking at a real-world scenario.

Client case study

We worked with a very fast growing IT consultancy business during its first 5 years. They had incredible clarity when it came to their cultural values.

They worked on the basis that if you needed support, input or clarity then you needed to ask for it. You couldn’t expect someone to spot your needs.

Love it or loathe it, this approach was explicit from day one. New hires either left very quickly or stayed for prolonged periods. Why?

Because the human comfort zone is hugely influenced by the feeling that you understand how to fit in. Being explicit allowed new hires to figure this out quickly.

They embedded their cultural values into their business in 2 key ways:

In other words:

They communicated what their values were and how to operate successfully within them.

How to ensure cultural alignment with your onboarding

So what can you do to achieve the same level of success when it comes to the cultural alignment of your new hires? It comes down to 3 key approaches during your onboarding process:

1. Communicating your organizational values

This starts before day one through pre-boarding. Share your values in a variety of formats. As culture is an abstract concept, different people will access its meaning in different ways. Here are a few ideas:

2. Demonstrating how to operate according to organizational expectations

You’ve now explained your organizational values and exemplified them. Next, consider providing interactive activities to illustrate appropriate cultural behaviors. Scenarios and responses are a great way to kick things off.

Creating scenarios

Come up with some scenarios and ask new hires how they would respond. You can give them some options to choose from and feedback on their decisions.

You can even use real examples from positive or negative events during your organization’s history. Use them to illustrate how the responses represent appropriate or less appropriate actions.

To up engagement levels, you can ask new hires to make a short video on how they would respond to a given scenario and get a local leader to feedback on it.

Peer discussions

You can also give your new hires a list of scenarios and send them off to ask their peers how they would respond. They can then discuss their ‘findings’ with a mentor or buddy and reflect on how their experience will guide their behavior.

3. Providing support when it comes to fitting in with the team

The single biggest factor in determining whether a new hire stays or leaves is their relationship with their immediate manager. Cultural fit must, therefore, extend to fitting in with their team. This isn’t just luck of the draw.

Behavioral style assessments

You can set up new hires to have better workplace relationships with the help of tools that assess behavioral style, such as DISC, Social Style, etc.

Incorporate the use of such tools in the onboarding process, with a debrief afterwards about how their profile fits with their manager and colleagues.


Navigating the local culture can be daunting and confusing, so try using the buddy system.

Facilitating conversations between new hires and their assigned buddies is even possible in situations where proximity is an issue, thanks to digital platforms. Even within the same office, a digital platform can make discreet conversations easy in a busy workplace.

Consider using a digital platform that connects your new hire to different people for different types of support i.e. buddy, coach, mentor, and manager.


Finally, while not specifically an element of culture per se, knowing the lingo of your organization is important to the successful integration of new hires.

Of course, you can provide a glossary, but why not instead provide them with a ‘bingo card’? When certain terms come up in conversation, they’re entitled to call out the term used and request an explanation.

When they have completed their card, they can review it with their buddy and check it’s accuracy. You can even encourage them to add other terms to the card, ensuring they’re included in future onboarding activities.

This approach turns a language barrier into a fun way for new hires to take control and participate in translating and spreading the word about your organization’s lingo.

“Culture is everything”

That’s what former CEO of IBM, Louise Gerstner Jr., had to say about his time heading up this corporate giant.

When your new hires can understand the politics, language, goals, and values of your organization, they will adjust and integrate faster. Down the line, this also translates to improved commitment and satisfaction and reduced staff turnover.

We spend more than half of our waking hours at work so establishing a culture that is centered around motivating, coaching, supporting and inspiring is essential to create a happy workforce.

Want to improve your onboarding experience?

If you would like to discuss your onboarding requirements and how our mobile learning and coaching app On.Board can help align your new hires to your company’s culture as well as provide them with an enjoyable onboarding experience, please do get in touch by visiting


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