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The Onboarding Checklist That Puts Culture First

Very few professionals would dispute the importance of an effective onboarding process, and most thriving businesses have invested in an onboarding plan.

It makes sense when you consider that highly effective onboardings make employees 18 times more likely to feel highly committed to their organization and 33 percent more likely to be engaged at work. Yet even with the recognized importance of onboarding, many organizations are still stumped when it comes to actually building an effective onboarding process.

That’s where onboarding checklists come in. Since so much goes into onboarding, it’s always helpful to have a cheat sheet to help you remember everything. But recognizing what you need to do to isn’t enough if you don’t remember why you do it.

How to Use this Checklist

A big mistake people make when onboarding new employees is to assume that onboarding is nothing more than a series of steps. They imagine the first step is to send an offer letter, the last step is to offer on-the-job-training, and in between are a bunch more steps. Just climb the onboarding staircase one step at a time and—voila!—employees are onboarded.

Onboarding isn’t nearly as simple as that. If all it took to complete an effective onboarding was to check off one task after another, most anybody could do it well. In reality, every employee has a different path to effective onboarding, and that’s why onboarding must be handled at a person level.

So, what is onboarding, really? Onboarding is everything that leads up to an employee’s total immersion into an organization’s culture.

Yes, lists of onboarding best practices help pave the way for effective onboarding processes, but they’re just starting points. Beyond best practices, it’s essential that the real-life employees involved receive the individual attention necessary to immerse themselves into your culture.

Without that cultural immersion, their onboarding will never be completed (in a meaningful way), and it’s only a matter of time before that employee leaves. Remember 86 percent of new hires decide whether to stay at or leave their new organizations within their first six months. (Source: OC Tanner onboarding checklist)

[Related: Onboarding New Hires Effectively]

Culture-Based Onboarding Checklist

A traditional employee onboarding checklist is an excellent resource for dealing with onboarding challenges. Go here and here for a traditional onboarding checklist.

Below, however, you’ll find a culture-based onboarding checklist: It’s a compilation of culture-related items to remember as you onboard new hires. This checklist, when coupled with a traditional list, sets you up for more meaningful—and, by extension, more effective—onboardings.

1. Teach culture before the start date

Hopefully, you’ve made your culture a key factor throughout the interview process when determining a candidate’s fit. Regardless, once you’re sending an offer letter, it’s time to begin the cultural immersion.

  • Make sure offer letters are professional and individualized to the candidate
  • Communicate with new hires between their acceptance and start date to build rapport and address any questions and concerns that may come up
  • Use new hire packets that allow employees to complete paperwork before their start date so that their first day can be spent on more important things (like culture training!)
  • Introduce new hires to your culture by providing information on your mission, vision, and values

[Related: How to Screen for Retention]

2. Train culture by providing detail

An employee’s first few days on the job should be spent learning about their company and job and integrating into each. A big part of doing both is training your new employees extensively on your culture and setting clear expectations.

  • Teach new hires the definition and reasoning behind your organization’s mission
  • Teach new hires the definition and reasoning behind your organization’s vision
  • Teach new hires your organization’s values and provide real-life examples of how your values are applied on a daily basis
  • Teach new hires the attitudes and behaviors that are encouraged and discouraged in your workplace
  • Tell the story of your organization and discuss your organization’s successes and failures, and the lessons learned from each

[Related: How Enterprise Companies Use Glassdoor to Recruit]

3. Make sure employees feel a part of the team

A BambooHR study found that 91 percent of employees who went through an effective onboarding process feel connected at work, compared to 29 percent who had ineffective processes. Making strong connections and effective onboardings go hand in hand, and it’s far easier to buy into a culture that is friendly and familiar.

  • In your new hire packets, ask new hires questions to discover their personality and interests
  • Share new hire answers with the rest of the organization (or department) on their first day to facilitate connections with coworkers
  • Take new hires on a team lunch during their first day to get to know each other on a personal level
  • During your first one-on-one meetings, explain in depth to new hires where their work fits into the bigger picture of the organization
  • As soon as possible, give new hires opportunities to know executives (or department leaders) on a personal level

[Related: How to Build Company Culture Through Content]

4. Provide culture resources

After your formal onboarding programs have concluded, give employees the resources they’ll need to start practicing your culture on their own. If you give them sources to reference as they face their day-to-day work, they’re far more likely to develop culture-strengthening habits.

  • Make sure your employee handbook includes instructions on company culture, including mission, vision, and values training
  • Provide easy access to employee handbooks and any other content pieces that explain your culture
  • When you assign work mentors, only consider employees who are engaged and active contributors to your company culture

[Related: Guide to Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace]

5. Repeat

Remember that the onboarding process isn’t complete until the employee is totally immersed in your culture. So, always be training your people on culture to keep it top of mind for those who get it, and to educate those who don’t.

  • Always hold regular one-on-one meetings and use them as opportunities to discuss significant culture elements
  • Attach individual and team goals to your company’s mission, vision, and values
  • Use company and team meetings as opportunities to discuss your culture, specifically your values

To learn more about onboarding check out BambooHR’s New Definitive Guide to Onboarding ebook

Bryson Kearl is an HR content creator at BambooHR. His role enables him to study HR’s impact on organizations, and he is a diehard believer in the vital role HR plays in building company culture to achieve overarching business objectives.