The Key to Welcoming New Hires

The best way to integrate a new hire into your company is to make sure they understand from the get-go the nuances of your office culture.
September 20, 2012

I received this e-mail from a Culture Beat reader:

“Dear Alexandra, I started a new job last week and unfortunately, I’m already regretting my decision. I accepted the job based on the company’s strong reputation in the community, and the fact that I felt so much at home during my interview. But based on my first few days, I’m wondering if my initial great feelings were wrong. Maybe this is not the right place for me.” 

After a lengthy hiring process, this is not a good situation for either the company or the new hire. It’s too bad, because I’m willing to bet that the company is a decent fit for my reader. But what goes on during the first several days of employment leaves a powerful impression, and obviously the culture my reader was prepared to love was absent from that impression. Now he might leave as a result. What should the company have done differently?

It is challenging enough to establish and sustain an organizational culture of which you are proud, and then to communicate that culture effectively throughout the hiring process. You don’t want to waste all that effort by dropping the ball once the offer letter is sent. In this week’s Culture Beat, we explore helpful ways to introduce and/or reinforce a terrific culture to those just coming on board.

Get To Them Right Away

Cheryl Hughley, director of onboarding for Southwest Airlines, points out that there’s a big gap of time between accepting a position and starting the job.  During that period, new hires may feel fear and anxiety and wonder about other options.  

When a new hire accepts a job at Southwest, within 48 hours she receives an e-mail invitation to launch an online orientation that highlights all of the perks and opportunities that come with working at the airline. Southwest’s employee-centric culture is front and center and serves as a confidence-boosting anecdote to any doubts a new hire may be experiencing.

Craft an Orientation Agenda

Far too many new employee orientations consist of five hours in a crowded conference room signing boatloads of paperwork and listening to boring PowerPoints.  Recognize that the first day’s briefing meeting is the perfect opportunity to impart critical knowledge about your organizational culture, including company mission, vision, values, hierarchy, departmental relationships, social initiatives, disciplinary procedures and other rules and regulations. If your culture is one of employee empowerment, make sure you carve out time for the manager to go over specific job duties and performance expectations so the new hire is capable of contributing meaningfully right away.  

When in Doubt, Spell it Out

Small-business owners, HR professionals and managers should not underestimate the importance of clearly communicating the small details that comprise organizational culture. 

For example, if your culture does not tolerate the use of laptops for personal reasons, expense reimbursement for client entertainment, or asking a senior executive a question that could be addressed by a new hire’s manager, you must say so upfront.  You cannot assume that new hires came from a similar culture and understand these nuances. 

Surround New Hires with Positive Influences

Even if your culture is robust, inevitably there will be naysayers or people who insist on having a negative attitude for whatever reason. Be smart about who represents your culture best and who doesn’t, and purposefully expose new hires to the former. 

Set up one-on-on meetings for new hires with enthusiastic employees who live and breathe the company’s values and know how to get things done. Assign new hires buddies who are similar in age and position to ensure that green employees feel cared about and appreciated.  It will make all the difference.

Read more OPEN stories about onboarding.  

Alexandra Levit is a former nationally-syndicated business and workplace columnist for The Wall Street Journal and the author of Blind Spots: The 10 Business Myths You Can’t Afford to Believe on Your New Path to SuccessMoney magazine’s Online Career Expert of the Year, she regularly speaks at organizations and conferences on issues facing modern employees.