How Onboarding Drives Connection and Culture

March 17, 2022 John Baldino

four people at top of mountain

Time magazine called 2022 “The Year We Learn to Live with COVID-19.” The coronavirus is just that, a virus, which will mutate and evolve as it has for decades. Our lives will continue to be affected by the need for adaptation and protection.

In the workplace, it’s propelled a severe shift towards flexibility, not merely in hours worked, but also in where work gets done. To be sure, not all employees have the option to work remotely, but the number of those who can is staggering. Perhaps your organization swore that working from home would never be an option, and yet, here we are. And it’s not temporary.

If your team is still receiving a “this is going to change” message, stop and redirect. The messaging most desperately needed now is “this is a place for you.” Some recent Gartner research regarding employee belonging showed that only 32% of employees hired in the last 12 months felt they belonged. The key to changing this stat is the onboarding experience. For all the stress and strain in finding talent these days, managers should be hyper focused on a positive, inclusive onboarding experience.

Connection is key. Truthfully, it always has been. The last five years of research has shown that when there is not an established onboarding process with opportunities to deepen connection, new hires transition out of an organization, on average, within six months. Let’s not be fooled into thinking that the flexibility to work from home or on a hybrid schedule has improved that average. It has not.

Culture is delicate. If there aren’t ways for an employee to listen and to be heard, then the mechanics of work become merely task-oriented. If you think about the language used when interacting with an employee and determine it to be primarily, if not exclusively, about the competencies necessary to do the actual work, then connection is tenuous. Employees start to think: “I am only as good as the next good thing I do.” Again, Gartner research affirms this with only 41% of employees believing that senior leadership acts in their best interest; 69% of that same senior leadership thinks they do act in employees’ best interest. The disconnect is palpable.

The best first step is great onboarding. Bring your new hire into the organization with clarity, direction, and enthusiasm. Here are some tips:

  • Set a good tone for what the role entails – output, working hours, meeting cadence, etc. Working from home don’t usually mean work whenever you’d like. If there are parameters, communicate them.
  • Provide a path forward for job enlargement and career growth. That conversation can be general to begin with, but it’s one to introduce at the onset. Letting an employee know that a manager has an eye on the present and the future is exciting and encouraging.
  • Be hyped up. There should be a genuine enthusiasm for this employee’s decision to join the organization. And while a dance party may be quite a stretch for some (though not all!), find an honest way to communicate gratitude to employees. Connection must be genuine.

With only 59% of employees feeling connected to a shared organizational purpose, a good onboarding experience is critical. Lean into their excitement for joining your organization and keep the messaging consistent throughout the employee’s tenure. COVID is not keeping you from doing this well. You can make those corrections today!


About the Author

John Baldino

John is president at Humareso and an SPHR and SHRM-SCP certified professional with more than 25 years of HR experience.

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