Top tips to assimilate new workers into your company culture

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Top tips to assimilate new workers into your company culture
Jennifer Leahy

by
April 2, 2012

Do you remember your first day at your current job? As the workday came to a close, were you glad you had decided to join the new company? Or were you thinking “What in the world have I gotten myself into?”

There is much truth to the adage about never having a second chance to make a first impression in both personal and professional relationships. Once your company decides to hire a new worker, the process of “onboarding” the person and assimilating them into your company culture is an important act. Research by The Wynhurst Group finds that 22 percent of staff turnover occurs in the first 45 days of employment.

Welcoming, educating, and assimilating a new hire may be one of the most important acts a manager does, asserted Barrie Gross, a former senior employment attorney and founder of Barrie Gross Consulting, an HR consulting firm.

“If you’re too busy their first day and the first time they see you is at 5 p.m. you’re not making a good impression,” she said.

“You should be building a relationship of trust and respect from the second the person walks through the door,” Gross advised managers, adding that more important to show, not just tell, the new hire that they are welcome and wanted.

She advocated managers assigning a “buddy” to employees entering the company as many people are reticent to ask questions that aren’t directly job-related, i.e. “where is the copy paper or where is the best place to get a salad?”

Ideally the “buddy” should be a member of the work team and managers should consider the relationship an important component of the onboarding process, ensuring that the established worker has ample time to mentor the new hire, Gross advised.

Such a relationship can help the rookie employee as they explore the company culture, which often has many unwritten and unspoken “rules.” Gross said the goal of the relationship is to avoid feelings of confusion and alienation during the first few weeks and months of employment.

Gross also recommends that managers take time to compile a list of necessary information and key business partners to ensure that the person has the tools to do their job.

“It’s very common – a person goes through orientation, hears all of the ‘administrivia’ but gets back to their desk and the computer password doesn’t work and they have no idea how to contact IT,” Gross said.

Onboarding time is better spent educating the new hire on available resources – not reading the rules and regulations, she added.

“Too often a new employee is sent somewhere for the first few days or weeks where someone talks to them about the company mission, values, and HR functions. It’s a static process – not a living, breathing, dynamic process,” Gross said.

Though they were likely informed of the proper procedure to change their paycheck withholding exemption number in the thorough orientation, it’s unlikely they will remember weeks or months later. A better plan is to provide the new hire with a strategic HR partner who can assist them with any HR-related issues or direct them to someone who can, Gross noted.

“They should be given a strategic overview and managers should find a way to explain the corporate objectives in a way that links to the departments, the team, and their individual job,” she added.

Ensuring that the person is crystal clear on their job tasks and expectations not only benefits new employees but may result in savings for the company. Research estimates the financial cost of employee misunderstanding at about $37 billion per year to businesses in the UK and US enterprises in a recent white paper from International Data Corporation (IDC). There are also additional immeasurable, intangible negative repercussions such as the blemish on the company reputation and impact of loss in customer trust.

“At the end of the first week, if the person has spent time with their buddy and gotten a list of key business partners from their manager, they are walking away thinking ‘Wow. Part of the culture here is to help people succeed, to give forethought to the quality of their daily existence.’ That is a great start,” Gross said.

Haphazardly assimilating new hires can have a negative impact on the bottom line due to increased employee costs via turnover. The Wynhurst Group found that new employees who went through a structured on-boarding program were 58 percent more likely to be with the organization three years later.

Taking time to conscientiously plan the process of assimilating new workers can ensure that they easily adapt to a company culture and quickly become productive members of a work team. Experts and researchers agree – a successful initiation into a company can set the stage for years of employment that benefits the worker and the company.

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