Why Culture Integration is Essential During the Onboarding Process

It’s Dave’s first day. He’s finally here.
The Account Manager’s position has been open for more than six months and by all indications, Dave is the answer to everyone’s prayers. There is a sigh of relief now that he’s on board – Dave has a proven track record of success, his people skills are sharp and witty, and he has a knack for building relationships, winning new business and growing dormant accounts.
And as much as everyone is watching Dave’s every move to make sure he was an intelligent hire, Dave is also watching everyone else, looking for reassurances that leaving his prior employer of eight years and starting from scratch with a new company was the right move for his career and family.
Unfortunately, Dave resigned in less than eight weeks.
No, he’s not a Millennial. At the age of 46, he’s in the prime of his career. He was on-boarded in the traditional way – meeting everyone on his team to understand their roles, spending time with HR to fill out all necessary paperwork, and completed the company’s two-week training program, with honors.
So, what was the problem? Dave was never properly integrated into the culture of the new company. Sure, he understands the industry and how it works, he understands the uniqueness of the company’s brand, and he understands the mechanics of his job. However, no one ever thought of explaining how things “really worked” at his new company. Unwittingly, Dave was set up to fail.
Integration Defined
Integration involves bringing new hires, even at the C level, into the fold on cultural norms and expectations, helping them to clear the two tallest hurdles they will face in their first year: cultural and political challenges. As cultures vary widely from company to company – even those in identical industries, new hires should not be expected to figure things out on their own. On the contrary, they need to know how the gears of the organization are calibrated, how decisions are made, who to see for what, and who to tap into to get things done. Integration must also include an overview of each of the company’s customers, their history, personality, politics, and who owns the relationships at various levels.
Companies recognizing the value of integration often have permission from their employees to share each other’s personality profiles (such as DiSC), which detail how people make decisions, handle stress, work within teams and interact with others. After all, people are not software – they are emotional, volatile, sensitive, reactive and carry baggage. Understanding one’s colleagues to such a finite level of detail can be advantageous to an organization’s culture, its quality of communication and minimizing conflict. The goal? To make new hires fully functional members of a team as quickly and efficiently as possible.
The term “politics” is typically burdened with a negative connotation. When used in a corporate context, it is often associated with cliques, Us versus Them cultures and a leading reason for drags on performance. However, when politics is orchestrated around a common goal, it can be a company’s biggest asset if managed well. Why? As soon as you put two or more people together and they figure out each other’s personality, they adapt their behaviors to get the most out of the relationship. In this scenario, politics becomes productive – not destructive.
Getting Started
If your onboarding infrastructure lacks a process for integration, it can be as simple as creating a mentorship program for new(er) hires. Good mentors possess the following traits:

  1. Patience
  2. Strong active listening skills
  3. A keen attention to detail
  4. A good coach
  5. Well respected among peers and leadership
  6. Well connected
  7. An influencer
  8. Exhibit notable leadership skills

In my opinion, every organization should have an established mentorship program. We’ve all heard time and time again that technical skills can be taught. However, understanding people is critical to everyone’s success.
In addition to a mentorship program, schedule time for new hires to spend informal (non-work related) time with their colleagues in one-on-one and group settings. It’s a non-threatening way for everyone to understand group dynamics and witness how everyone works together. One of our clients indoctrinates new hires by having them build a bike with their peers that is later donated to a child in need in their community. As an observer, one can see who takes charge, who isn’t afraid of getting their hands a little dirty, who possesses mechanical skills, how the group critiques or supports one another and most importantly, it reveals if the new hire is a team player or a soloist.
Or, you can always just let new hires fend for themselves after orientation to see if they sink or swim.

Scott Seroka
Wisconsin’s only Certified Brand Strategist
Principal of Seroka
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