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    Use the onboarding process to build a positive culture in your organisation

    May 10, 2016 by Alison Hill

    If part of your strategy in making the new hire is to change corporate culture, grab the opportunity – and do it right. The first 90 days – that critical period for onboarding a new hire – are crucial in allowing the positive traits of the new employee to take hold in the organisation.

    Stephen Crowe, Managing Director of Challenge Consulting, explains: ‘When a new person joins a team, other team member’s senses are in a heightened state. People are more tuned in to changes. This sensitivity wears off over time, and as it does, so does the opportunity to effect change.’

     Two decisions have a large bearing on how successful you will be.

    1. Choose the right mentor for your new hire

    The right mentor must have more than just a good understanding of the job requirements. Pick somebody who embodies the culture you want to instil. ‘This person will have a large initial influence not just by what they say and do, and what they choose to focus on with the new employee, but also by how they conduct themselves while they do it’, explains Crowe. ‘Their vocabulary, their body language, the respect or otherwise they show for others and the emphasis they put on different aspects of the role will strongly affect the new employees’ understanding of acceptable behaviour.’

    This applies not only while the mentor is working with the new hire. ‘They will be strongly affected by how their mentor deals with co-workers, clients and others in day-to-day situations.  The new employee will be watching – often unconsciously – how their mentor behaves with others when they are not with the new employee’, says Crowe.

    I was told about a friend’s first day at what turned out to be a nightmare workplace. She was being shown around on her first day by her new manager, who talked up the friendly workplace culture with its breakout areas full of beanbags, Friday drinks and casual dress code. She was therefore taken aback when the manager snapped at a co-worker about preparing for a presentation and cut him off mid-sentence when he tried to respond. The manager’s body language, arrogant behaviour and disrespect was totally at odds with her words. It soon became clear this was not a friendly, laid back place to work, and she left after three weeks.

    1. Allow the positive traits of the new hire to take hold

    ‘Pinpoint which desirable new practices, suggestions and behaviours the new employee brings’, says Crowe. ‘Allowing their traits to take hold in the organisation is an opportunity to shift the culture, and has the highest chance of success during the first ninety days of the person’s employment.’

    The change in direction is not achieved by pushing those traits on the others in the team. ‘That will more likely result in resentment, explains Crowe.  ‘It is done by not standing in the way when the person presents something new, or suggests doing something in a new way, or displays behaviour that is different but is in line with the culture you are trying to build.  By allowing the behaviour but not imposing it on others, the organisation gives the signal that this is acceptable. By not forcing it, you are allowing a subtle change of direction’, he says.

    Crowe stresses that using the onboarding process as an opportunity to change workplace culture is a subtle process that comes about by a nuanced mixture of reinforcing the desirable aspects of company culture with the new hire and allowing their new, positive traits to hold sway. ‘It’s not  a game for the heavy handed, as any company culture is a complex and nuanced mixture of practices, beliefs and emotions’, he says.

    Have you had any experience – good or bad – of a new hire influencing company culture in their first 90 days? We welcome your comments.

     

     

     

     


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