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How to help new starters “get” your organisational culture


Office worker talking to colleague remotely

December 9, 2022

Company culture has always been a hot topic; what it should be and how to get everyone on board with it.

With the sudden shift to hybrid working, the challenges of instilling the right company culture have heightened.

Organisations are now peppered with employees who joined during or since the pandemic, many of whom have never worked full time in the office, if at all.

While many people enjoy the benefits of working from home, they acknowledge that returning to the office is important to 1) connect with colleagues and 2) reconnect to the organisation and shared purpose. (Source: Steelcase report into employee expectations changes during and post pandemic).

So how do leaders ensure that their company culture permeates to everyone in their business, regardless of who or where they are?

What is company culture?

According to social psychologist Geert Hofstede, culture is “the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one organisation from another.”

At work we can interpret this to mean the underlying attitudes and behaviours which shape how people perform and interact with each other. This can be applied to a business as a whole or, in larger organisations, separate departments may have slightly different cultures.

Why is company culture important?

In a nutshell, a healthy company culture makes your organisation a better place to work. Employee morale is higher, people collaborate more effectively and both personal and team performance is improved.

Group of office workers meeting

This leads to very real competitive advantages such as increased innovation, more effective customer service and the alignment of all your people towards achieving the same goal. Studies that prove this may be few and far between – the lengthy timescales involved in demonstrating the long term benefits of a positive culture make research prohibitive. But the vast majority of business experts agree that it’s an essential ingredient of organisational success.

How your company culture appears from the outside is also an important factor when recruiting talent – people want to work for a company where they will feel valued and a sense of belonging. Other employers may be able to offer the same tangible employment benefits as you do, but they can never replicate your culture.

How hybrid working has changed organisational culture

The impact of hybrid working has been significant and multifaceted.

Visible culture has become invisible

According to Edgar Schein’s model of organisational culture, there are three distinct cultural levels, the first of which is “artifacts and behaviours”.

This includes, among other things, the architecture and furnishings of the office, the facilities available to staff and the company’s dress code. These important influencers of organisational culture will be invisible, or rarely seen, to new hybrid workers.

Office space
Your office space might be designed to inspire innovation and collaboration, but a hybrid workforce simply won’t be there often enough to really benefit from it.

Communications channels have changed irrevocably

Conversations between team members have both reduced in frequency and changed in method, thanks to hybrid working.

Two colleagues chatting by water cooler in office
Gone are the infamous water cooler moments, offers to get you a cup of coffee or impromptu team debates about the merits of this year’s Strictly contestants.

“Excellent” you might say, “less time chatting and more time working”. But don’t underestimate the importance of these casual interactions and how they can positively reinforce your organisational culture.

Face to face communications are now much more limited. And, with the best will in the world, chatting over Zoom will always be more stilted and less collaborative than a face to face interaction.

All of this results in it being much more difficult for new employees to get to know their colleagues and the company culture they represent.

It also causes difficulties for managers. Without the daily face to face interactions with their team, it can be much more difficult to spot issues forming and therefore take action to deal with them at an early stage.

Recruitment processes have changed

The way we recruit new people has changed significantly during and following the pandemic. For instance, video interviews are now commonplace. A lack of face to face interaction can make it more difficult to get a ‘feel’ for a candidate and whether they will fit the culture of your organisation.

Office worker at laptop

Interview questions have also had to adjust to the new ways of working. It’s essential to ascertain your candidate’s ability to work in a hybrid model and whether they will communicate and collaborate effectively in this type of environment.

A real benefit from hybrid work is how the recruitment pool has widened and become more inclusive. Living close to the office is no longer such a prerequisite – a longer commute is less of an issue if you’re only travelling there once or twice a month. Plus, many people who have home responsibilities such as childcare, can benefit from more flexible working practices.

How leaders need to adapt their approach to strengthen company culture

The culture of every organisation is, and should be, different. Therefore, this isn’t a guide to what your culture should be. But we will walk you through the steps you should take to ensure that you know what your company culture is and how to instil it in your new starters.

Define your optimal culture

This first step may sound obvious, but when did you last sit down and clarify your company culture?

If you’re trying to imbue your organisational culture across your company then you need to know what it is. It needs to be defined, written down and then communicated to everyone.

A useful way to approach this, according to Hofstede Insights (who are continuing the work of Geert Hofstede), is to consider organisational culture in four different ways:

  1. Optimal culture – this is the culture that best supports your business strategy.
  2. Actual culture – this is the culture within your organisation now (measured objectively).
  3. Perceived culture – this is what people in your organisation think your culture is (which is naturally a more subjective assessment).
  4. Ideal work environment – these is what the people in your organisation would like your culture to be.

In a perfect world all four will express the same culture.

If you already have a clearly defined optimal culture that’s great, but if you haven’t revisited it recently then it’s worth reviewing it to adjust it to your company’s new ways of working.

Introducing measurements

Once your optimal culture is defined, you need to measure how well you’re achieving it. Otherwise, you risk confusing your perceived culture with your actual culture and making changes that could take you further away from your optimal culture.

There are ample methods available to measure and track company culture, both internally (often through employee questionnaires) and externally (eg reviewing the company’s communications).

There are pros and cons of each approach, but the most important thing is to have something in place. Without the facts your leaders will be flying blind.

Be culture-aware throughout your recruitment process

When recruiting new people it’s essential that they will fit with your company culture – if not, this will be to both the individual’s and the company’s detriment.

If you use a recruitment agency, make sure that they understand your organisational culture and its importance when vetting candidates.

Ensure that your recruitment process incorporates questions which will help you to understand how your candidate prefers to work and whether their attitude aligns to your business. However qualified a candidate might be, if they’re going to struggle to fit in then their time at your company won’t be as productive or happy as it might otherwise be.

And be open with candidates about how your organisation operates, they need to judge for themselves whether you are a good fit for them.

Make their initial welcome a good one

The first few weeks in a new job are critical to ensure that people feel welcome and comfortable with their new role and colleagues.

Office workers celebrating in bar
Consider it to be like “fresher fortnight” at university, planning in activities which will help your new starter to become comfortably embedded in the organisation (though without all the beer!).

This may be more challenging to do when not everyone is in the office full time, but there are plenty of ways to get around this. For example:

  • Make sure that their technology is ready from day 1, enabling them to immediately connect with their colleagues.
  • Ensure that the whole team is in the office at least once during the new starter’s first few weeks.
  • Arrange 1:1 video calls for them with other team members. Don’t just do this on the basis of who they will be working most closely with, but consider who is geographically closest to them or has interests in common.
  • Make sure they’re familiar with all the communications channels and how to use each one, particularly to enable them to ask questions easily.
  • Be clear about what they are accountable for and the performance levels you expect. It can be difficult to gauge these aspects of a new role without colleagues around you as examples and advisors. It also helps to give the new starter a sense of purpose and an understanding of how they are adding value.

Increase mutual understanding between your team

A more structured way to help your new starter adapt to their new team and culture is to use a psychometric tool, such as Insights Discovery, to increase understanding between team members.

We often work with organisations for whom Insights Discovery is an automatic part of their recruitment process. The new starters gain not only improved self-awareness, but an easy way to learn more about their colleagues through exploring their preferences.

This type of development work also gives them an opportunity to discuss the organisational culture and values more openly. To consider how the culture should be exemplified within their team and what should be rewarded.

Enable informal communications

Organisations are generally very good at structuring remote-worker communications channels for normal work activity, be that booking meetings, collaborating on a project or sending internal messages.

Less often considered are channels for informal communications, such as social interactions, chatting about a recent customer experience or a place to share wacky ideas.

Happy office worker

These can be valuable assets in shaping your organisational culture. By providing an outlet for this type of communication you’re encouraging people to interact on many different levels. And, by setting clear channels for doing so, you also have the opportunity to provide guidance on how they should be used, to ensure they’re not abused.

These less formal opportunities to communicate with their new colleagues can be essential for making new starters feel included and build team spirit.

Ensure some in-person activities

We’ve already discussed getting the whole team together, in-person, when you have a new starter. But it’s also important to repeat this at least once a year, ideally once a quarter.

This helps new starters, and established employees, to re-engage with each other and get that valuable face to face experience.

You could use this as an opportunity to carry out training, collaborate on projects or just allow your team to have fun together.

Reinforce your culture in all you do

The real trick to imbuing new starters with your organisational culture is to make it part of everything you do. A positive culture should spread through an organisation almost as if by osmosis, rather than being an instruction to be followed.

There are many small things which leaders can do to make the organisational culture a part of everyday life in your business. For example:

  • Mention the company’s values and culture little and often, rather than making a big deal of it once in a blue moon.
  • Online meetings tend to naturally be more formal and functional than face to face ones, so make sure that you assign time for people to chat casually or give updates.
  • Encourage everyone in your organisation to share ideas and issues openly, including thoughts on how to enhance the organisational culture.
  • Recognise a job well done or someone taking initiative; celebrating success can so often be forgotten when you’re not in an office environment.

Consider mentoring

Mentoring is a powerful tool in helping a new starter to adapt more quickly to your company and its culture. It’s particularly helpful for graduate recruits who don’t have experience of working in an office environment.

Office worker talking to colleague remotely

The mentor shouldn’t be the individual’s line manager. There are two approaches you can take in choosing a mentor:

  1. Select someone in the new starter’s team who they’ll be able to go to for guidance.
  2. Select someone outside of the team who will give the new starter a broader view of the organisation as a whole.

In fact, the perfect solution may be to start them with someone in their team. Then, once they’ve settled in, move them to a longer term mentoring relationship with someone from another department.

Be an attentive manager

Finally, managers need to be attentive to the needs of new starters, particularly when they are working remotely.

Don’t assume that they will ask for help. Working remotely can make it even more difficult to speak up when you’re new to a firm.

Frequent check ins, which you instigate, will give your new recruit an opportunity to mention any issues or anxieties which are bubbling away. It also gives them an opportunity to discuss any aspects of the organisational culture which they feel unsure or uncomfortable about.

Need a culture fix?

We work with organisations and their leaders to ensure that the right processes and tools are in place to align your people development to your organisational culture.

We do this through training and coaching on topics such as leadership development, team building and effective communications. We also offer Insights Discovery for individuals and teams.

Call us on 01444 702 701 or email to learn more.

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