After many months of adjusting to the new reality of remote working, you may feel that your company has perfected the virtual onboarding process for new hires, with management and staff doing their best to implement an orientation as effective as the one in place at the office.
One challenge may remain, though, and that is how your company can help the employee understand and integrate with the culture, when they are working in isolation and have never been in the same physical space as the rest of the team. Your onboarding resources show him or her how to do their job, but the culture of the company is the cornerstone that keeps your team engaged.
How do your new employees know what really matters to your company? This facet of the onboard process is greatly supported with a formal culture document even in traditional office settings. Virtual onboarding makes it a necessity.
The Importance of Company Culture
The work environment at every company is characterized by the traditions, attitudes, values, behaviors, interactions, and decision-making that prevail. Every employee needs to understand the company culture to know what is expected of them, how to behave, and how to navigate the scenarios they encounter daily. Integrating into the company culture is a key factor in the employee’s success at the company, influencing the quality of their performance, job satisfaction, and how long they stay. The quality of the company culture is a major concern for potential employees in today’s job market.
The early days at the company leave an indelible impression with the new employee; they are absorbing the culture intensely in the first few weeks of employment. A smart onboarding process responds to that quest, by creating ample opportunities that allow both company and employee to determine if the culture is a good fit.
But in a remote environment, when he or she is working in isolation to a much greater degree than normal, there isn’t the option of picking up cues with the help of attentive management and staff, as they go about their work in the office.
Company culture is demonstrated by leadership style, the quality of personal interactions, expectations, and the decisions that are made every day. It is also defined in aspirational documents, such as the company mission statement, code of conduct, and ethics guidance. With a culture document, these are woven together in one place that serves as the touchstone for everyone in the company.
Culture documents and decks gained in profile when Netflix put their own online and it went viral. But companies of all sizes, whether with 10 employees or 500,000, benefit from writing down the values, mission, and behaviors that drive them.
Constructing the Culture Document
Your company’s culture document will have many unique aspects, but some elements are common to most of them, such as a description of the company’s history and products or services, the business model, and goals for the future.
At the core of the document is the company’s mission: what you want to accomplish, why you are doing it, and what defines success. Before you can explain that clearly, you need to understand it fully, and that requires digging deeply into the company’s values and plans.
A culture document also delves into what the company expects from employees, including the outcomes and behaviors that lead to promotions, and outcomes and behaviors that won’t be tolerated. The organizational structure of the company can be described, as well as benefits, schedules, and employee rights and responsibilities.
To ensure the document has meaning to everyone in the company, it should be approached as a collaborative process that includes opportunities for management and employees to offer feedback and suggestions. Ideally, the result is a document that resonates with all workers, from the newly hired intern to the C-suite executive.
Culture Document or Culture Deck?
The culture document is a creative exercise that can express the essential information about what it’s like to work at company in language and visuals that is consistent with its character. While the information can be comprehensive, it doesn’t have to be dense to convey your most important messages.
Culture documents range in size from a couple of pages or slides to several hundred. The culture document can be assembled quickly as a spreadsheet or text and distributed electronically as part of the new employee’s onboarding package.
It is most common to format the documentation as a culture deck, a series of slides that presents the information into easily digested points. Spotify, for example, sums up its engineering culture as “stuff gets done, it gets done well, people are happy” and “Leaders provide direction and guidance”. Nordstrom’s culture deck opens with its famous one and only rule for employees: “Use best judgement in all situations”.
The slide format allows visuals to be integrated into the deck, such as photographs of employees, graphics, testimonials or greetings from staff, a message from the CEO, interactive elements, or interviews with the company founders. These elements help create a dynamic presentation that will become an indispensable reference for company employees, both new and established.
Walk the Talk
Culture documents need to be monitored regularly to ensure the stated values are in alignment with actual behaviors within the company. It’s important to be conscious of areas where there is inconsistency between company objectives and how they are implemented. Keeping the document accountable and responsive in a changing environment is key to maintaining its usefulness.
The first 90 to 120 days are critical for a new employee, as they attempt to find their place in the organization. The task is more challenging when those first months are spent working remotely, but providing a resilient culture document, a robust onboarding strategy, and reliable communication, are major steps towards success for that new hire.
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