How Our Organizational Culture Impacts Onboarding

Having just worked through how an effective onboarding process can get results, I believe it would serve all well to have a solid understanding of what absolutely must be in place for any piece of information we cover during that onboarding process to have a lasting impact. So what could possibly be that important? 


While the things we cover as we bring a new team member up to speed definitely matters in the scope of earning their initial buy-in, what they experience every single day moving forward has a far bigger (and longer lasting) impact! The onboarding script is all fine and good but our organizational culture shows whether or not the onboarding message was all talk!

I recently found a article that shared these three things regarding how important onboarding is to maintaining a great company culture:

  • Corporate culture is the only truly sustainable competitive advantage;
  • Poor fit with the culture is the no. 1 cause of new hire failure;
  • Executive onboarding is the key to accelerating success and reducing risk in a new job. 

As critical as those things are to maintaining a great culture within our team, ensuring the culture we say we have during the onboarding process truly matches the culture a new team member experiences on a daily basis is just as important! We can pitch how amazing it is to be part of our team with every word that comes out of our mouth but what someone new to our team experiences as their boots hit the ground without us by their side will be what really sticks! I’ve heard John Maxwell say that “culture eats mission for lunch!” If you believe that to be true, and I certainly do, even the best onboarding process serves as little more than an appetizer in that overall meal!

So how can we make sure everything we invest into building an effective onboarding process makes the long term impact we need? We absolutely have to work on building a great organizational culture EVERY SINGLE DAY! Moving forward In my next article/page like this, we’ll work through some steps we can all take to make that a simple process. Before we do that though, we need to have a clear understanding of the complete importance of the culture we create in our organization!

The Importance of Organizational Culture - to the Entire Team

In considering how our organizational culture impacts onboarding, we often tie this directly back to what a new (or even potential) team member hears through the process. Who they hear it from matters too! But talking is usually the easy part! Making sure the walk that follows comes anywhere close to matching is a bit tougher… 

An APNews article I found shared this variance: “Results indicate a significant disconnect between how executives and employees view company culture: 76 percent of executives say their organization has a defined value system that is understood and well-communicated, while just 31 percent of employees believe this to be true.”

Let’s be honest with ourselves here, the steps we take in leading our organizations definitely impact the overall culture! That’s why it’s so important that we back the message sent during the entire onboarding process with matching action. But we can’t just assume that everyone on the team we’re responsible for sees our words and deeds as lining up with one another. We also have to be sure they understand how anything we expect of them falls in line with it all. We all know what assuming does…

We’ll circle back to where values fit into this equation soon enough. For now though, I want to be sure we’re on the same page with just how important organizational culture is to our bottom line.

I remember a conversation I had with a good friend several years ago while he was serving as CEO for a local company. We were discussing some interaction he had with a few of his direct reports; more specifically, what they had expressed as frustration with the interaction. He said to me, “I don’t have time for that touchy-feely stuff. I’m responsible for growing the business and getting results.” I could certainly relate since he and I share a highly DRIVEN communication/behavioral style. The challenge in his situation though was that his constant push for results had created a culture where everyone around him was miserable. And several of his key team members were looking to jump ship!

My point in sharing that story is that far too many people in executive roles equate their role in developing or maintaining a great culture to that touchy-feely stuff my friend said he didn’t have time for. For what it’s worth, my immediate pushback when he told me that was that he didn’t have time not to pay attention to it…

With that in mind, think back to the stat I shared above showing the variance between executives and their team members. In many cases, I’ve seen it viewed as “we told them what our culture was like, shouldn’t that be enough?” That may indeed be enough IF what those same team members see and feel moving forward match what they had been told. If (or when) it doesn’t, we can count on some trouble in one way or another!

Next, we’ll put together a working definition of organizational culture that’s not just touchy-feely. After that (in the next page), we’ll work through some key steps we can take to make sure our culture matches what we say it is. Before that though, here’s something to consider on just how much organizational culture really does impact our bottom line from that same APNews article I just referenced:

“Cultural factors such as collaboration, employee engagement, employee retention, and customer satisfaction have a clear relationship with revenue growth. Executives who say their culture is extremely healthy are 1.5 times more likely to report average revenue growth of more than 15 percent over three years. And among public company survey respondents, those with extremely healthy cultures are nearly 2.5 times more likely to report significant stock price increases over three years.”

To me, both the 15%+ revenue growth and the significant increase in stock price seem like things any executive could tie back to getting results - and they may even be worth doing some touchy-feely stuff to achieve…

Defining Organizational Culture

I’ve never seen a rule saying that we’re required to like the stuff many highly DRIVEN executives consider to be touchy-feely… In fact, we don’t have to agree on whether or not that stuff really does impact our organization’s performance! But I’d compare arguing that it doesn’t with arguing that gravity doesn’t apply to the people on our team. Like it or not, believe it or not, the culture we develop in our organization impacts the results we see on our productivity reports, the amount of voluntary turnover we have to deal with, and overall profitability. Once we accept that culture matters, I believe it would serve us all well to have a strong understanding of all that goes into creating a strong culture so we can be intentional about the things we do that can have the most significant impact.

I found an article on Market Business News that explains organizational culture this way:

Organizational Culture is a group of internal values and behaviors in an organization. It includes experiences, ways of thinking, beliefs and future expectations. It is also intuitive, with repetitive habits and emotional responses. 

Organizational Culture is the result of a perception within the company that its employees all share.

Richard Perrin, Partner and Head of Advisory at KPMG in Romania, defines the term as “The sum of values and rituals which serve as ‘glue’ to integrate the members of the organization.”

That first segment is a bit broad for me so we’ll circle back to dig into individual pieces of that another time. For now, let’s consider the middle line about “the result of a perception employees all share.” As we started looking at this idea of organizational culture, I mentioned being familiar with companies that send a very strong message through the recruiting and onboarding process while employees have a very different experience once they have boots on the ground and get into their daily routines. As I shared feedback about this with folks who are closer to those companies, it’s usually brushed off as just being the “perception” of a few employees and not reality. Unfortunately, what one person vocalizes as their experience is all too often what many others are thinking but not saying out loud; this perception is quite frequently a harsh reality!

The quote from Richard Perrin caught my attention too, specifically the mention of culture being “the glue to integrate the members of the organization.” Nearly everyone I meet has some level of desire to be part of something bigger than themselves, something that serves a larger purpose. When we can build that sense of community into our organization culture and we can communicate how the work we do serves that purpose (and meets those intrinsic needs), we begin to see that glue doing its thing! This plays a huge role in helping people stick (pun intended) with the organization through the tough times… Don’t miss my point here though: if we’ve not invested enough energy into making sure our team members’ perception matches what we’re touting to new recruits and the community at large - you know, the touchy-feely stuff - we can’t expect to have much of that glue working in our favor and we’ll probably see folks jumping ship any time things get rough.

For our purposes moving forward, let’s define organizational culture as “the values we exemplify that create the overall employee experience.” Next time we’ll begin working on what we need to do to make sure this definition results in what we really need it to!