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The Key to Scaling Company Culture is Automating Employee Onboarding

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Company culture is the glue that binds together a group of diverse individuals in a company. It keeps the boat steering in the same direction. And while your team is small, it’s easy to deliver that culture to new hires. But what happens when your team grows? It’s at this point where scaling company culture has to become a priority – otherwise, all of the gains will be lost, and difficult to get back. Here is the key to scaling company culture by automating employee onboarding.

Through growing our team from 30 to 50 in the past six months — and planning to double it by the end of the year — we’ve learned a lot about scaling company culture.

The importance of injecting company culture early on

Corporate culture cannot be overlooked. A study from Columbia Business School found that “more than 50% of executives say corporate culture influences productivity, creativity, profitability, firm value, and growth rates.â€� And 86% of potential employees wouldn’t apply for a job at a firm with a bad reputation. 

To put it simply – company culture has a direct impact on a company’s bottom line. 

I’ve founded multiple companies that have gone on to see relative success, and now that I’m working on scaling my latest startup Lokalise (lokalisedotcom) – the translation management software – it’s clear that culture is the bridge necessary to grow as one, homogenous team, rather than splintered in every direction. 

Our solution – to inject company culture into new employees from the get-go. By communicating it early and often, it’s our best bet to getting everyone on the same page and embodying the same values. 

And when your company is growing at an exponential rate, the solution is always – automation. 

So we built an automated employee onboarding process, which consists of 3 steps. Here they are:

Company worker with office tools currently in work

Step 1: Empowering employees with the tools they need

Different people require different tools to work at their best. Rather than squeezing square pegs into round holes, we accommodate each individual. 

How do we do it?

We give each new employee a full-page survey of their preferred work tools. Such as windows vs. mac computers, which headphones they prefer, what sort of chair supports them best, etc. When they arrive for their first day, their workspace is fully-equipped just as they requested, so they can hit the ground running. 

This reflects the value of prioritizing getting work done, rather than forcing certain arbitrary factors on them, such as strict office hours or uniform office-grade chairs. It also demonstrates respect to the employees – seeing them as humans that have different requirements, and giving them the necessary tools that won’t hold them back. 

Company workers talking informally

Step 2: Two-week, zero-expectation immersion

For the first two weeks of employment, there are no expectations to perform or achieve any KPIs. All they need to do is absorb the company and its culture. 

As new team members join, team leads receive a task to onboard them. This includes introducing the new employee to different teams, each team’s functions and work processes, etc. This way, the new team member gets to know colleagues from different departments and understand how those ”other” teams work.

New employees are also provided with automated “courses� about the company, its values, the ins and outs, factsheets, presentations, case studies, and everything they need to know about the product. At the end, they even have a little quiz that, when completed, marks “graduation� into the company ecosystem. 

It’s important to provide structured learning, especially when scaling. That’s the only way you can make sure that the entire boat is steering in the right direction, without micromanaging an individual’s learning experience. 

Another thing that Lokalise pays attention to is transparency when it comes to everyday work processes and, generally, the direction in which the company is going. This is achieved by posting all meeting notes and company updates on Slack channels. Anyone at any time can follow what others are talking about and pick up the valuable learnings.

The purpose of this onboarding program is not only to increase the employee’s understanding of the company but also to prevent the consequences of mistakes of poorly trained employees. It also helps to reduce staff turnover, which, according to research, can cost companies as much as 33% of a worker’s annual salary. And that’s only because employers fail to invest properly in their workers’ training and professional development.

Maintaining company culture remotely

Step 3: Fostering interpersonal relationships in the new remote reality

Like many businesses, we too have had to learn to adapt to a new remote-first work environment. If previously company culture could be instilled through the various chats with coworkers at the coffee machine or over lunch, this no longer is an option.

We’ve had to think about how to build that interpersonal connection among our team members, and we’ve been implementing several experiments to make this work in our ever-growing team.

The first is – virtual afternoon tea. One tea “roomâ€� would have up to 6 people, where discussion topics weren’t set – you could talk about whatever interested you. Team members could then freely move from room to room, just as you would at a party. 

The second experiment was virtual lunches. This was more structured, where if you joined lunch, you committed to participating for the hour of the lunch. There would be one host who would lead the discussion, also based on their own preferences. 

The third experiment was to implement games nights. There are a ton of tools and platforms available to have virtual game events, like Slack plugins, Kahoots, and more. We found that the talks were fine, but we also wanted to have activities to participate in.

All of the experiments are going to be continued. We’re still playing around with frequency, but we see that these activities fill in the massive interpersonal relationship gaps that really instill company culture. By structuring the ways our team members can come together, we make sure that we’re still all on the same page, even with new employees that haven’t had that in-office experience. 

Final words

An employee’s expectation of a good workplace is something that continuously changes. And on top of that, it varies from person to person. Times have changed, and we’ve come to the realization that to attract top talent, we can’t rely on the bean bags and foosball table. 

For example, an in-depth well-being report published in 2019 (from westfieldhealth dotcom) shows that nowadays 67% of the British workforce believes it is an employer’s responsibility to support an employee’s well-being. 

The fact that Lokalise executives invest time and financial resources into creating a highly appreciated company culture is not without visible results. This isn’t something a worker in the 1920s would expect from their employer. But today in the 21st century, adding “taking care of employee well-beingâ€� to the company’s values is an advantage when attracting talented specialists who appreciate the same.

By creating such an automated employee onboarding process, we’ve minimized employee turnover. Given the shortage of skilled workers in the tech industry, companies cannot afford to lose skilled talent anymore, as finding new talent in the job market becomes more and more difficult with each passing year.

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