Employees are feeling disconnected from their company culture. The solution might be in the onboarding process

Strengthening company culture and encouraging social interactions may be the key to employee retention.
Written by Jada Jones, Associate Editor
Image: Shutterstock

Onboarding a new employee can be a long, tedious and expensive process. However, the results of surveys and corporate interviews suggest that an underdeveloped onboarding process -- one that doesn't meet a new hire's social and professional needs -- could ultimately lead to high rates of resignations. 

The goal of onboarding is to immerse new employees in their new company culture. Onboarding should introduce new hires to their job duties, their company's core values and beliefs, and connect them with team members. 

Of course, the end goal is to fully engage a new hire and decrease employee turnover. But unfortunately, and more often than not, a company's onboarding program doesn't accomplish any of these goals, and the consequences can be detrimental. 

A poor onboarding experience can leave new employees feeling isolated and lost in their new role. Later down the line, it could lead to decreased productivity, feelings of burnout, and without proper support from the company, it could even lead to a wave of quiet quitting.

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According to a study from Airspeed and Workplace Intelligence, two out of three workers might quit their jobs because they feel isolated and disconnected. The survey also found that a feeling of isolation and disconnectedness is the top reason employees leave, as well as the top challenge remote and hybrid organizations face.

A fair number of surveyed employees reported feeling disconnected (36%), alienated (35%), isolated (34%), or lonely (33%). Of surveyed C-suite executives, 75% think their employees would take major pay and benefits cuts to join a company where they'd feel more connected to company culture and other employees.

Within the study, 92% of surveyed C-suite executives admit their company cultures need improvement, as company culture is the glue that keeps employees connected and engaged at work. 

Elaine Richards, COO at Basecamp, a fully remote web software company, explained how the onboarding process for remote companies must operate to maintain employees' happiness and retention. For companies with outdated onboarding practices, employees can be left behind, especially in remote or hybrid environments.

"If you're new, physically separated from everyone else and you don't know how or what you're supposed to be doing, it can be very isolating," Richards said. "You might not even know how to ask for help. This can lead to the loss of an employee that had great potential but never had the opportunity to realize it."

Encouraging employees to socialize with one another can help with feelings of loneliness at work, and this encouragement begins during the onboarding process. Setting new employees up with a work buddy, letting them know who to ask for help, and introducing them to team members are all practices that should start during onboarding.

When the pandemic began, making hybrid and remote work the norm, socialization in the workplace experienced a sharp decline. According to Airspeed's survey, 72% of remote workers aren't socializing at work as much as they'd like, and 36% of hybrid workers socialize only a few times a year. 

To combat this issue, Richards explains that at her company, new hires are added to a first-day welcome chat with icebreakers and get-to-know-you questions to connect with other employees. But according to Airspeed's survey, watercooler topics in Slack channels and Zoom meetups aren't enough to foster socialization among employees.

Almost 60% of survey respondents are unsatisfied with the technology their company offers to meet with coworkers because it feels impersonal and disingenuous. Luckily, executives in the survey acknowledged that disconnected employees are a flight risk to their company.

Nine out of 10 surveyed executives recognize the need to improve company culture as a top priority, as 85% of those executives believe employees will be less likely to resign if they felt more connected to company culture. 

A comprehensive onboarding program can help employees understand expectations and job requirements. But it's also a great opportunity for companies to fully immerse new hires into company culture and to keep them connected to other workers.

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