Employee Onboarding & Building Culture Virtually
Nov 5, 2020
Consider this: you start a new remote job. Maybe you meet with a few supervisors over Zoom and join the weekly team meetings. Over time, you get to know your coworkers, and eventually, you feel like you know your way around.
There’s nothing fundamentally flawed with this approach. Many companies are trying to figure out how to create a sense of company culture and unity while remotely onboarding employees, and Zoom meetings, virtual lunches, and chat tools like Slack all help.
Now consider the alternative: you get a new job, and two weeks later, a welcome package shows up at your door. It contains some literature about the company, a personal handwritten note bearing the name of the founder, a company-branded track jacket, the same headphones that you’ve noticed everybody else wearing on your Zoom calls, and a bag of local coffee that (you’re informed) is a popular staple at in-person meetings.
While the differences might seem subtle, they aren’t. The employee in the latter scenario is building shared experiences with her new team—she can participate in conversations from “WOW this coffee is good” to “Have you noticed these headphones glitching lately?”
Shared experience builds community, and community is the basis of company culture. This is why companies of all sizes and industries are using welcome packages to truly give their new team members a sense of belonging—and bonus points are available if the gifts you choose are an authentic reflection of your culture.
Here are some ideas about how to build culture virtually, categorized by what you value.
For Social Responsibility
If social responsibility is an important part of your company’s mission, you can consider including eco-friendly gifts like notebooks made of recycled paper, sustainable cotton apparel, or reusable drinkware. You can also source items from USA-based vendors and those with labor practices that align with yours. This will send a clear signal to your employees that caring for the planet matters to your organization.
For Work-life Balance
How you regard work-life balance is another important part of company culture and retention. Consider giving employees gifts that speak to your professional ethic. You might include self-care items like a yoga mat or a foam roller, an indoor herb garden or office plant, a soothing tea, or a full-spectrum light box designed to provide healthier light during the winter.
For a Sense of Humor
While some companies prefer to keep things serious, others place a high value on the ability to laugh (even while they take the work seriously). And while this subtle difference might be obvious to old hands, it can be easy to forget how difficult it is for a new employee to figure out professional norms.
If your company culture has a silly side, consider printing up an inside joke on your apparel or gifting new employees something a little bit quirky—your new VP of sales might be surprised to receive an industrial-sized tub of licorice or a shirt with a picture of a carrot cake on it, but if this is an authentic reflection of the customs that unite your workers, they’ll feel welcomed into the group. That unexpected gift is also a great icebreaker for the next onboarding meeting.
Creativity drives innovation, so there’s a reason that many companies center this value in their company culture. If your team is creative, consider communicating that through your welcome gift. Maybe you give a paint set, a coloring book, or a nice set of colored pencils.
You might also offer creative organizers, like a small chalkboard or whiteboard, or even an easel. It’s a small way to let your new hire know that innovative practices are welcomed and appreciating.
For Giving Back
Giving back to the local community is a huge part of what drives company culture, and your onboarding gifts are one place to introduce your strategy to your employees. Maybe you provide apparel linked to your major annual charity event or an office calendar that highlights your major charitable initiatives by season.
Starting a new job takes a lot of energy. Between learning new systems and becoming familiar with tasks, new employees expend a lot of mental energy in the first few months of their employment.
You can build community (and take some of the guesswork out of cultural learning) by offering a welcome kit that is specifically designed to make your new team member feel like a part of the group in the most inviting way possible.