Great Place to Work – Onboarding Rituals

I ran across this Power Idea, recently, from 2014, and it was so relevant to our discussion of Great Places to Work, that I thought we just had to share it. Rituals are so valuable in organizations to help employees have a sense of belonging, that this one is worth a re-read.

RITUALS….What are the rituals that you do? Maybe it is kissing your kids on the forehead before leaving for work? Or, perhaps it is the sequence in which you get ready in the morning, or before going to bed at night? Strategic Partner, Diane Janovsky puts a new spin on “rituals” as she applies it to onboarding a new team member. Enjoy this week’s Power Idea.

When we join a company, we are doing more than just simply picking a “place” where we will do the work we do. At least sub-consciously, we have made a choice that this is an entity with which we are willing to associate ourselves. We may know it by its reputation, or because we did the research, but either way, by accepting employment, we are tacitly agreeing to become a part of that organization’s culture. And the sooner and more effectively we can become engaged in and connected to that culture, the more successful we will be.

Think back on a time when you started a new job. How did you learn to fit in? How did you discover what the un-written, as well as written, rules were? What were the priorities? What would you be fired for, versus just getting a slap on the wrist? Rather than learning only through slow and painful experience, a powerful way for companies to communicate their values and align their people is through the use of rituals.

Now the term “ritual” may conjure up visions of pranks and hazing, such as what we hear about with sports teams, fraternities or military institutions. Those are rituals taken to sometimes unhealthy extremes. For the purpose of this article, we are talking about ritual as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary: “an act or series of acts done in a particular situation and in the same way each time”. In practice, this translates to creating shared experiences among people that result in an emotional sense of belonging. This can be as simple as a “welcome” banner strung across the workstation of every new employee and signed by their co-workers, or as complex as a highly structured team integration exercise.

For example, Inc. Magazine (BizarreHiringRituals) profiled a creative and meaningful ritual in a company called Foot Levelers. Within 90 days of hire, all new employees must attend a group screening (complete with drinks and popcorn) of the movie Rudy, an inspirational football story from the early 1990’s. The CEO then personally leads a discussion on the values and behaviors that made Rudy successful, which are the same ones he expects to see in his team. What an amazing way to be sure each and every employee has the same experience, and each and every employee is crystal clear on the culture and expectations at Foot Levelers.

What rituals does your organization use to integrate new hires into your culture? We’d love to hear your ideas.