In an earlier posting, I talked about the need to integrate new hires into the corporate culture in much the way a country needs to help immigrants assimilate. At the same time, though, it is important to let these contribute to the culture they are joining. They are, after all, part of your corporation now, and hiring them meant acquiring not only their skills but their workplace behaviors.
To put it a different way, they are bringing the corporate cultures they have already learned elsewhere, and their experiences offer you an opportunity to improve your own culture if you play your cards right. Cultural exchange doesn't have to be equal, but it is always a two-way street.
Once again, the most important thing is to newcomers be welcoming. Most new employees are mildly intimidated by the life-changing impact of a new job (sometimes not so mildly). They are going to be more timid than they would otherwise be simply because they don't know your culture as well as an old-timer. Fitting in is the key to getting through the probationary period. So make them feel welcome and encourage their input from the beginning. Even criticisms are useful.
Corporate Culture Exchange is a Good Thing
They may not be that open on the first day, but by the end of the first month, they should be comfortable enough to speak up. When they do, you need to be ready to take in what they have to say. Their contributions are not worth very much if you are not prepared to take the information they provide and do something with it.
That doesn't mean you have to change just because the new guy says, “we used to do it this way at Acme.” It does mean that you should listen to what the new guy says and have a system in place for assessing whether that contribution can bolster what your culture exists to do. But when there is that one insightful, inspired remark, comment or criticism, you need to seize on it.
Use a New Perspective
More often that not, their comments and remarks during and immediately after the onboarding process will largely reinforce what your corporate culture already has and does. After all, they were hired because they seemed to be good fits for the vacancies your firm had. The hiring process should have extended well beyond determining their job skills. It should have included deciding if their personality and professional attitude (formed by the culture of previous employers) blended well with your own.
As I stated previously, departments have their own culture (legal and accounting versus marketing and creative) as do various countries in which your firm operates. Start from the premise that these differences are opportunities rather than problems (and please, stop calling problems “challenges” or you don't take them seriously enough). The experiences of the legal guys in Country A may not help with anything the creatives in Country B have going on, but being exposed to each other can help develop the necessary sensitivities within the company to work together more effectively.
Tis the Season of Giving and Receiving—Feedback
Finally, feedback, feedback, feedback remains the single most important tool in managing corporate culture and new hires. Give them the floor and listen. The great baseball player Yogi Berra once said, “you can observe a lot by just watching.” And if you listen, you can hear important things when it comes to corporate culture. Or life itself for that matter.