Culture Clash to Culture Connection: One Company’s Leadership Onboarding and Early Feedback Success Story

Culture Clash to Culture Connection: One Company’s Leadership Onboarding and Early Feedback Success Story

Many employers take half-measures or do nothing at all to help newly hired leaders adapt to the new company culture and their roles.

As a result, these leaders, from a cultural integration perspective, are largely left to sink or swim. Some will inevitably sink, and thus fail to fit in, leading to the following problems:

  • Negative impact on the leaders’ performance and morale
  • Negative impact on team performance and morale
  • Turnover — either by the leaders’ choice or via termination

Worse, when an organization sees many new leaders leave, it can lead to a revolving door, creating organizational dysfunction and causing high recruiting costs. After all, it doesn’t take people long to believe an organization is a bad fit. Between 10 and 25 percent of new hires leave within six months, according to a Korn Ferry Futurestep survey.

How can you better support leaders hired from outside the organization adapt and thrive in  your culture? The answer lies in using effective onboarding and early feedback processes that are specially designed to facilitate cultural integration. 

Let’s take a look at a real-life case of how an organization was able to get newly hired  leaders to successfully navigate its culture—with the help of Connect the Dots.

A Challenging Cultural Connection

A multinational retailer approached us with a need to help new leaders  make a successful transition—especially to the company culture and its business model.

Incoming leaders face a challenging cultural integration because the organization has a unique culture for the retail industry, due to the nature of its business model. It focuses on buying and reselling products already on the market—this leads it to prioritize relationships in its culture, while for most retailers the primary focus is on results.

For incoming leaders, switching from a results-first culture to a relationships-first culture requires that they make major changes to their outlook and behaviors. Plus, new leaders also face an acceptance challenge at the retailer, as those in the organization can be hesitant to fully welcome people from the outside until they “prove” themselves.

Before we started work, the organization had retention and performance problems due to those cultural integration challenges.

The challenges were beyond what smaller measures like company culture videos could address. We helped the organization take strong, targeted measures to facilitate leaders’ understanding of and adaption to its culture, including:

  • We integrated our 360-degree survey tool into our broader leadership onboarding solution
  • We trained the retailer’s talent management function to facilitate the feedback conversation in a way that best serves new leaders
  • We trained hundreds of the retailer’s HR leaders on how to use our tool and have conversations about culture transition

As a result of these actions, the retailer is now able to measure how leaders are transitioning to the new role from both a relational and culture perspective. These data help answer key concerns for both the organization and for an incoming leader. The organization can tell whether a new leader is respecting and showing interest in the culture, while a new leader knows if his or her behaviors are matching what the organization expects. Ultimately, hiring managers are now able to have much better discussions with new leaders about their transitions and easily talk about key areas for improvement.

After using this process for a year, the retailer reports the following results:

  1. Significantly reduced turnover rate for leaders hired from outside the organization.
  2. New leaders understand the culture better, thanks to feedback from the 360 survey.
  3. Leaders know their areas of improvement from a culture perspective. The feedback enables them to know when they go into a meeting or interact with a team how their behaviors have been perceived, and how their behaviors need to change.
  4. Leaders reach their potential quicker, as feedback shortens their cultural learning curve. 
  5. The importance of behaving consistently in the culture is reinforced. Leaders are told from the beginning that a 360 survey is part of process, and that certain ways of behaving are critical for succeeding in the organization.

The Right Tools for the Job

Why was the retailer able to turn the new-leader experience from a culture clash to a culture connection?

Because it selected the right tools for its needs—our integrated leadership onboarding and early feedback solutions that are specially designed to facilitate cultural adaptation and integration. It wouldn’t have achieved those same results with other leadership onboarding tools, which are focused on logistics and performance. 

So if you’re looking to improve your onboarding (for new leaders or for employers in general), make sure you pick a program that targets your organization’s particular needs and challenges.

We’d love to show you how we can design a specialized onboarding program for your organization. Contact us at 855-316-8161 or to learn more.