While many businesses have a set of values that range in specificity, to resonate, they must be actively incorporated into a company’s culture. Research has found that corporate values and culture have numerous benefits, the most notable being that organizations with a strong, mission-driven culture have a 40% higher retention rate than those who neglect or ignore their culture, according to Deloitte. This has a substantial ripple effect, from increased productivity to reduced recruitment costs.

One reason company culture is so important for retention is because it is inextricably linked to employee engagement. Shared values help employees feel like they are part of a collective team, motivating them to put their best foot forward. Company culture can also have a profound effect on an organization’s talent acquisition strategy. When a company is firmly committed to a set of authentic values, they are far more likely to attract like-minded talent. In fact, a 2018 study found that 46% of job seekers state that company culture is a key factor when choosing to apply for a company.

There are two primary approaches to building a strong company culture. The first involves organizations taking their long-term goals and deciding on what type of culture is best equipped to fulfil these goals. For instance, do they need to become disruptors in their market? If so, they must build a culture that rewards innovation and creative thinking. Alternatively, they may decide to cultivate their culture over time. This means allowing culture to form organically from leadership and their company’s changing place in the market.

Regardless of what a company’s culture is and how it came into existence, it should be at the forefront of everything the company does. One way to ensure cultural values remain front and center is to incorporate them into the onboarding process. People are often most adaptive at the onboarding stage, as they familiarize themselves with the company’s roles, expectations and values. Leaders’ efforts to integrate company culture into the onboarding process will likely have a long-lasting impact.

It’s worth pointing out the pitfalls of setting the wrong expectations during onboarding. A bad or misguided onboarding experience is a notable factor in employee turnover. Back in 2015, it was estimated that nearly 33% of new hires start looking for a new job within six months. While this can be for myriad reasons, we cannot overlook the role of company culture in employee turnover. Research from recruitment agency Robert Walters found that not only have 73% of professionals left a job because they disliked the company culture, but also that over 67% of professionals surveyed felt misled about the company culture during the onboarding process.

There is a strong case for incorporating company culture into onboarding. That’s not to say, however, that this cannot cause issues. Sometimes, the way we instill cultural values into new hires can cause complications down the line.

First, we need to consider the risk of passing down values that may harm productivity and growth. A new hire is also a fresh pair of eyes, but if a company’s culture is too risk-averse or overly reliant on established ways of working, they may miss out on opportunities to improve key tasks or processes.

Second, for company culture to have permanence, it needs to be reflected across organizational levels, especially in the C-suite. But is a “top-down” approach to company culture too prescriptive for today’s workforce? Michael Moran, chief executive officer at consulting firm 10Eighty, believes there is a new “paradigm” at work where leaders are adapting jobs around employees’ needs and values, whereas, “previously we designed the job and then applied the employee to it,” he says.

Although people are often at the root of a company’s culture, it’s important to consider the unique values and attributes new employees bring to an organization. An inclusive, people-centric approach is far more likely to make employees feel recognized as individuals, which in turn, will make them more engaged, fulfilled and successful in their role.

Culture is a Journey, Not a Destination

Leaders may find it beneficial to think of their culture as an ever-changing and evolving entity, rather than a set of rigid values. As your business evolves, so will its culture. Agility isn’t a foreign concept to companies today: Many professionals extol the benefits of an Agile approach to work, making iterative improvements to workflows and processes. However, as Sharon Taylor, director of quality, learning and development, at Emergenetics International, points out, “When it comes to company culture, it seems that we often fall into patterns of mass change, rather than iterative advancements.”

So how can leaders keep company culture as a key part of the onboarding process, while also being as receptive as possible to improvements and change over time? Consider the suggestions below.

Identify Cultural Influencers

Consider updating the onboarding process to include a “cultural influencer” track, which will give new hires the opportunity to become ambassadors for company values, but also to take a more active role in managing cultural change. By allowing a diverse range of employees to help culture evolve, companies can ensure that it does not become outdated or irrelevant.

Implement Metrics to Measure Engagement

Measuring engagement can help leaders ensure that new employees remain content in their role and attuned to company values. Start by collecting data from employee engagement surveys. By benchmarking employee engagement data against new hires and turnover, you can also understand how opinions surrounding company culture change.

Incorporate Feedback Into Onboarding

The onboarding process is a prime opportunity to let new hires know that their opinion matters. So managers should set time aside to not only talk through the company’s cultural values but to actively solicit employees’ thoughts and opinions about those values. A dedicated feedback stage can also give the onboarding process more structure, which studies show can improve employee retention.

By following the tips outlined above, you can embed company culture into the employee life cycle, from the beginning.