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ATD Blog

Cultivating a Diverse and Inclusive Culture Through Onboarding

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

That fantastic new diverse hire said “yes” to the job and now your attention moves from interviewing for diversity and inclusion to creating an onboarding experience that supports the commitment to it. Research and data show that how you onboard a new hire determines more than their view of the team—it also demonstrates how they feel about joining the organization and their commitment level once in the role. Setting an inclusive tone from those first moments is key and can make the difference in having a diverse new hire who leaves or one who feels included, is engaged, enriches your team, and provides valuable insight.

The role of learning and development is one of partnership taking a proactive consultative approach between working with human resources and individual departments. A best practice, if not already in place, is to advocate for embedding learning principles as you create and overhaul organizational practices. L&D is a partner to diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice efforts. They work in harmony to support the overall implementation of the strategic vision for the culture and bring concepts to life in an approachable, practical way.

Let’s look at a few pivotal areas of crafting an inclusive onboarding experience that may be overlooked.


As a new hire, you are entering an environment that has nuances; its own language with acronyms; unofficial practices; and so much more. Imagine having a friendly face that is your go-to for understanding how to navigate this terrain.

Having a mentor act as a guide for new employees as they onboard can help foster team relationships and reduce the time it takes for a new employee to feel comfortable moving from the learning stage to the doing stage. Mentors model the culture and act as a liaison to understanding how work gets done. They also work through questions with the new employee without making them feel like they “should” know everything—and in a best case scenario, the mentors are answering those questions before the new hire even needs the answer.

There are numerous resources that share how to develop a mentor program. Tap into ATD’s to help guide the foundation. The lens of inclusion will need to be applied over this foundation. Consider creating an outline of topics to be covered that would highlight:

  • Organizational cultural practices and history
  • Team practices and background
  • Terms, acronyms, and any language specific to your industry, organization, and team

Influence Groups

Influence groups refer to groups that are formal and informal and that hold a certain amount of influence over what and how work gets done. They may be on your organizational map, but more often, they are not. This can be a group or, depending on your organization, it could be a few employees or one individual. This element is important to inclusion because without it, you are working with a disadvantage.

A best practice is to have this documented and shared as part of your onboarding by incorporating it into the process or having mentors share this key information. This is part of the institutional knowledge gained with experience or shared with you due to positional power. To support your inclusive commitment, this key information unlocks access. It provides, along with your onboarding curriculum, the tools required to be effective and successful at navigating the company culture.



Every organization has norms that are formal. These are written, expressed, and consulted in various fashions. These norms may have overlap with performance expectations or company values, but often they are softer and more operationally lived and experienced. It also true every organization has informal norms that have shades of nuance to them and typically not expressed or shared in an explicit manner.

As a new hire, you are unaware of these norms until you come across one. You know this from the expressions of those around you, the silence, the lack of raised hands, or when approached on it. The more we in L&D can work to understand and document them, the better the experience can be for inclusion.

Discovering and expressing norms is the first step. The second is leaning into your partnerships with HR and leaders to determine what is the expected behavior from this norm. Norms are not static; they evolve with time, with big disruptions in the business or team and with larger cultural shifts like that of COVID’s push for some to remote work. The more we can visit and revisit norms and the associated behaviors, the better we can educate and equip new hires and current employees about what day-to-day participation and success look like.

This is just a quick look at aspects of onboarding that deserve a deeper dive to set up your new hire for navigating their new role.

About the Author

Andrea DiMatteo has decades of experience crafting organizational culture and learning from the ground up. She served as head of Learning and Development with New Belgium Brewing and in 2018, co-founded DiMatteo Consulting. Currently, she is Head of L&D with The Moxie Exchange blending her passion for creating inclusive cultures with her strengths in learning organizations and teams. Andrea holds a Master of Education in Adult Education and Training, a Bachelor of Arts, and several certificates in leadership development and training.

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So true! I'll be co-presenting on unit-onboarding at ICE 2021 and will reference your work. Thanks.
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