Diversity Dialogue Broadening Business Perspectives

Creating a Culture of Belonging by Implementing a Robust Onboarding and Integration Strategy

Imagine attending a party that you were invited to where the host is too busy to come over and say hello. While you walk around, mingle with other guests and manage to have a good time, you don’t feel welcomed.  

Khevna Patel

While diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) initiatives are vital for fostering an inclusive workplace, it’s equally important to move beyond DEIA and focus on creating a culture of belonging by implementing a comprehensive onboarding and integration program that nurtures that culture. You successfully recruited talent and invited them to join your party. Now, it is time to welcome them and be a great host. Here’s how.

1. Establish a Welcoming Environment

Reach out to the new hire before their start date to provide information about the onboarding process, important documents and any prearrival tasks. Ensure that the new hire’s workspace, including their desk, computer and necessary software access, is prepared in advance. Include a customized welcome package with a handwritten note. Help new hires feel welcomed, valued and included from their first day. The sense of belonging enhances overall employee engagement, satisfaction and retention.

2. Customize Onboarding Programs

Develop onboarding programs that address the unique needs and experiences of new hires. Consider their background, identities and individual strengths. Tailor the program to provide the necessary resources, training and support to help them succeed. This personalized approach enhances a sense of belonging and ensures new hires are set up for success.

3. Promote Professional Development

Encourage ongoing learning and growth and support new hires’ participation in industry conferences and workshops. Create opportunities for them to build diverse networks within the firm. Pair the new hire with a senior attorney who can provide guidance, share insights and assist with their career development within the firm. Encourage participation in employee resource groups or affinity networks that foster connections among individuals with shared backgrounds or interests. These networks provide a support system, facilitate mentorship and offer a sense of community, contributing to a culture of belonging.

4. Provide Clear Communication and Feedback

Establish a feedback-rich culture that encourages ongoing communication between new hires and firm stakeholders. Regularly check in on their progress, provide constructive feedback, and offer opportunities for growth and development. This ensures that new hires feel supported, have a clear understanding of their career trajectory and are actively involved in their professional growth within the firm. Foster a culture where the new hire feels comfortable providing feedback on their onboarding experience, work environment and opportunities for growth. Actively listen to their input and implement improvements when appropriate.

“While DEIA initiatives are vital for fostering an inclusive workplace, it’s equally important to move beyond DEIA and focus on creating a culture of belonging by implementing a comprehensive onboarding and integration program that nurtures that culture.”

5. Ensure Integration into Firm Culture

Promote opportunities for new hires to engage with the firm’s culture and values beyond the onboarding process. Encourage their participation in firm-wide initiatives, events and committees. Provide platforms for them to contribute their unique perspectives and actively involve them in decision-making processes.

This integration into the firm’s culture strengthens their sense of belonging and fosters their long-term engagement. Organize team-building activities — such as retreats, social events or volunteer opportunities — to foster stronger relationships and promote a positive team dynamic. Reinforce the firm's values and commitment to DEIA. Encourage the new hire to participate in initiatives that align with these values.

6. Offer Ongoing Support

Continually check in with the new hire to ensure they are adjusting well and have the necessary resources to succeed. Offer support, guidance and opportunities for growth throughout their tenure at the firm. Communicate clear pathways for career advancement within the firm, outlining expectations, performance metrics and promotion processes. Provide opportunities for the new hire to take on additional responsibilities and challenging assignments.

These initiatives not only benefit individual employees but also enhance overall firm performance, client relationships and firm reputation in an increasingly diverse legal landscape.