You say Acculturation… I say Enculturation: Connecting Employees to Your Culture

Kevin W. Grossman got me thinking about Enculturation with his blog post, “Transformative Conversations And Enculturation.”

Assimilating employees into the corporate culture is an important part of the onboarding process and something that should continue to ensure all employees feel connected to the organization.

culutreWhat do we mean by enculturation though? Is that like brain washing? Well, not exactly.

Enculturation and acculturation are terms that are used in sociology and social anthropology to explain different processes of absorption of cultural traits by the people. Both processes help in explaining socialization on individuals in a society

  • Enculturation is learning one’s own culture, a process that is influenced strongly by home and family.
  • Acculturation, on the other hand, is learning aspects of a culture other than one’s own – particularly those aspects which will enable the individual to survive in that culture.

HR pro Jennifer Miller defines acculturation as the adaptation of an individual to the cultural expectations of a surrounding society. According to this definition of enculturation, influences that shape an individual’s cultural adaptation in the workplace include supervisors, peers and ethical standards of the industry.

Why is this important? Because, successful enculturation leads to competence in language, values and behavioral protocol, resulting in greater workplace harmony.

Acculturation is often used synonymously with enculturation. Regardless of which term you use, it should be part of your onboarding process because the return on investment is earlier and more rapid productivity of the new employee and improved long term employee satisfaction and retention.

Technologist Chuck Ros suggests organizations that want to reap the benefits of quickening employees to effectiveness while maximizing the new employee’s satisfaction (and longevity as a result) would be well advised to construct an acculturation system that measures, engages, and immerses. Ros distinguishes between transactional onboarding and acculturation onboarding.

Transactional Onboarding utilizes the automation of the onboarding business process to transition a new employee into their new role; automating the federal W-4, I-9, and state tax forms are examples of business rules and forms best automated through transactional onboarding. Return on investment is realized through making the process more efficient, eliminating costs in handling forms and data, eliminating latency and errors in data, and minimizing risk in the compliance-sensitive area of hiring.

Acculturation Onboarding, or simply Acculturation, as quickening the new employee to effectiveness. Acculturation is sometimes also known as socialization, and is touted by many vendors as the singular approach to onboarding, despite the fact that acculturation is appropriate to a subset of employers who might be interested in a strategic onboarding initiative. Return on investment for acculturation is realized through earlier and more rapid productivity of the new employee and improved long term employee satisfaction and retention.

So, how do you enculturate your new employees and your workforce?