Translating Culture into Onboarding


This blog was first published in Dutch on Smart WP

Running a coworking space comes with the need to onboard new coworkers into a ‘shared’ office environment. With the online shift that the pandemic brought about, many coworking spaces struggle with profiling and showcasing their business culture through online processes. Onboarding alone is a difficult task already, and doing it well requires some thought.  No place for one-size-fits-all solutions here!. 


Showcasing a coworking space’s culture throughout the onboarding process leaves coworkers feeling confident in their use of the space and their choice of it. This can lead to great success for the space. But how can this be incorporated into online processes and avoid them feeling distant and impersonal?

The onboarding process can be difficult

The onboarding process is often underestimated by entrepreneurs – they are not always aware of what it takes to ensure that the process runs smoothly and whether it is easy for new clients to understand. After all, the person who creates the onboarding process knows what it is for and why they are doing certain things; the customer does not. What makes this process even more difficult is the current world that we live in. The post tech, post COVID world can make things increasingly more difficult, as many are still adapting to new digital processes. 


Historically, coworking developed from the hospitality industry. Before all of the legal and social changes occurred within the industry and moved online, it was easy enough to know how to express the values and culture of a coworking space. 


Coworking space owners and managers knew exactly how to make a physical space look attractive. Many coworking spaces still operate based on this basic notion:  that new potential coworkers will go to the space in person and give it a try. Due to the disruption that the pandemic caused and the shift to more online processes, having the culture showcased throughout the online onboarding process became vital to the success of the space. 


Many spaces still struggle with ensuring that their message comes across in online processes. Coworking spaces should understand that it is possible to communicate the values and culture – in all media and online processes. 


Striving to ensure that people stumble upon a coworking space by accident is not unheard of but a lot of thought and intentionality needs to go into the planning of how a space will be presented online and offline, to achieve that level of serendipity. 


People tend to sign up or onboard with a company when they find the process easy and they like what they see. Humans are in general easily convinced to try something if we feel it includes us and we are taken into consideration. That is exactly what an onboarding process should be like – a quick and painless process that showcases the culture and community, and makes people feel like they are part of the community already. 


How DeKamer is approaching it

Jeannine van der Linden shares how she implements the sense of community throughout the onboarding process at DeKamer. Some of her coworkers are digital natives and can easily understand the onboarding process. It is simple: a link is sent to the coworker and they click on the link and follow the instructions. 


However, not all of the coworkers who want to onboard at DeKamer are digital natives. Some potential coworkers struggle with the process and it can feel impersonal and distant to them. To combat this, Jeannine has included the opportunity for the onboarding process to be done in person or together with staff. This option was implemented at some DeKamer locations even before the lockdown started. The process is still automated, but coworkers looking to onboard can show up to a DeKamer space with the needed documentation and they will go through the onboarding process together with the new coworker. During stricter lockdowns, Jeannine offered to assist coworkers with the onboarding process through personal calls on platforms such as WhatsApp as well. 


It is important to keep in mind what technologies are being used for onboarding coworkers. Some technologies have many functionalities, but they aren’t user friendly at all. Other platforms can both meet the basic needs of the onboarding process and be user friendly. The crucial part of choosing a platform for onboarding is to remember to keep the end-user in mind. 


DeKamer communicates its values through the models it creates as well. For instance, Jeannine sets up the revenue model to reflect the earnings of DeKamer’s coworkers. If DeKamer coworkers can afford to pay more for the space that they use, then that means they are making more money. The opposite is also true. 


This is to reflect the values that DeKamer has, which is that coworkers should only pay for the space they use, making it affordable for each person’s budget as well as flexible. Should the coworkers’ business grow, so will the space they make use of. This means that DeKamer also has a role in creating an environment where businesses can grow. 


When coworkers start to go through the onboarding process, give them access to the office space and allow them to already feel at home. This will give them a taste of the coworking space and the culture and values surrounding it. Be willing to assist throughout the onboarding process to ensure that future coworkers feel at ease. This will calm their anxieties about whether or not they are completing the onboarding process correctly. 


In the end, it is the coworking space’s choice how they want to represent their culture and values. The easiest way to ensure that the community and culture come across to the coworker going through the onboarding process is to make them feel part of the community already.

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