When you think about onboarding new employees, odds are that piles of paperwork and tiresome training sessions come to mind. While these are necessary elements of onboarding, your process doesn’t have to be boring or tedious – employee onboarding can be engaging and exciting without compromising its efficacy.
In a time when talent retention is almost as challenging as talent recruitment, employee onboarding is not only critical for quickly bring new hires up to speed and seamlessly integrating them with their teams; it’s also crucial for keeping staff satisfied for years to come (hopefully). Organizations who understand how to onboard new employees in an effective and fun manner are best positioned for preventing costly turnover, raising staff productivity, and even inadvertently boosting their employer brand.
For inspiration, consider the creative approaches these nine companies are taking when onboarding new employees.
1. Start early. The onboarding process should begin before a new employee’s first day. Often, it begins before a company even makes a hiring decision. At LOKI, management takes potential hires out to lunch during the recruiting process.
“We don't just talk about the job, the person's skills, or what we expect – we treat it like two friends catching up, having a real conversation,” according to LOKI Chief Operating Officer, Chris McCabe. “We feel that you can find out more about a person that way, rather than asking them stock, standard interview questions, which we actively avoid. For us, it not only helps us feel out if they have the skills required for the position, but more importantly, if they are a good fit for the team and culture we have carefully constructed.”
2. Break the Ice. Matthew Rose, Co-owner and COO of The Slumber Yard, believes that making new employees feel at home is especially important for small companies – even if it means getting a little personal.
“The first thing we do is hold an all-hands meeting to introduce the new employee,” Rose said. “During this meeting, we make every employee introduce themselves and tell an embarrassing story from their past. Not only does this create a lot of laughter, but it also humanizes everyone so the new person feels like they can approach them to ask questions, socialize, etc.”
3. Don’t give them all the answers (right away). Mark Webster, Co-founder of Authority Hacker, embeds problem-solving exercises into the onboarding process.
“When a problem comes up during their training, instead of simply giving them the answer, I'll tell them to go away for 30 minutes and propose a solution based on their research. The answer doesn't have to be correct; however, what I will do is encourage them to use the resources available to them to try and solve the issue without hovering over them and constantly feeding them answers.”
This promotes a healthy problem-solving approach and enforces the idea that employees are empowered to look for solutions on their own without needing to check everything with senior management, Webster explained.
4. Build an emotional connection. New employees at Exposure Ninja are encouraged to join various Slack channels to get to know their teammates and immerse themselves in the company culture.
“For example, if the new employee has stated that they have a pet, they might be interested in joining our pet group chat,” said Bethany Spence, Content Marketing Specialist at Exposure Ninja. “We provide a practical and emotional onboarding. While we want new employees to fully understand the expectations of their job role, we also want them to feel an instant connection with our culture and the rest of the team.”
5. Show appreciation. It’s never too early to show your employees appreciation. During the onboarding process, new hires at The Corporate Con/noisseur receive a gift bag that includes an assortment of chocolates, an Amazon gift card, and a personalized note from their new team. “Although it's a small token, we believe in inclusion and having the new employee feel welcomed immediately,” said Founder Robert Moses.
6. Make it personal. Tailoring the onboarding process according to each new hire’s role and needs is a great strategy, but Carsurance take personalization to a different level. How? “After gathering some personal information (for example, what are the person’s hobbies or interests?) we create a cartoon character representing the new employee and print it on their own office coffee mug,” explained Co-founder Tony Arevalo.
“The cartoon-like avatar is then set on as that person’s avatar on all internal channels of communication so that other employees can get something about that person just from the picture.”
7. Pay attention to the details. Raven Beria, Founder of Brandalaxy, previously onboarded staff for an independent wealth management firm. “When I hired new members for our team, we'd set up the desktops completely equipped with all of the necessary applications, but we also took it one step further,” Beria said. “We created a custom wallpaper with our company's logo, the new team member's name in the brand's custom font, and a fun internal title, like ‘The Marketing Mastah.’ These little touches showed that we paid attention to the small details.”
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8. Involve multiple departments. Stefan Chekanov, CEO and Co-founder of Brosix, has developed a self-guided onboarding experience which “complements the more traditional onboarding sessions that everyone goes through,” he explained. Brosix gives new employees a series of questions that can only be answered by speaking with colleagues across the entire organization. For example, the company may ask why customer service is so crucial to our business. “In order to find the answer, the new hire would need to set up a meeting with someone in the customer service department,” said Chekanov.
“This onboarding experience reflects my belief that every employee needs to understand, at least at a higher level, the different aspects of our business. I’ve found that this technique leads to more confident and independent new employees and helps them to quickly integrate into the wider organization.”
9. Get out of the office. Lindsey Marx, Marketing Content Strategist with Best Company, enjoyed some time away from her desk during her own onboarding experience. On her third day on the job at Best Company, she tackled an escape room with her co-workers. “This was a super fun team building activity that allowed me to feel safe to be myself and to meet others on my team who I would work with while also being new and having fun,” Marx commented.
For more advice on how to onboard new employees, download our free eBook, “An Employer’s Guide to Onboarding.”