9 Onboarding Best Practices that Go the Extra Mile

Onboarding is one of the most important HR functions, second only to the recruitment process. Companies that pour their energy (and budget) into recruitment but skimp on onboarding will find they quickly lose the talent they have worked so hard to procure. Meanwhile, companies with best onboarding practices improve new hire retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%. Onboarding isn’t just a chance to show what your company is about, but a chance to woo employees anew.

We’ve previously covered onboarding basics. Here we’ll go into onboarding best practices that go the extra mile, boost productivity and retain top talent long term

1. Personalize your Welcome Kit.

Onboarding involves a lot of logistics but it doesn’t have to be dry! Welcome Kits should be more than a pile of drab documents and some pens. Spruce up that employee handbook by hiring a writer to make it more readable or a designer to create fun infographics. Help new hires settle in by including a glossary of company jargon and a who’s who cheat sheet. The renowned advertising agency Ogilvy gives newbies a chic red-and-black box complete with a manifesto written by Ogilvy himself and a list of his creative habits. A non-generic Welcome Kit is the first step of effective onboarding: it will give your newest employee a peek of company culture and make them eager to learn more.

2. Give a thoughtful gift (or some nice swag).

Let new hires know how happy you are to have them with a welcome gift such as flowers, lunch certificates, or a map of cool spots in the area. Some companies give out swag, like branded coffee mugs, water bottles and sweatshirts. The more this swag is tailored to the company’s goals, the better. OPower, an energy data company, gives employees a bottle of champagne to be saved for when the company helps reduce carbon emissions in the US by 1%. Swag is more than just “free stuff.” It can be a key part of the onboarding experience, helping new hires to integrate and invest themselves in the company’s goals. 

3. Make it fun with gamification.

Gamify the onboarding process to engage and motivate new employees from their first day on the job. Make the work environment inviting by awarding and tracking points on a digital or physical leaderboard. As new hires learn new skills and complete tasks, they can “level up.” This might be an exceptionally useful tactic if your company uses app onboarding. Be sure to offer challenges and bonus points! 

4. Send them on a scavenger hunt.

Some companies, like Texas-based digital marketing company Bazaarvoice, include scavenger hunts in their onboarding program. New hires are sent out to find clues hidden all over the office and property while they get the lay of the land. Other companies hold virtual scavenger hunts, sending employees looking for answers to policy questions or for contact info on the company’s intranet. This onboarding effort is a fun way to acclimate to new hires to tools and technologies they will need to use every day. Bonus: if they get stuck, they’ll have to ask one of their new coworkers for help.

5. Break the ice!

Onboarding best practices include making sure to provide plenty of time for get-to-know-you activities for new hires. It’s important that new employees start building relationships with their coworkers as soon as possible. Here at Factorial, when someone new joins the team, we have the standard introductions and then afterward, we play “two truths and a lie.” This gives new hires a chance to share about themselves and joke around with the team to build rapport. Using icebreakers will make sure new employees feel ready to jump in and make waves.

6. Set them up with a buddy.

There’s a lot to learn when a new employee joins a company! Make the stressful onboarding experience more navigable by pairing your new hire up with a buddy, a more-experienced team member who can show them the ropes. A buddy can give a new hire a tour of the office, introduce them to coworkers, and provide a safe place to ask questions that are too embarrassing to ask management. Harvard Business Review found that for such a simple system, an “onboarding buddy” program showed outsized benefits. Providing context, boosting productivity, and improving employee satisfaction, an onboarding buddy is among the new employee orientation best practices.

7. Play luncheon roulette.

Being taken out to lunch by the team is the dream of all new hires. Lunch breaks provide a great chance to get to know work colleagues in a more laid back context. That’s why Warby Parker uses an app called “lunch roulette.” Once a week, this app randomly selects two groups of four people to go out to lunch on the company’s dime. This has a positive impact on company culture and ensures that new hires get to keep getting to know the people they work with after the initial introductions. 

8. Get management involved.

To go above and beyond best practices for onboarding new employees, give new hires a chance to connect with senior leaders. Involving senior leaders in onboarding humanizes the company for new hires. It also gives them a chance to connect with the mission of the company in a new way. At Netflix, all new hires are welcomed with an orientation with the executive management. Within the first quarter, they meet the CEO. For managers and executives, these meetings can also provide valuable opportunities to learn more about employees and gather feedback about the company.

9. Let them eat cake!

Everyone, and I mean everyone, likes cake. This is a celebration after all, so make your new hire feel welcome with good old fashioned baked goods. The best onboarding practices mean getting new hires involved and engaged, and there is no better way to your new employee’s heart than their stomach! Call it the cherry on top of a successful onboarding.

Employee onboarding is an incredibly valuable time. It is when your employee gets a feel for the company and its culture —but sometimes it is when a new hire goes back to the job market. A staggering 20% of new hires leave their job to pursue another opportunity within 45 days. An exceptional onboarding process that goes the extra mile is the best way to keep top talent around. It will also get them up to speed even faster and help them to integrate and feel at home. If you implement even a few of these onboarding best practices, your company is sure to wow incoming talent.

Written by Valerie Slaughter; Edited by Tanya Lesiuk

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