Skip links

7 creative ways of onboarding new employees: Lessons from real companies

If somebody tells you that a branded pen, notebook or t-shirt is a creative way to win over new employees, it’s about time you stopped listening to them! That new employee might be a digital notetaker anyway, and in that case, all you’ve done is contribute to a cluttered desk…

The ways we work have changed, so have the places we do that work – the only thing that seems to be lagging behind in many companies is how they onboard and develop their people.

Well, we’ve taken inspiration from those doing things a little differently and compiled our favourite employee onboarding ideas, including a new perspective on company swag and connecting new hires to your values.

Intercom: Connecting new employees to values and leadership early on

How often has an all-hands meeting been shared with you during onboarding? At Intercom, employees receive the recording to a company-wide session where refreshed values were shared with the team. This is just one way the support giants moved to support new employees as they switched to a remote and virtual onboarding program.

When it comes to something like values, the medium is the message. It’s far more impactful to hear them from a leader’s mouth than read a ghostwritten parody – especially if they’re explaining the journey to those values.

As you can see below, their updated approach also provides Q&A opportunities with product leaders to understand the strategy and where it’s headed.

Intercom onboarding program

TravelPerk: Grouping new employees together to experience shared onboarding

Think about all the times you tried something new and badgered a friend to come along! Nobody wants to visit a first yoga class alone or undertake their maiden group run as a solo sprinter – it’s much easier if others are in the same mindset and there to divert all eyes from landing on you.

At TravelPerk, they provide an onboarding equivalent of that yoga or running buddy by grouping new hires for their first day.

Normally, this takes place on the first or third Monday of the month and allows for greater efficiency. For example, week one consists of introductions to various departments in the company – something that everyone would benefit from, so it makes sense if that happens less frequently, in groups, providing a better employee experience.

Following that, the personal touch is added. Luis G. Valle explains that, as a software engineer, the team took time to understand which elements of the tech stack he was already familiar with. Flagging those he hadn’t used before, this allowed for a more tailored and useful approach that gets people up to speed sooner.

“The starting day at TravelPerk is usually the first or the third Monday of each month. This way people are grouped together for induction — making everything way more effective and efficient.” – Luis G. Valle, TravelPerk.

HappyMoney: Sending a ‘Party in a box’ to a new employee’s front door

Annoyingly, HappyMoney’s Chief People Officer, Lisa Hennessey, doesn’t reveal what’s inside this party box, but the motivation behind it is certainly a lesson in creativity:

“[Our team are] focused on making new hires feel like a party is coming to their house with personal welcome videos, a “party in a box” welcome package at their doorstep and a team lunch. We want them to feel like their team has been eagerly waiting for them to join — which they have.”

In some ways, it’s better that we don’t know! Because any such celebration box should reflect your brand, be based on what you know about the new employee and feel like a personal touch has been taken. Sometimes, the best employee onboarding ideas are the ones that inspire us to take action, rather than simply telling us which actions we should take…

SPR: Welcome and introduce people before day one

The preboarding phase is a unique window, a chance to set in motion everything needed for a warm welcome! From setting up account access for a new employee to completing their paperwork ahead of start day, companies use that time in different ways. At tech consultancy SPR, it means announcing and introducing a new employee ahead of their first day.

“We started announcing new hires before their first day and sent out a companywide email about them personally and professionally, to welcome them to the company. We have focused on creating a sense of belonging.” – Stephanie Lyons, Recruiting Manager, SPR.

This is all part of a move to become more intentional in how they onboard people, to pay attention to the small things and provide more personal experiences. To ensure people are welcomed by the right colleagues at the right time and given space to connect with them wherever they work.

Buffer: The more buddies, the better!

Buddies are great! They take you out for lunch, fill you in on the company culture and introduce you to the right people – they’re an invaluable resource to a new employee. Now imagine you have three, and they’re each an expert in a different area – welcome to onboarding at Buffer.

The social media management mainstays connect new employees with a:

  • Leader Buddy: An experienced team member who acts as a mentor around the company values.
  • Role Buddy: Who understands and can teach them about their role, helping them improve over 45 days.
  • Culture Buddy: You guessed it, someone who eases them into the culture and helps them become a good fit for it.

“We feel that three buddies is a great way to give bootcampers a variety of interactions within and outside of their core areas. Bootcampers will interact with their three buddies, and they will also connect to those who have a similar role (e.g. other product creators) and team members they are paired with every week.” – Rodolphe Dutel, Buffer.

Marriott: Gamify the application and onboarding process

Technically this happens before onboarding, but imagine if you could get a flavour for running a hotel restaurant before you applied!? More than a decade ago, Marriott showed their forward-thinking side when creating My Marriott Hotel, a game allowing new hires to run a virtual restaurant and hosted on their careers page.

“The game, which we call ‘My Marriott Hotel,’ gives you a chance to run your own restaurant.  You get to buy equipment and ingredients on a budget, hire and train employees, and serve guests.  You earn points for happy customers and lose points for poor service and food.  When you turn a profit, you win!” –  Bill Marriott, Executive Chairman, Marriott International

Watch the trailer here and remember, go easy on the graphics – it was released in 2011!

Disney: Ensure people understand the traditions before they move on

Ever jumped into a film franchise on the third or fourth movie? You’re clueless about the characters or backstory and end up asking annoying questions to your clued in cinema companions. The same thing can happen when you join a company that’s been around a while without understanding their origins!

Perhaps aware of these potential employee plotholes, Disney ensure every new cast member passes the Traditions course before they move on – and it’s the first thing new hires do in onboarding! As Dennis Snow recounts:

“The first day of work for EVERY new cast member was a one-day class called ‘Disney Traditions.’ You didn’t start your job until you completed Disney Traditions. The class covered three important aspects of working at Walt Disney World. I believe these elements can be applied in any organization: Legacy, Our True Product and What’s Expected”.

For more creative employee onboarding ideas and effective strategies for welcoming new hires, read Employee onboarding: The complete guide for fast-growing companies

Employee onboarding The complete guide for fast-growing companies (1)