When it comes to employee retention, there are a few things you can do right. Creating the right kind of job offer, planning for career succession, providing the right kind of materials for the new hire to excel in their role… These are all great, but one thing comes first and it matters more than you think - employee onboarding. The first few weeks and months of a new hire’s time in your company determines their likelihood to stay and succeed in their role.
Having this in mind, we’ll go over some excellent examples of employee onboarding today, as well as give you ideas of what you can do to improve your onboarding experience.
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Employee onboarding is the process of welcoming and integrating a new employee in your organization. It involves setting them up and giving them all the tools and resources necessary to make them productive as early as possible and make them feel like a part of your team.
We’ve searched high and low to bring you some of the very best examples of employee onboarding out there. Here are our top picks along with the reasons why we included them in this list.
The SaaS giant Zapier is well-known for two things: providing an awesome product and having a completely remote and distributed team. At the time of writing, Zapier’s headcount is more than 350 people in over 23 countries all over the world. With a remote operation this big, onboarding is crucial to make sure employees are engaged from the very start.
On their first day of work, new Zapier employees don’t do any work at all. They spend the day getting familiar with the company, their team and their role. In fact, they don’t even start working until the first week. From days 2-5, they spend their time learning the tools and systems needed to succeed in their role and most importantly, the company sets expectations for what success means in the role.
Once week 2 begins, they’re ready to start with actual work. From the very beginning, they start with small tasks. In week 3, they get to collaborate with other teams on cross-functional projects.
Zapier’s onboarding works because it’s done one step at a time and the new hire isn’t given an overwhelming amount of information at once.
This social media tool is one of the top competitors in its niche and it’s known across the world for a number of things. For starters - their transparency. The company publishes all of its numbers on an annual basis, including their profits, costs, and salaries for all employees. Naturally, this is a magnet for new talent. Add to this the fact that the entire company was fully remote before it became the norm and it’s easy to see why Buffer is a desirable employer. They currently have 85 people in their team working across 15 different countries.
Before they created their current onboarding process, they had a 45-day bootcamp. Instead of being accepted into the team immediately, new hires came onboard as contractors for 45 days. They abandoned this practice for one reason - it didn’t make the new hire feel like a part of the team.
Nowadays, they have a structured onboarding process that is a bit too complex to describe in a few paragraphs. One thing that stands out is that before a new hire joins them, they get five emails to share all the necessary information and collect their information too. This is how it goes:
All new hires are given access to one central onboarding document where they can get answers to the most commonly asked questions.
This onboarding works because the new hires get information in batches, rather than being overwhelmed by a ton of different materials at once. They also get just the right amount of questions to keep them engaged and looking forward to starting.
There’s a high chance you’ve heard of Miro as well, as it’s a great piece of whiteboard software that’s used by thousands of people all over the world. Besides the successful product, they have a growing team of people with more than 1,000 employees at the time of writing. One thing that’s interesting is that even though Miro is built as a tool to help remote workers, the company itself is not remote. They do have more than a dozen offices around the world, across Europe, Asia, Australia and North America.
The onboarding period at this company takes 90 days and the employees have to show initiative and do most of the onboarding tasks themselves. The managers are there merely to guide them and set expectations.
Within the first 90 days, the employees should read all the designated materials, create their own profiles in the tools that they use, sign up for services/products and more. On top of all that, they have to write their own internal company profile, describing themselves and what they do. This profile is then added to their internal documentation for everyone to read.
As part of the onboarding, Miro makes their employees super aware of the size and complexity of the company. With more than 1,000 employees scattered across different time zones, one of the crucial tasks for a new hire is setting their own hours in Slack and other company applications. That way, the rest of the team knows when to reach this employee, which is crucial for people on the other end of the globe.
Whether you live in the USA or not, you’ve probably heard of Zappos. This is a company well known not for the quality of their shoes, but for the superb experience that their own employees have. It’s consistently one of the most desirable places to work not just in Las Vegas but across the country.
One of the best parts of the employee experience in Zappos is the onboarding. Every new hire is shown an onboarding video detailing not just their own role but the entire workplace experience at Zappos. They get to see the actual culture and what different Zappos employees do in their roles every day.
At under 6 minutes in length, this one video is a great example of time well spent on video content. At the same time, it’s publicly available and anyone else who is not an employee can also view it to get a sense of the workplace and their culture. It’s two for one - it works both for the candidate experience and for attracting new talent to apply.
Working at one of the most famous companies in the world is a goal that many people have as they set out to build their career. Besides their product, Apple is known for their hiring practices and they also have an onboarding system that many of their employees love.
When a new employee joins the company, they are assigned an “iBuddy”, someone who’s there to answer all of their questions. The key here is that those questions can be about their role, the company, the culture, the workplace habits or anything else that comes to mind. This is an approach also used by Microsoft and several other tech giants because it’s been proven in practice that it makes the employees more engaged and satisfied with the onboarding process.
Always a company on the brink of new technology, Hubspot has gone the way of Apple and created their own branded onboarding platform. Called Foundations, it includes everything that a new hire needs to know as they join the company. While they do have plenty of offices around the world, the entire company has gone remote in March 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
To help the remote system develop, they recorded new materials to help both employees and managers cope with their newly remote roles. Their product is excellent but also quite complex, so new videos were recorded on how to use it effectively, which is especially useful for new hires that never had direct experience working with Hubspot’s software.
Grubhub is a delivery app that lets customers order food from their favorite restaurants. The Grubhub drivers then pick up the order from the restaurant and bring it straight to your door. In the wake of the pandemic, this has been an increasingly popular way to make an income, with many restaurants shut down.
Grubhub has an nice video that you can watch even if you’re not a new employee about to join their ranks. It’s short and informative and it gives the new hires all the information they need to start providing a great service from day one.
We are pretty confident that all of this information is already provided in some other shape or form, but this brief video makes for a nice reminder. Clocking under two minutes and shown in an enthusiastic, helpful light, we’re sure that this video will stay a part of their onboarding process for years to come.
Let’s add another tech giant to the list. Having so many employees all around the world made the company realize the massive value of proper onboarding. While others came up with frameworks and complex documentation, Vodafone created their own employee onboarding application.
As a new hire joins the company, they get access to Vodafone’s app which guides them through the onboarding process. The app is designed in a way to facilitate the onboarding process and inform Vodafone what the new hire needs. Its role is twofold - both for the employee to learn crucial information about the company and for Vodafone to further improve their onboarding process.
Everywhere you look online, you’ll see words of praise for Google and their hiring practices. In the world of tech, Google is probably the most desirable employer out there. From their amazing perks and benefits to the learning opportunities, salaries and more, there is lot to like about Google’s hiring practices.
Their onboarding is focused on the other side of the hiring process - the managers. Before every new hire joins the company, their managers are in charge of sending them an email first.
There are two rules though - the email has to be sent 24 hours before the new hire joins and they have to give them five tasks:
The goal here is to have a short time frame between the email and the time when the new hire starts so the tasks stay fresh in their minds. Also, since the weight of the onboarding is on the manager, the new hire won’t have to figure anything out on their own.
Not as widely known as many of the companies mentioned above, Verisys is one in the line of many companies that had to go remote in March 2020. The virus forced many employees who were used to office life to start working from home and this came with its own set of challenges.
The first one was the fact that newly remote employees had no idea how to set up their own computers so the first task on the list was creating videos on how to get their home office setup started. Each new and existing hire is put through this education.
For all new hires, new equipment is delivered safely straight to their homes, complete with a swag package and some decorations. As they join the official Slack, they are greeted in a special channel for new hires.
In this section, we won’t list specific companies because we don’t have any specific ones and it’s not nice to point fingers. However, there are some general bad practices that we will mention that you should definitely avoid as much as you can.
One of the more common ways to start a new day for the first hire is to throw them into the fire and have them start working immediately. Before they even managed to remember the names of the people that they’re working with, they’re already going for their first task and they can’t have a minute for themselves.
While your intentions may be good, you’re probably putting too much pressure on the new hire in their first few days. Instead, give them time to learn more about the company, their team and direct managers, the culture and most importantly, the standards for good work in their role. Only then can you start giving them some actual work to do.
Onboarding takes a lot of time and if a manager is onboarding a new hire, they’re taking away from their workday. Naturally, you want to decrease the time they spend on onboarding as much as possible. To achieve this, you may resort to giving new employees a bunch of content to familiarize themselves with your company.
This could be guides, handbooks, videos, webinars, trainings, you name it. It’s pretty easy to create content that can be shared repeatedly nowadays, but it’s also not such a great idea. It will leave the employee to themselves and they’ll have no one to talk to or ask a question. Even if you work completely remotely, it’s always an option to set up a video call and transfer some information in person instead of giving it out in the form of an article or an ebook.
A new role is like a first date. Even though the employee is in it for the opportunity and the paycheck, you should also do your best to impress them. After all, employees are the most likely to quit within the first few months of starting their new role. You need to persuade them that they made the right choice and you’re the right employer for them. Otherwise, they just might go to the next offer they have.
When someone joins, make sure to remember their name, secure a space for them in your office, equip them with the right hardware and software to get their job done and introduce them to the rest of the team. Even if you’re working remotely, a lot of these things should be on your checklist as well.
Some companies like Toptal have onboarding periods as long as six months. For each major milestone during that period, the new hire is expected to learn something new - master a skill or be competent in a specific area of their work. Most good companies have longer onboarding periods because it can take up to several months for a new hire to become fully productive in their role.
One of the biggest mistakes that you can make is rushing the onboarding process. No matter how quickly you may need them as a new member of your team, don’t rush them through the process. If they don’t have enough time to prepare, they will eventually underperform and feel bad about their work.
“I’ll just wing it” is one of the worst strategies for onboarding that you can have. The average onboarding process for new hires has an average of 54 activities that they (and you) should do. Thinking that you’ll manage it as you go is not only irresponsible but also a superb way to lose a great employee and money for your company.
In order to make the most out of your onboarding process, make sure that it is well documented. You need to determine how long the process takes, what it entails and what you should do to make the process go smoothly.
An employee left alone could mean two things. Either you’re really happy with their performance or you’ve completely forgotten about their existence since they joined. In the first case, if you are indeed happy with how they work - let them know in some shape or form. In the second case, your employee just might feel like you forgot about them if you forget to check up on them every now and then.
As busy as your managers are, make it a habit to check up on progress with the new hires. They may not want to ask a question because they’re afraid, shy or something else. After a few months of this practice, it may be far too late to get them back.
If you’ve read this far, you’ll notice a couple of recurring themes. Companies that provide excellent onboarding have some things in common:
You can do many of these things on your own, using nothing but your email and Slack account. However, you’ll also need some help along the way to systemize the process and make it easier for everyone involved. This is where Zavvy comes into play - it gives companies a framework for providing an excellent onboarding experience. You can rest assured that when you use Zavvy, your employee onboarding will be a pleasant experience for your new employees, your managers, and everyone involved in the hiring process. Sign up now to get started!
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