11 Examples of the Best Employee Onboarding Experiences out There
We hear it all the time:
To win in a marketplace, you need to first win at your workplace.
And the right way to go about this is creating valuable job offers, planning for career succession, and providing essential materials to new hires. But there's something that commands greater importance.
One that will define an employee's career path in your organization from the very first day (and before) — and that is employee onboarding.
We'll take you through case studies of companies with extraordinary onboarding processes to learn from. From Google to Buffer.
Then, based on that, we'll follow up with ideas on how you can improve your onboarding experience.
❓ What is employee onboarding?
Your employee onboarding process is the first impression a new employee will have of your organization.
And to make it a lasting one, it’s essential to give them all the necessary tools and information that will deeply involve them in their new role and your company.
But, what makes a great onboarding experience?
We went ahead and looked into some of the companies with the best onboarding programs out there.
Use this as inspiration for our own process - and as a series of case studies to learn from.
🏆 Examples of great employee onboarding experiences
Let's get practical.
What companies have the best employee onboarding experiences?
We’ve searched high and low to bring you some of the very best examples of employee onboarding processes out there.
Here are our top picks and why we included them in this list.
What's special: Clear task milestones
Famous for its incredible product and remote work environment, this SaaS company champions automated workflows.
At the time of writing, Zapier’s headcount is 350+ employees across 23 countries. With a remote operation this big, their onboarding is crucial to ensure high engagement from their employees.
To help ease the new job anxiety, Zapier employees spend their first week getting familiar with the company and their team. This includes learning tools and systems needed to succeed in their role and expectations set by the company for the coming years.
Once week 2 begins, they’re ready to get their hands dirty by working on small tasks. And by week 3, they start collaborating with other teams on cross-functional projects.
Zapier’s onboarding is a success because new hires get the freedom and time to settle into the company and their role. All this, without being overwhelmed with abundant information and redundant processes.
What's special: System of 3 buddies, One place
This social media tool has become one of the leading companies in its niche. Renowned worldwide for its offering, the company believes in 100% transparency. They publish all their numbers annually — including profits, costs, and salaries of all employees — a magnet for new talent. Not to mention, the company has been operating remotely since its foundation, making it a desirable employer.
Their initial employee onboarding process involved a 45-day boot camp. However, new hires were onboarded as contractors for 45 days instead of being accepted into the team immediately. They abandoned this practice for one reason - their new hires felt a lack of involvement in their team.
Following this, they improvised their onboarding experience where new hires receive 5 introductory emails. Here, they can find all the necessary information about the company, their team, and their role. This is how it goes:
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 and collect all the necessary information. This is how it goes:
- Welcome email
- Collecting basic information
- Introducing them to managers and peers
- Presenting tools that new hires will use
- Setting expectations for day one
Highlight: System of 3 onboarding buddies
One particularly outstanding thing at Buffer is their system of 3 onboarding buddies.
This means that 3 particular people are involved in every onboarding:
- The hiring manager
- A culture buddy
- A role buddy
But mentoring someone is now something you can just start doing. It involves work, empathy, and regular check-ins.
Hence, all 3 stakeholders get detailed information on guiding and talking to their new colleagues.
All answers in one place
In case this wasn't enough, Buffer is leveraging another simple, yet powerful trick to make their induction one of the best onboarding processes:
All new hires are given access to one central onboarding document to find answers to the most commonly asked questions.
This onboarding works because new hires get information in parts rather than being bogged down by all the material at once.
They receive just the right amount of questions to keep them engaged and excited about their new role.
What's special: Clear plan for 30,60, 90 days
We bet you’ve heard of Miro—a whiteboard software that’s used by thousands of people and businesses around the world. Besides its successful product, they have a growing team of people with over 1,000 employees.
Contrary to its tool to help remote workers, the company itself is not remote. They have several offices across Europe, Asia, Australia, and North America.
Their onboarding experience spans over 90 days, where employees need to be proactive and work independently on most tasks. The managers are only there to guide them and to set expectations.
Miro has a designated 30-60-90 day plan outlining expectations and initial projects for all. The plan is based on Michael Watkins' book "The First 90 Days".
When they create their internal company profile, it is documented for everyone to read. This is not only a way of introducing new hires to the team, but it also helps create job clarity.
A critical part of Miro’s onboarding process is creating awareness about the size and complexity of the company to its employees.
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 or other applications. This helps every employee know when to contact one another.
What's special: Culture video, "the offer"
Whether you live in the USA or not, you’ve probably heard of Zappos. Renowned for selling superior quality shoes, the brand offers its employees an equally good onboarding experience.
Every new hire is welcomed with an onboarding video that outlines their role and the experience of working at Zappos. It also highlights the work culture and the role of every employee at Zappos.
At under 6 minutes in length, this makes a great example of time well spent on video content.
At the same time, it’s publicly available for job applicants to get a feel of Zappo’s workplace and its culture. This is like killing two birds with one stone — the video helps elevate the candidate experience while attracting new talents to apply.
At under 6 minutes in length, this one video is an excellent 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.
In addition, Zappo's has become quite famous for "The Offer":
After finishing their training period, Zappos offers new employees $4,000 payout to leave the company.
This increases commitment and filters for people with low culture fit.
👠 Discover the ins and outs of employee onboarding at Zappos and how to run an onboarding process like Zappos in our case study.
What's special: Branded onboarding buddies
There’s a reason why a large swath of graduates and professionals aim to work at this tech giant. Revered for its products, Apple welcomes new hires at Apple with an equally efficient onboarding program.
To connect new employees with people who deeply understand the Apple culture, they introduced the iBuddy system. Here, new hires are paired with an existing employee outside of their primary team, where they can ask questions about
- their role
- the company and its culture,
- or workplace habits.
The concept of ibuddy works because it helps the newcomer get through the awkward period at ease.
30 years after the system's launch, ibuddies are still relevant today - and have been adopted by several other companies like Microsoft.
What's special: Product training
A company constantly on the brink of new technology, Hubspot followed the footsteps of Apple and created its own branded onboarding platform:
It includes everything that a new hire needs to learn about the company.
While they do have plenty of offices around the world, the entire company switched to remote work from March 2020 because of the pandemic.
To develop their remote system, they recorded new materials for employees and managers to settle into their redefined workplace.
While their products are excellent, they can be complex to understand. So to make it easier, they recorded new videos/tutorials on how to use them effectively.
This is useful, especially for new hires who didn’t have hands-on experience working with Hubspot’s software.
What's special: Video effort
Grubhub is a food delivery app where customers can order food from their favorite restaurants. The Grubhub drivers then pick up the order from the restaurant and deliver it straight to their door.
Their onboarding process involves an introductory video for new hires and potential applicants.
It’s short, informative, and offers all the information new hires need to turn their job into a rewarding experience.
While they transmit information via different platforms, their video formats successfully make content memorable.
Clocking under two minutes and proven to be beneficial, we’re sure this video will remain a constant in their onboarding process for years to come.
What's special: Branded onboarding app
A telecom giant that employs people worldwide surely understands the importance of a great onboarding experience.
While other companies have complex frameworks and documentation, Vodafone created its own employee onboarding application.
When a new hire joins the company, they get access to Vodafone’s app, which guides them through their onboarding process.
The app is designed to facilitate the onboarding process where new hires can fill in their requirements.
Its role is twofold - for the employee to learn crucial information about the company and Vodafone to facilitate their onboarding process further.
What's special: Actionable tasks delivered right when they are needed, Noogler hats
Google is one of the best-known companies globally and one of the most desirable employers. Renowned for their fun activities in the office and a great benefits package, their onboarding is an inspiration to many employers.
Unlike the above examples, Google's onboarding focuses on the opposite spectrum of the hiring process - the managers.
24 hours before a new hire starts, their managers get an automated notification - along with 5 precise tasks:
- 👥 Assigning them a peer or buddy
- ⚙️ Discuss their role and responsibilities
- 🧑🤝🧑 Help meet their coworkers
- 📅 Set up employee check-ins for the first six months
- 💬 Encourage them to speak openly about potential issues
The goal here is to have a short time frame between the email and the starting date of the new hire, so the tasks stay fresh in their minds.
Since the weight of the onboarding is on the manager, the new hire learns more hands-on info about their role and responsibilities.
This is a great example of an onboarding process that is made with human behavior and experience in mind.
👲 Our Google onboarding case study will discuss the onboarding process at Google and how you can replicate it. Learn from one of the most influential companies in the world.
What's special: Remote readiness
A leading provider of healthcare data, Verisys is one of the many companies that switched to remote work in March 2020. And this came with its own set of challenges.
The first is that new remote employees didn't know how to set up their computers at home. So they prioritized creating tutorial videos on setting up a productive home office.
Each new and existing employee gets this education.
New equipment is delivered safely straight to their homes, along with a swag package and some decorations for all new hires.
New hires are warmly greeted the minute they join Slack in their respective team channels.
🚀 What's special: All above tips, combined in one, rich and automated experience
Roadsurfer is Europe's biggest campervan expert. And they're growing fast.
In fact, their headcount grew from 20 office employee to 225 within 2 years. That's a 1,025% growth!
"We really value our warm and open atmosphere. And integrating new colleagues openly and quickly had initially not been a problem. But the more we grew, the harder it became to get the necessary information to the right people, to introduce complex structures and processes - both on a company and team level."
- Barbara Imm, Head of HR at roadsurfer
With that challenge at the back of their minds, roadsurfer created a structured onboarding process for both the whole company and single teams, such as customer success.
Why it's great
- 🎓It contains interactive lessons to repeat knowledge in a fun way
- 📩 Messages are pushed through Microsoft Teams so it's more fun and engaging
- 🏢 There is both a company-specific structure and one for single teams
- 🛠 It's way less manual work for the HR teams - but new hires love it.
Every new hires goes through the same, guided experience. No one gets forgotten. And everybody learns about values, the company, and teams in their own pace.
4.8/5 star-rating by new hires despite 30 onboardings per month.
Full Case Study: How Roadsurfer onboardings new hires across 36 locations
❌ Examples of bad employee onboarding experiences
There are plenty of ways you can go wrong with your onboarding process. One of the leading reasons is when you fail to understand your employees’ needs to fulfill your organizational goals.
When you create an onboarding program with irrelevant tools to your employees’ roles, they will find it challenging to manage their workflow and eventually quit. Here are some more practices that could lead to a bitter work experience at your company.
Assigning work to new hires from Day 1
We couldn't emphasize more on this problem. Delegating work-related responsibilities to new hires on their first day or even the first week is never a good start.
It's imperative to give them enough time to learn about their team members, their role, and your company's work culture. Ignoring this will exacerbate their first-day anxiety and pressure to perform well.
Plus, don't overload them in the first week. Instead, start with giving new joiners small jobs, and with time, you can build confidence in them to take over big projects.
Relying on content instead of people
It's no secret that an efficient onboarding program takes time for managers and new hires. To make it easier, you may resort to handbooks, videos, or webinars for introducing new hires to the company.
While there's nothing wrong with it, your employees will be confused about communicating within your organization.
For example: How do they report on their activities, and what information should be included?
Who should they report to on essential developments? The best way you can help them is by setting up a video call or arranging a meeting in person.
Nothing beats personal interaction.
Not caring about the first impression
A new role is like a first date. While you hire an employee for their skills, they will judge your company based on your onboarding process.
If you fail to meet their expectations, they're pretty likely to quit within the first few months. However, it always helps to understand and appreciate their value to your company.
Otherwise, they will take the next offer they get.
When a new hire joins, greet them by their name, secure a designated 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 onboarding experience checklist nonetheless.
Rushing through it
Companies like Toptal have an onboarding program that lasts for six months. New hires are expected to learn something new for each significant milestone achieved during this period.
This can be anything - from mastering any new skill to becoming more efficient in a specific work area.
The reason for a long onboarding period is that new hires can take several months to become fully productive in their role.
When you rush through this onboarding process, your employees won't have enough time to prepare.
They will eventually underperform, remain demotivated, and disconnected from their role.
Not having a plan
"I'll just wing it" is one of the least effective strategies to rely on.
The average onboarding process has at least 54 small activities that new hires (and you) should do.
Assuming that you'll manage it as you go is not only irresponsible but also the fastest way to lose a top-class employee.
To make the most out of your onboarding process, make sure it is well documented.
You need to determine how long the process takes, what it entails, and what you should do to deliver a smooth experience.
All of these will be really hard to achieve, even when using onboarding templates.
Not checking in
An employee left alone could mean two things: either you're delighted with their performance, or you've completely forgotten about them since they joined.
In the first case: acknowledge it.
In the second scenario, your employee might feel isolated in your company and eventually quit.
So, despite having a busy schedule, make it a habit to keep a tab on the progress of your new hires.
They may not want to ask questions because they're afraid or too shy. It always helps to make them feel comfortable and heard through consistent follow-ups.
📈 How to deliver onboarding experiences that combine best practices from Google & co.
Any company, including yours, can deliver an effective onboarding experience by making some changes to your existing one.
Companies that provide excellent onboarding share some common roots:
- They individualize the approach for each employee
- They allow room for the employee to ask questions
- They give the new hire information on the company culture
- They communicate regularly and insist on checkups
You can do many of these things on your own without scaling your cost - like sending an email or messaging on Slack.
But, what really matters is that you streamline the process and make it easier for everyone involved.
➡️ This is where our employee onboarding tools come into play - they're designed to give your company a framework for providing an excellent onboarding experience.
Every best practice you've seen above, you'll be able to deliver on autopilot with Zavvy.
You can rest assured that you will be able to deliver a pleasant onboarding experience to your new hires, your managers, and everyone involved in the hiring process with us.
Get in touch with us to get started and try it for free!