Imagine it’s your first day at a new job. Maybe your dream job.

You show up bright and early Monday morning, meet your new co-workers and then you’re shown to an empty cube. No laptop. No phone. Certainly nothing welcoming you to the team and making you feel like you’re a part of something special. Immediately doubts start to creep into your mind as you wonder if this is really all you envisioned it being.

Sound crazy? According to Gallup, only 12% of employees agree their organization does a great job of onboarding new employees. For many, especially after a pandemic, there is no welcoming ceremony, no formal training and nothing that makes the new hire feel like they’re somewhere they should be proud of.

Over $30 Billion is spent annually to retain employees who are not happy, engaged, or understanding of their roles. Talk about a waste of money. These are all very simple things, which, if the proper time is spent, can be addressed during the onboarding process. Studies show that addressing these key components early, can increase employee performance and retention upwards of 50%.

So let’s talk about some simple steps that any organization can take to improve their onboarding process:

Onboarding Kits (i.e. Free Stuff)

Everyone loves to get free stuff, so onboarding kits are a no-brainer. Not only does it make the recipient happy (and happy means more productivity), it also immediately empowers them to become a brand ambassador and walking advertisement while using the merch outside of the office. But of course, you don’t want to give them a box of clicky pens or a generic white C-handle coffee cup. You want to give them product that ties in with your culture; things they would actually be proud to brandish during off-hours.

Disclaimer: While some can be pretty elaborate, you don’t have to drop a lot of cash to make an impact. The total cost can be built around any budget. Keep in mind, onboarding kits are a very small investment on someone who may be a part of our community for the next ten years.

Match Them With an Office Buddy

No, not like Buddy the Elf. Although, I think Will Ferrell would be the best office buddy ever. Match the new hire with another teammate. Studies show that over 87% of organizations say that buddy programs boost new hire proficiency. Ideally, the mentor has been with the organization for a while and is either in the same type of position as the new hire, or has been in that position previously. Over the first week, let them show the new hire the ropes and teach them about the company culture and what is expected of them. Like everything else, you’ll want to have a structured schedule in place, similar to the one MIT suggests. Even with fully virtual teams or offices operating at half capacity, an office buddy is still critical to successful onboarding.

Make Sure Their New Manager is There for Day One

This seems like a no brainer, but people schedule time off without being aware of new hire start dates. And this really sets a bad precedent. The manager needs to be around to help set up the work station, make sure the new hire  understands their role from the start, and hopefully introduce them to their Office Buddy.

Hands-On Training

This approach works well when your organization offers a service or platform of services. During the first few weeks, have the new hire get their hands dirty. In other words, put them in your client’s shoes. Take Zappos for example – “new hires can expect to spend their first three weeks working on the call center and taking calls from clients”. This helps them to better understand their customer needs and how Zappos, as a whole, can respond to them. To further this, after their three week stint in the call center, Zappos will pay you to leave. For real. If you don’t think it’s the place for you, then they give you a check to go somewhere else.


Some of the more innovative companies are taking some traditional elements of onboarding like training videos, reading packets, and talking heads and turning them into games to help keep minds focused and expose them to company culture quicker.

For example, Shopify has scavenger hunts they task new hires with in order for them to learn about various departments and where to go to find answers. This can easily be converted to a virtual game as well, working with all of the different items in each attendees current work space.

It can even be done prior to onboarding. In the midst of heavy recruiting wars, Pricewaterhouse Coopers created a game called Multipoly (spun off of Monopoly) that placed new hires on teams and tasked them with various missions over their first two weeks. Each completed mission allowed the recruit to accumulate points, which brought them closer to landing a job at PwC.

The key in doing something like this is to make sure it’s well thought out with very specific goals in mind, be it teaching the new hire about company culture, the product or experience you provide your clients or even where they can find the necessary resources to accomplish their daily goals easier.

Extended Onboarding

Most companies, assuming they have an onboarding plan, end it after a few days. If they’re really serious, maybe a full week. But the fast growing companies who recognize the true value of a legitimate onboarding process take it one step further (and longer). Only 37% of companies have an onboarding process that goes longer than one month.

We’ve already mentioned the Zappos three week call center training, but here are two more well known program examples. The Facebook Engineering Bootcamp that runs for six weeks. This helps with training, evaluation and finally, placement. And at RadioFlyer, they implemented a 12-week onboarding program and required new hires to continue the education process over the next 9 months, which led to a decrease in first year turnover, all the way down to 6%.

Yes, all of this takes time. And money. And even more time. But finding and retaining top talent is hard. Give yourself a leg up in the recruitment battle by spending time upfront ensuring your newly hired talent succeeds (and sticks around) as opposed to spending that money on excessive turnovers.