GIFs, Gifts, and Games: 4 Ways Companies Welcome New Hires on Day 1

May 3, 2017

You’ve finally found the perfect candidate and, at last, they’ve signed the offer letter. Everyone is happy and you can check that off your list and move on...right?

Not so much. The hiring process doesn’t stop at the offer letter. Or, at least it shouldn’t. Not properly onboarding a new hire is one of the biggest mistakes companies make:

  • 4% of new hires leave a job after a disastrous first day
  • 22% of turnover occurs within the first 45 days
  • Costing the company at least 3X the former employee’s salary

Clearly, what you do with new hires in the first few days and weeks impacts not how fast they acclimate and feel like they belong, but also whether or not they stay. Plus, companies that get onboarding right end up with higher employee engagement, better employee retention and have an easier time attracting the talent they want.

And, it doesn’t have to be hard. The companies below have come up with fun and unique ways to welcome new employees...

1. Sending new hires a welcome note that will get them pumped

Though enthusiasm and excitement may run high as recruiters chase top talent, that spirit can die out very quickly once an offer letter is signed.

At Lever, Jennifer Kim makes certain that doesn’t happen with a totally unique, imaginative welcoming process for all new hires that involves personalized GIFs and lots of friendly team emails.

“We want candidates to know that the enthusiasm they felt during the interview process didn’t only exist to get them to join the team and fill a seat,” says Jennifer. “We’re seriously stoked to be working with them and can’t wait for them to start.”

And though Lever’s unique welcoming traditions have evolved over time, the constant element is still their personalized welcome GIFs, created by the whole team, then sent out to new employees via email strings with even more GIFs. The GIFs have even become increasingly elaborate as the tradition has grown throughout the years.

As frivolous as a GIF may sound, Lever’s warm welcomes let new hires get to know their new colleagues in a fun, relaxed way, and leaves a positive first impression that will persist years later.

2. Giving out free swag and gifts that will delight them (and advertise the company’s brand/culture)

Admit it: free stuff rules. But not all new hire gifts are created equal—the best ones are useful, interesting, and even help to promote the brand.

Take SugarCRM for example. New hires get a box of delicious treats on their first day, a move that delights employees and reinforces their sweet-as-candy branding.

At eyewear brand Warby Parker, new hires get a copy of Jack Kerouac’s novel Dharma Bums, which inspired the company’s name, allowing them to look cool on the subway while also gaining insight into their employer’s unique thinking.

And fashion startup Polyvore hands new employees a $100 gift card to spend on the site. Not only will the free clothes make new hires happy, it also helps to get them acquainted with how Polyvore’s users find and buy items, which will help them to their job better.

If all else fails, give them something to drink: At Twitter, new hires find a workstation waiting for them on day one with swag and a company-branded bottle of wine.

3. Using onboarding gamification to boost engagement and create camaraderie 

Research indicates that a leading cause of employee churn is a combination of poor training and a job that simply isn’t any “fun” for the employee. In other words, they’re disengaged from the get-go, so they don’t stick around for long.

To combat this problem, many startups are finding success with gamification for new hires, which can be as simple as a leaderboard—and has the added bonus of being relatively cheap to implement.

At Bazaarvoice, a content marketing solutions company, new employees must complete a rigorous scavenger hunt when they start off at the company.

Meanwhile, at Deloitte, new hires play the company’s own LIFE-inspired board game, which also serves the purpose of engaging new hires and training them in company processes, culture, and values.

And gamification is a strategy that you can adjust to your own needs, goals, and culture. For example, at Rackspace, a cloud computing company in Texas, the four-day onboarding process is chock full of “games, skits, costumes, thumping music, and a limbo bar.

The point? To foster collaboration and throw new hires into the company culture. Plus, it’s clear that if potential new hires don’t think this sounds like fun, they won’t be a good fit for the company. In other words, people who won’t last self-select out before joining the team.

4. Providing productivity essentials right away, like computers and a fully-stocked workstation

Whether it’s a hammer or a laptop, a pencil or a stethoscope, every job requires the use of specific tools. For a warmer welcome, make sure that incoming employees have absolutely everything they need to be productive right away—and don’t have to bother a manager to get it.

At ad firm engage:BDR, they get new hires ready to hit to ground especially early. It all starts during the interview stages when the company asks job candidates to develop a plan for their first 90 days in the role. “This action plan is the new employees’ onboarding roadmap,” says HR director Wetzel.

Beyond a plan of action, new hires also need the goods (i.e. a desk, computer, etc). At Percolate, a developer of marketing software, new employees arrive on their first day to find their desk pre-stocked with a ready-to-use laptop, plus notebooks, pens, and other essential supplies.

That means no thumb twiddling and wondering what the heck they should do during the first day.

One bank in New Zealand even ships new hires a package containing their new computer and phone to their old workplace before they start. This serves the dual purpose of wowing new hires and impressing colleagues that might be thinking about jumping ship.

5. Starting a mentoring program to help new hires get comfortable and acclimated

Other companies go one step further by pairing new hires with a specific mentor to ease the transition. At Google, their new hires (or “Nooglers”—yes, they really call them that, and have the hats to match) are immediately rolled into an extensive “Buddy Hire” mentoring program.

Similarly, at IBM, the Royal Blue Ambassador Program provides new hires with an experienced mentor for the entirety of their first 30 days on the job.

Much like providing needed supplies ASAP, these mentorship programs serve a few goals at once: they help new hires feel at ease, reinforce company values, and allow employees to contribute sooner.

In the same vane, ZestFinance, an underwriting company that helps lenders assess credit risk, has all new hires go through Zest U where they are taught about the company’s business, technology, and culture by other employees. New hires are also given a starter project to help them develop the skills needed in their roles.

And at the end of the day, those should be the key goals of an investment in better onboarding. After all, first impressions are everything, and getting new hires energized to dig in right away can pay major dividends down the road.

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