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Top employee ‍onboarding programs

Did you know that 93% of employers find a good onboarding experience critical to positively influencing a new hire’s decision to stay with the organization? While HR leaders and forward-thinking organizations recognize the importance of a positive onboarding experience, People Operations teams know that successfully recruiting a candidate is just half the battle.

To truly set up new hires for success at your company, it’s crucial to deliver a tailored Employee Onboarding program that embodies your company’s culture and prepares them for the road ahead.

Successful onboarding programs go beyond basic welcome emails to deliver a great employee experience, even before new hires have their first day on the job. This includes everything from crushing the new hire video, decorating their desk with thoughtful, personalized items, and giving them a clear 90 path to success.

‍And while many companies can stumble in making the investment in employee onboarding, there are a few companies that stand out.


1. Netflix – a culture and leadership-driven onboarding program

Streaming Heavyweight Netflix has a solid cultural and leadership-driven onboarding program, which was covered in a recent Quora discussion.

Poorna Udupi, an engineer at Netflix, shared details about Netflix’s orientation program, including elements that:

  • Explained the Netflix technology stack and introductions to ever-helpful coworkers made my life as a software developer super easy and exciting.
  • Met with Executive management including Chief Product Officer, Chief Finance Officer and Chief Executive Officer in the first quarter helped to orient me with the company’s ethos and aspirations.
  • Gave New hires significant responsibility and allow them to have a solid impact from the get-go.

It was Patty McCord that drafted the foundational document on culture in Silicon Valley for Netflix, but Netflix continues to do great job with cultural diversity and inclusiveness resources that communicate Netflix’s values and what makes them unique.


2. Quora – tailoring new hire goals to their booming start-up

Quora knows the value of investing in an onboarding program. For a quick ramp-up time, Quora concentrates on mentorship by allocating a personal mentor to each new hire. Understanding the benefit of prioritizing new hires, Quora respects that mentors lose around 25% of personal output during the first weeks of training.

  • In a fast-paced start-up environment, Quora values productivity. They choose to push new hires towards making meaningful contributions and tackling a manageable project by the end of week 1. Simplifying first day activities and focusing on tasks communicates their startup culture and values.
  • Organizing 10 onboarding talks over the first few weeks, Quora invests in teaching new hires the fundamentals for success. They also provide new hires with detailed documents on the key concepts and tools they need.
  • Quora values their employee onboarding program as a chance to “steer new hires toward what the team believes matters most.”


3. Digital Ocean’s – a people-first hiring experience

Digital Ocean’s People team strives to elevate the Candidate and Employee Experience. They not only reach new heights when it comes to personalization, but they also have created incredible, detailed workflows for their employees to hit the ground running on day one.

Matt Hoffman, VP of People at Digital Ocean, seeks to Make Day 1 Inspirational.

When a new hire arrives, they should see more than a working computer – Digital Ocean wants them to be excited. That’s why they provide them with:

  • A balloon on their desk so other employees can find and welcome them
  • A handwritten welcome note
  • A bottle of champagne
  • Some DigitalOcean swag


4. Twitter – from ‘yes to desk’

One company that leads with employee onboarding is social media heavyweight Twitter. The company has around 5,000 employees in 35 offices around the world.

Twitter’s employee onboarding program focuses on making the ‘Yes to Desk’ period as productive and welcoming as possible. This period is from when a new hire says ‘Yes’ to an offer, all the way through to arriving at their ‘Desk’. Getting new employees onboard and ramped-up can require tons of HR time in preparation and onboarding workflows without the right technology.

At Twitter, they have over 75 steps and handoffs between Recruiting, HR, IT, and Facilities.

Before the employee sits down, they have their email address, a T-shirt, and bottle of wine waiting. New employee desks are strategically located next to key teammates they will be working with. On the first day, new team members have breakfast with the CEO followed by a tour of the company office, before group training on the tools and systems relevant to their role.

To keep the company culture vibrant, Twitter has a monthly new hire Happy Hour with the Senior Leadership Team, and a rotating schedule of presentations on Friday afternoons where employees can learn about other team projects.


5. Buffer – The ‘three-buddy’ system

The value of a strong employee onboarding program doesn’t only apply to teams in a physical location – Buffer is made up of a remote team with just under 100 salaried employees.

This presents a special challenge for maintaining a cohesive team and onboarding program.

Buffer, similar to Twitter, starts the employee onboarding process as soon as they have confirmation from the new recruit accepting the position.

They have a group of three “Buddies” who play different roles in their six-week onboarding ‘bootcamp experience’; A Leader Buddy, a Role Buddy, and a Culture Buddy.

New hires are introduced to these buddies before day one, who help guide them through the ‘bootcamp experience’ with regular communication and check-ins.

Here is a Free Buddy Program Playbook (Google Document) you can use to get your Buddy Program started at your company.


6. LinkedIn – the new hire roadmap

LinkedIn has more than 13,000 full-time employees with offices in 30 cities around the world.

On their first day, new recruits join other new hires with dedicated icebreakers and general learning about the company culture.

New employees grab sticky notes, and write their name and a headline describing them as professional as well as an interesting fact about themselves.

This is followed by a Linkedin campus tour and lunch, then a session called, “Investing [In] You” which covers core new hire orientation topics such as corporate, medical and financial benefits.

‍General Corporate and Medical Benefit programs are often the most misunderstood and communicated parts of the employee onboarding process.

After some executive talks to finish the first day, the new team is given backpacks and laptops that are already set-up with the communication tools the new employees need.

Most importantly, new employees are given a ‘90 day New Hire Onboarding Plan’ – designed to help their transition into the company. It’s a week-by-week guide that supports them to be productive and successful in their new role.


7. Zapier – onboarding for a fully distributed team

The Zapier team knows onboarding is a critical time for both new staff members and the company hiring them—an important process to get right!

Their team is fully distributed and have systems in place to ensure a new employee feels welcome, valued, and starts learning the company culture and the expectations you have for them.

The People Operations team at Zapier oversees a wide range of responsibilities including Recruiting, Human Resources, Payroll, and Learning and Development.

Then individual departments run their own playbooks. As outlined in Brian Cooksey’s blog post, Zapier puts in a lot of effort to make onboarding and shares their process for the engineering department.

A typical first day at Zapier Engineering focuses on:

  • Make the new hire feel welcome
  • Introduce them to Zapier, to the team, and to the role
  • Set the precedent for how Zapier operates
  • Give them time to read and handle their HR tasks


8. Square – strengthen coffee culture and sense of belonging

Square built a strong workplace culture and increased employee engagement by creating a personalized onboarding experience. The HR team also hit impressive milestones, growing from 60 to 1,300 in under four years.

Two unique elements of Square’s culture include a distinct, fun coffee culture and providing opportunities to connect junior team members with senior leadership. For new Square employees, during their first week, new-hires met with Square’s CEO and other senior team leaders during roundtables. Members of the executive team would also grab a cup of coffee and hold casual 1-on-1s with new team members at local coffee spots.

The HR team at Square also believes that an employee’s first week should be delightful. For example, they start their employees later on the first day of work. On their first day of work, new hires are also met with shirts, books, and stickers to make them feel like a part of the team.


9. Facebook – still moving fast to break things

Facebook, with almost 13,000 employees, uses a six-week boot camp where new hires learn their role and the company culture at the same time.

In 2014, the company changed its motto to the less sexy “Move Fast With Stable Infrastructure”, but it’s clear the onboarding program supports new employees in moving quickly to become productive.

Instead of having the usual onboarding talks and presentations, the philosophy of the training program is to give the new team members the tools they need for practical work.

Within 45 minutes on day one on the floor, new employees are underway on their first projects, thanks to the intensive preparation undergone before they start. This shows that the company trusts in new hires and leaves them autonomy to create their own work early.


10. Google – data and experiments

At Google, now nearly 100,000 people, they’ve found that team-level employee onboarding is more effective than taking a centralized approach.

‍Google has also led the charge to measure results with real data from their onboarding initiatives.

Even though slightly different onboarding processes are happening within various teams, part of the Google approach is to use data and experiments to improve the process continually.

‍Google hires and onboards smart people, and then lets the ‘inmates run the asylum’.

By maintaining a grip on the industry’s top talent, the company has been able to create one of the top working environments for tech-industry workers around the world.


11. Eventbrite – onboarding that helps put a name to the face

Eventbrite has been able to maintain its brand character and integrity even as it has scaled internationally because of their exceptional onboarding. One of the expressed goals of their onboarding program is to connect new hires to everyone within their organization.

Not only that, but Eventbrite has consistently been named one of Fortune’s best places to work. As a result, their HR team prides themselves on their standout employee experience that they’ve created.

At Eventbrite, the HR team puts up new hire profiles around their office so that everyone onsite can quickly learn the names and faces of new employees and make them feel welcome.

Additionally, every quarter, the HR team also hosts a new-hire social for those who joined within the last three months so that they could make connections with other new team members. Because of this, new hires quickly feel like a part of Eventbrite and invested in the company culture.


Common Themes In These Onboarding Programs

Here are some tips to get started:

  • Make the investment: these onboarding programs are not an accident; the companies listed invest heavily in time and money to support new employees to be successful.
  • Start early: taking a page from Twitter’s ‘Yes to Desk’ approach, make sure everything is ready before the employee starts their first day to make sure they can hit the ground running.
  • Company Culture is everything: over invest in making new employees feel welcome and aligned with company values.
  • Get the team involved: Welcoming them into an inclusive, dynamic team with lots of communication that will have real returns on their ability to integrate with the team effectively.
  • Clear Roadmap: Giving new employees a clear and structured path for their integration into the company supports them to be productive and successful in their new role.
  • Training and development: Help new employees learn with the right training tools, and by giving them practical skills so they can start contributing as soon as possible.
  • Build your evaluation taskforce: Gather potential users and key decision makers, such as hiring managers, recent hires, your CFO, CTO, and COO, to gain different perspectives around what to look for in an onboarding solution.
  • Set goals: Define what you want to get out of an employee onboarding solution. Do you want to scale your onboarding program, improve your new hire experience, or save time for your HR team and hiring managers? What would you like your onboarding workflow to look like, and how could the right technology enable that?

It makes sense to invest in Employee onboarding. With a structured program, employees are 58% more likely to be with your company after three years.

‍Remember, the risk is not that you do too much in employee onboarding, but too little.

‍Building a productive, scalable, and engaged workforce starts with providing new employees with a great onboarding process. Interested in learning how an automated onboarding solution like Sapling can help? Speak to an expert today.

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Written by Claire Moloney

Claire is an enthusiastic and meticulous content writer whose passion is to support growth and continual learning for everyone.


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