Creative Employee Onboarding Ideas to Wow Your New Hire From the Start

Founder, robot with feelings. From planet Aiur.

Try these creative employee onboarding ideas to make the onboarding process both effective and fun and wow your new hires from day one.

Finding the perfect person to fill a role at your company has never been more challenging.

So when that perfect person finally appears, it’s your duty to wow them from the very first day, ensuring that they are impressed and happy to be joining your team.

To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of creative, highly-engaging, and fun ideas to help you build an employee onboarding experience that feels more like a visit to an amusement park than a series of training sessions. You’re quite welcome!

Keep reading and start discovering new ways to turn your workplace into a place of productivity, fun, and learning.

Have Them Start on a Friday

Let’s be honest. Mondays are stressful and hectic, and it can be overwhelming to add onboarding a new hire to the list of tasks.

So why are we making new employees start on Mondays instead of Fridays?

Let’s take a moment to consider what benefits you can gain from changing things up and having new hires start on a Friday.

For one, you can treat the first Friday at work as day zero.

It's an opportunity for the new hire to get a tour of the office, meet their colleagues, and settle in at their workstation.

After that, you can let them leave early and have the whole weekend to process their first impressions of their new company.

Coming in on the following Monday for their first real day of work, they’ll already be settled in and have a much better chance of focusing on their first tasks.

Having the new hire start on a Friday also gives you a chance to introduce yourself and your team when everyone is at their most relaxed.

With the week winding down, people have more time to greet the new employee and exchange a couple of words.

Not to mention they’re likely to be in a better mood than they would be on a Monday morning.

Why mondays are hectic
Quote from: Fastcompany

In other words, meeting your new hire on a Friday means you have a much better chance to leave a great first impression and present your team in a very favorable light.

That’s just part of the reason why many companies, like the social media agency Spredfast, make it a point to start their new hires on Fridays.

In fact, since they instituted this policy, the team at Spredfast has grown from 100 to 500 employees, who all started on a Friday and reported feeling positive about the experience.

This only goes to show what a big impact this small change can have.

Turn Onboarding into a Bootcamp

Successful employee onboarding is all about intensity and high engagement.

Think about it: for their first month at work, employees are often unsure of their role in the company and how to go about their job without making mistakes.

Leaving them to their own devices is a sure way to make them feel isolated, out of place, and disengaged at work, which may lead them to quit their job soon after.

This is actually a huge problem shared by the modern American workforce.

50% of American workers feel disengaged at work
Data from: Hypercontext

To avoid this from happening, simply make sure your onboarding program covers the first month and remains as intense as possible.

In other words, turn it into a bootcamp!

Here are some elements that can help you turn your onboarding process into a bootcamp:

  • Fill the first day with excitement and provide as much attention, information, and support as possible.
  • Connect the employee’s role to the company mission and explain how they’re contributing to achieving it.
  • Focus on immediate and hands-on training.
  • Provide opportunities for community building and team interaction.
  • Maintain this level of intensity for the entire first month.

A famous example we can examine here is the Facebook Engineering Bootcamp, the social network’s onboarding program for software engineers.

Photo from Facebook Engineering Bootcamp
Source: Business Insider

As soon as new engineers open their laptops, they’re given a bunch of engineering tasks to complete in no more than 45 minutes.

These range from fixing bugs to implementing small features and are designed to test their problem-solving skills and approach. This work intensity is maintained for the entire six-week period.

At the end of the bootcamp, the graduating engineers are free to choose the team they want to be a part of, depending on their task preferences and the friends they made during the process.

Facebook’s engineers love this approach because they feel engaged and useful throughout their starting period at the company.

In fact, many of them remember it as the most fun experience imaginable.

Ish Baid quote from The Ascent
Quote from: The Ascent

Imagine if new employees said that they had “some of the most fun” in their lives during onboarding at your company. Sounds good, right?

To make that happen, see what you can do to make your onboarding experience as intense and engaging as possible.

Create a Digital Welcome Video

Integrating into a new role is one thing, but another key element of employee onboarding is welcoming the new hire into the company culture.

This involves expressing what your core values are and what sets you apart from other workplaces. As you can imagine, these concepts are not easy to put into words.

So why not enlist the help of digital media to help you convey your message?

One of the most effective digital tools you can use to express your company’s spirit is, of course, video.

Studies show that 90% of people find video content somewhat effective or very effective in conveying work-related information.

90% of people find video content very effective in conveying work-related information
Data from: Panopto

So, how can you harvest that power for your onboarding process? Well, to begin with, you can make an awesome welcome video for your new employees.

An expertly crafted welcome video provides a more engaging sensory experience for your new hires, meaning it can present your company’s story far better than print materials.

Videos are also extremely convenient as they can be accessed from anywhere and viewed as many times as the new hire wants.

Finally, an excellent welcome video helps paint a picture of your company as a modern, digitally progressive, and tech-conscious place to work.

Let’s dissect a great example to provide you with the elements needed to craft a perfect welcome video for your company.

The Mustard Creative Agency’s welcome video exhibits excellent production quality. That’s a must if you want to impress new employees.

The video opens with the agency's location and gives a quick tour of their very attractive premises that are enough to hook the viewer.

Next, the agency’s bona fides are established as “Melbourne’s most recommended agency.” That’s what sets them apart from everyone else.

Then the video describes what they do in a couple of words and enumerates the core values shared by the team and their company mission.

Photo from Mustard Creative Agency
Source: Mustard Creative Agency

After that, the video shows a couple of shots of the team in action working, collaborating, and socializing, finally ending with a great motto or call to action:

“We’re ready when you are.”

Having experienced a great welcome video like this one, you almost feel tempted to apply to any of their open positions because they successfully conveyed how it feels to work alongside such a great team.

Create a Quirky Employee Handbook

Yes, digital media is the way of the future as far as employee onboarding is concerned.

However, print media, in the form of employee guides and handbooks, is still very much with us and, therefore, should not be neglected.

An employee handbook is something we’d definitely recommend you to include in your onboarding process.

But, if you’re going to make it a dry, boring instruction manual, you may as well skip it. That’s a great way of ensuring that your handbook will never be read and absorbed.

Instead, many successful companies are shifting their focus and putting in the effort to create a quirky and fun version of this old-school classic, the employee handbook.

These new employee handbooks are written in a conversational, upbeat style and feature lots of graphic elements, including artwork and humorous images.

Handbook from Memória Visual
Source: Memória Visual

Have a look at an excerpt from the handbook from Memória Visual above.

They are a development agency from Portugal and they’ve created a handbook in the form of a little Sci-Fi adventure story, called A Voyage to Pluto, which does an amazing job in presenting the company in the form of a sort of fairy tale.

Another fantastic example is the famous Valve employee handbook.

The famous Valve employee handbook
Source: The Verge

The game developer studio's handbook is a treasure trove of humor, company structure, values, history, and a valuable guide for the general procedures at the company.

Source: Valve

It even features classic characters from Valve’s games in some pretty unexpected situations!

Employee handbooks are a fantastic way to teach company procedures while also presenting your company culture.

But keep in mind that they should be a part of a broader knowledge management strategy employed by your company.

The best practice is to build a comprehensive online knowledge base alongside a print handbook.

That way, all employees, especially new hires, have access to all the necessary information at all times and from anywhere.

There are many advantages to building an online knowledge base filled with your essential documents, like company policy, guidebooks, procedures, and system instructions.

For one, knowledge bases are editable and collaborative. That means they can evolve as you add new policies and rules and get rid of old ones.

Furthermore, they can be simultaneously edited by multiple trusted members of your team.

Employee Handbook updates

Also, you can think of knowledge bases as websites with landing pages for every important document.

That means every employee can access crucial information as easily as going online to find a coconut shrimp curry recipe.

Yet, as access to your knowledge base is restricted to you and your team, no one else can view any sensitive information.

And the best part is that with a documentation software like Archbee, you don't even need any coding knowledge to publish your documents online.

You just need to create your documents using the handy text editor, and the software will take care of the rest. Neat, right?

Develop a Unique In-Office Scavenger Hunt

Learning new procedures and workflows can be quite dull.

Furthermore, if you’re a bit more introverted or shy, attempting to integrate into a new team and socialize with your new colleagues is somewhat taxing.

To avoid the boredom and anxiety that may sometimes be connected with onboarding, try to gamify some elements of the process.

This should help you keep your employees engaged and happy while learning the ropes.

And we’re not just saying that; a 2019 survey by TalentLMS showed that gamification can help you motivate your employees to learn and eliminate boredom from the training process.

Non-gamified training vs. Gamified training

There are many ways you can gamify your onboarding process. One of the coolest ideas we've seen so far is developing a unique in-office scavenger hunt.

A scavenger hunt turns ordinary work tasks into a quest.

Completing these quests successfully, new employees stand to win awards and recognition from their superiors while interacting with their colleagues and other new hires in fun and meaningful ways.

Take the scavenger hunt at Bazaarvoice, for example.

Their new hires get onboarded in groups. For the first week, they get a series of company culture and product-related tasks to complete.

These can range from shadowing a call with a client to participating in a company trivia quiz.

The week culminates with a global video conference where every new employee introduces themselves to the entire company and ends with the ceremonious ringing of the Bazaarvoice gong, which is an old tradition at the company.

Bazaarvoice Office Photos
Source: GlassDoor

The scavenger hunt worked wonders for the company's engagement levels, and it also helped bring the employees together.

One of the company's co-founders, Brett Hurt, swears by the method:

“I cannot write enough about the benefits of the Scavenger Hunt. I noticed a near immediate impact in the way our employees related to each other and passionately carried the Bazaarvoice flag. It broke down barriers for communicating with other departments that are prevalent at so many companies that do not have such a process.”

If your onboarding process is a little dull, why not take a page from Bazaarvoice’s book?

Try to understand what parts of training the new hires are struggling with and gamify them by turning them into a fun scavenger hunt.

Organize a Lunch Roulette

Establishing meaningful connections is always hard, but it’s even harder when you’re starting a new job.

It can be difficult to find time to slow down and chat about non-work-related things in a busy office. That means coworkers get little opportunity to establish deeper relationships.

This could be a problem because many workers agree that having a friend at work makes their job much more enjoyable.

Friendship at Work

Furthermore, if you work at a larger enterprise, chances are your employees won’t even get to meet everyone who works at the company.

This is a shame because that way, many collaboration opportunities slip through.

Luckily, there’s a creative and fun solution to this problem as well. It involves pairing random coworkers together for lunch in a little game called lunch roulette.

The rules of lunch roulette are pretty straightforward.

  • Employees who want to participate volunteer to go to lunch with a random coworker.
  • The lunch is paid for by the company.
  • The lunch pairings are visualized on a whiteboard or some other way.
  • Afterward, employees share their experiences. For example, they can share something they learned about their colleague they didn’t know before.

Lunch roulette was a massive hit at the German pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim.

They launched the activity via a dedicated app that paired random colleagues who wanted to participate.

Within the first seven weeks, as many as 350 employees were matched, including members of senior staff who matched with new employees and younger workers at the company.

If you want to follow Boehringer Ingelheim’s great practice, you can do so very easily.

You don’t even need to build your own app as these days collaboration software actually offers similar features.

For example, Slack has a lunch roulette add-on that’s really easy to install and use right away.

Slack has a lunch roulette add-on

Now that you have the rules and all the necessary tools, it’s time to get out there and get to know your colleagues!

Make the Buddy System More Fun

Before we end this list, let’s talk more about the social aspect of work, as seen from the perspective of your new hires.

In a traditional approach to onboarding, the new hire would report directly to their manager.

The manager would also be a type of mentor charged with answering any questions the new hire has, showing them around, and demonstrating the key procedures of the job.

As you can imagine, this relationship is usually quite formal and rigid.

New employees often don't feel comfortable going to their managers with every small question and issue.

Hence, they often stay silent and forgo learning because they don't want to be a burden.

On the other hand, with a buddy system in place, new employees can interact and learn from colleagues of similar age and rank at the company, resulting in a far more relaxed onboarding experience.

The Buddy System Responsibilities

As you can see above, the designated buddy can handle many smaller yet crucially important tasks allowing the manager to get involved in more advanced training situations.

You can develop a buddy system at your company to meet your specific needs.

Try to think about the unique aspects of your work and how to distribute knowledge through lower-level employees, the buddies who benefit from the system by practicing their management skills.

For example, onboarding at Buffer relies on a three buddy system.

Each new employee is paired with not one but three buddies, with each buddy being responsible for a different aspect of the job.

The three buddies are:

  • A leader buddy: A more experienced member of staff who manages the onboarding process and evaluates the new hire’s progress
  • A role buddy: A person familiar with the new hire’s role and trains them in the technical part of their job
  • A culture buddy: A team member who helps the new hire integrate into company culture by explaining the social aspects of the job and introducing the employee to their new hires.

As the below email screenshot explains, the buddies are introduced before the new employee starts working, giving them a chance to touch base and follow the new hire throughout the process.

Example of three buddies at Buffer
Source: Buffer

As you can see, there's no rigidity to the buddy system.

So feel free to create your own system and start implementing it for an improved, more social onboarding process that will make your employee feel like they're entering a family rather than a work environment.

Great Employee Onboarding Ideas Don’t Stop Here!

After reading this list of fun practices and creative ideas for employee onboarding, we hope you feel inspired to start improving your company’s own onboarding process.

Remember, employee onboarding is about much more than picking up the workflows of a new role. It’s about making a new employee part of your culture and supporting them to become the best version of their professional selves.

Feel free to take what you've learned here, make it your own, and never stop improving your onboarding process with creative ideas your new employees will love!


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the benefit of having new hires start on a Friday?
Expand FAQ
Having new hires start on a Friday allows them to get a tour of the office, meet their colleagues, and settle in at their workstation before the full workweek begins. It also provides an opportunity for introductions and interactions when everyone is at their most relaxed, towards the end of the week.
How can onboarding be turned into a bootcamp?
Expand Button
Onboarding bootcamp includes filling the first day with excitement, attention, information, and support, connecting employees' roles to the company mission, focusing on immediate and hands-on training, providing opportunities for community building and team interaction, and maintaining a high level of intensity for the entire first month.
Why is a digital welcome video effective in employee onboarding?
Expand Button
Digital welcome videos provide an engaging sensory experience for new hires and can present a company’s story better than print materials. They can be accessed from anywhere and viewed repeatedly, and they help paint a picture of the company as modern, digitally progressive, and tech-conscious.
What is the advantage of a quirky employee handbook?
Expand Button
A quirky and fun employee handbook, written in a conversational, upbeat style with graphic elements, is more likely to engage new hires and be absorbed by them. It can present the company culture and procedures in a more appealing way than a traditional, dry, boring instruction manual.
How does a scavenger hunt contribute to the employee onboarding process?
Expand Button
A scavenger hunt turns ordinary work tasks into a quest, motivating new employees to learn and eliminating boredom from the training process. It encourages interaction and team building while successfully completing tasks can lead to recognition and rewards.

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Onboarding New Hires