20 Ideas for Employee Onboarding

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Sep 24, 2015
This article is part of a series called Tips & Tricks.


Changing your employee onboarding process can be challenging, time-consuming work. Begin by looking outside your organization for new ideas, trends, and best practices for onboarding. Then, create a compelling vision that will inspire buy-in for change from all process stakeholders. Your vision must serve as a guiding light once implementation is underway. Without a fully-conceived vision, your efforts at meaningful change will have little chance of success.

In the spring of 2015, we conducted an employee onboarding-focused survey of over 150 HR professionals at mostly small- and medium-sized organizations. Survey respondents were invited to share their ideas for innovative onboarding practices that work for their organizations. The 30 most descriptive and unique survey responses are shared in the free eBook “All Hands on Deck: Best Practices in Employee Onboarding Process Improvement.” Here is a sampling of 20 of the ideas available in the eBook:

  1. “We give employees a BINGO lunch card for them to use to set up lunches with the lateral attorneys and partners during their first three months at our law firm.” — Lisa Kelly, attorney hiring & HR administrator
  1. “Every new hire is given the training and resources to learn our own TinderBox software application within their first week, and by the end of their first week, they are asked to create a personal bio within the application and distribute to the organization. This serves a dual purpose: 1) Gets them integrated into the product and 2) Allows existing employees to get to know their new co-worker.” — Samantha Haddad, talent manager at TinderBox
  1. “When you first walk in, we have a wall with a world map plastered to it — we did a survey to find out where employees have studied/lived/traveled and put pins with their name in that country. When we hire someone new, they add their pins. Next to it, we painted a wall with blackboard paint and employees can put up where they want to travel to. We offer our employees an opportunity to travel abroad to one of our locations once every two years (they have to put in a request and explain why it would benefit the company and their professional development) so the wishes change often.” — Emilie Grombacher, PHR, director of human resources at CEA
  1. “We do a half-day orientation where each department comes and presents about their department, and why the new hires should care about what their department does, and how it affects the entire company.” — Abby Olson, MBA, PHR, SHRM­-CP, HR manager at Westfield Steel
  1. “A construction firm for which I consult has new hires wear brightly colored hard hats during their first 30 days of employment, so everyone knows that they are new to the company, and they can welcome them to the team!” — Joseph E. Boone, Jr., SPHR, CPC, president at Strategic HR Solutions, LLC
  1. “We have a program called ‘Passport to Success’ that involves our new hires going through a series of activities every two weeks that are meant to help them engage other employees in the organization (to learn more about their dept.) … and then a series of quizzes to help them learn our past, present, and future.” — Kevin Gamble, human resources director at SAFEbuilt
  1. “We have a very complete Procedure Manual that is the ‘roadmap’ for the new hire, no matter their role. Clearly different elements are more of a priority depending upon responsibilities, but the new hire typically covers everything with a guide. The ‘guide’ varies from the operations manager to the two business owners. Onboarding is a priority here!” — Nancy Ahlrichs, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, consultant, business development at FlashPoint
  1. “Project FORUMway mirrors the show Project Runway. New employees get a mannequin, clothes, and cards to display work-appropriate and inappropriate outfits, including jeans days. It really allows the employees to have fun, while also learning about appropriate dress code.” — Amanda Suter, talent acquisition manager at FORUM Credit Union
  1. “We have a list of 15-20 nontraditional questions that we ask each new employee to answer about themselves. We have an online blog called ‘The Talk’ and feature those responses in the blog so our team learns unique tidbits about the new employee.” — Tricia Casey, talent manager at Briljent
  1. “We use Snapshot, a document that we created to help our new hires and managers easily be able to keep track of all of their training appointments. It lets the department know when they will be ready for the unit. We also use it to communicate to our new hire what we’ll be ordering for him/her in regards to a background check. This includes all relevant appointments/training dates, times, and location. It also includes the manager and new employee contact information. This is sent to the manager and those facilitating training as soon as we’ve talked with our new hire. We also have a new hire website where they can access all of our paperwork to complete at home. They are not able to submit it electronically, but they can print if off and bring it to their first HR visit. This site has resources about what to expect in the first 90 days, access to policies, a welcome message from our CEO, and benefits information ( We also have information for our contracted traveling workforce — a list of amenities in our community, highlighted features about our facilities, etc.” — Lindsay Ford, human resources at Franciscan St. Elizabeth Health
  1. “The onboarding process at UCF Athletics is all about the power of first impressions, and the importance of building a strong bond between the new employee and the organization. For example, instead of just hearing from HR staff members regarding logistics and benefits, our new hires receive personal welcome phone calls from their new supervisor as well as fellow teammates before they come for their first day. These conversations help set the tone in terms of culture and expectations, as well as provide support for the new hire as they prepare for this opportunity.” — Brian Reed, associate athletic director, HRRM (UCFAA) at UCF Athletics
  1. “We send a welcome gift package to new employees which includes local gifts from the corporate office (items unique to the Kansas City metro area), and a handwritten welcome card signed by senior management.” — Gayla D. Guthrie, HR generalist at benefit communication insourcing
  1. “We hire many seasonal employees every year. In election years the number of hires is likely over 1,500. Often we will have staff that are located at HQ travel to a field campaign office and engage in the person-to-person political and community organizing our organization is so known for. In this way, new employees can not only deeply understand the work our team does at the entry level, but will have participated in the work itself, building investment and confidence through creating crystal clear expectations.” — Scott Seeborg, national recruitment manager at Working America
  1. “This year we hired a new training and brand manager to focus more on employee engagement, employee development, and promote our company culture.” — Roetta Coller, human resources manager at R+L Truckload Logistics and R+L Global Logistics
  1. “We make sure that new team members are tied to a person who is their ‘go-to’ resource as they start in their role. Not so much a mentor, but someone who knows the new employee’s role and does it well.” — Steve Browne, executive director of HR in the restaurant industry
  1. “We offer on-demand orientation to ensure new associates are introduced to the company’s culture, history, and policies on or near their first day with the company; the department director takes the new associate to lunch their first day, employees are introduced to entire company during our Friday staff meeting.” — Courtney Edwards, human resources specialist
  1. “We use gamification on products, services, and policies and procedures.” — MeChelle Callen, SPHR, vice president of organizational development
  1. “All our new hires watch a video clip from our chairman emeritus that covers the history of our organization. Additionally, new employees have a meeting to get acquainted with our chairman … he learns about them and he talks about our culture.” — Lori Schneider, vice president, HR, at Walker Information
  1. “We send welcome boxes to new hires which include the StrengthsFinder book, a small gift, and information on how to complete new hire paperwork (via HRIS).” — Leigh Crick, SHRM-­CP, PHR, human resources manager at FirstPerson
  1. “On a colleague’s first day, we welcome them with pastries for the entire office or branch so they feel welcomed and everyone else feels included. There is a lunch also on the first day for the branch or department. At the corporate office, the supervisor takes them on a formal tour of the office and introduces them to everyone. Corporate office colleagues also spend at least 1/2-day at a local property so they can learn what those colleagues do on a daily basis (the core of our operations) and see them in action with our residents and prospects, who are the ultimate customers we serve.” — Eileen Shue, vice president of corporate resources at Sterling Group

Whether you borrow any of the employee onboarding ideas listed above or come up with your own, spend time to make sure that they support your vision for onboarding excellence and closely align with your organizational culture. Above all, make sure they truly create an experience for your new employees … from the first day to the end of the first year.

To review other innovative ideas and the rest of the survey research, download your free copy of “All Hands on Deck: Best Practices in Employee Onboarding Process Improvement.”

This article is part of a series called Tips & Tricks.
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