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Top 7 Employee Onboarding Programs

by Andy Crebar

Apr 15, 2018

Leading HR and People teams know that successfully recruiting a candidate is just half the battle.

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

Successful programs go beyond administration to deliver a great experience to new hires, even before their first day on the job. And while many companies can stumble in making the investment in employee onboarding, there are a few companies that stand out.

Here are the Top 7 Employee Onboarding Programs we found from Twitter, Zumper, Linkedin, Zappos, Facebook, Google and Pinterest (plus two Bonus Programs from Quora and Netflix).

And don't miss these free, in-depth case studies from tomorrow's leaders like DigitalOcean, ApartmentList and Algolia.

1. 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 employee onboarding

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.

2. Zumper: The New Hire Roadmap

New Zumper hires make key office introductions in less intimidating environment around coffee and donuts.

Buffer employee onboarding

Zumper uses a repeatable plan to excite and prepare new hires on their first day.

First, company swag is waiting on their desk when they arrive. Their computer is completely ready to go with all right logins and documents they might need.

Then they meet the team over donuts and coffee for breakfast. Rather than quick hello waves during a tour through the office, the breakfast is less intimidating. The Office Manager then walks new hires through Zumper's mission statement.

In the afternoon, the new hire is explained the culture, has a team lunch and then finally sits down at their computer to work for a bit. Before the day ends, the meet with the office manager to provide feedback on the onboarding experience and the office manager can answer any remaining questions. 

3. Linkedin: the New Hire Roadmap

LinkedIn has more than 9,700 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.

Linkedin employee onboarding

New employees grab sticky notes, and write their name and a headline describing them as a 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 New Hire Onboarding Roadmap- 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.

4. Zappos: Protect the Culture

Zappos’ onboarding process lasts four weeks and puts a special emphasis on getting new hires in sync with the employee community.

Zappos employee onboarding

Everyone who joins the company (regardless of their role) experiences the same employee onboarding program. The Zappos onboarding experience is designed to grow company culture, build a stronger team, and create lasting relationships throughout the entire company. 

It also trains the employees on best practices for delivering their service to their customers buying clothes and shoes.

To ensure cohesiveness between the different teams, a collection of 10 core values and the history behind each value is presented to the new hires.

The onboarding program represents a true cultural immersion for new employees at Zappos.

At the 1 month anniversary, any new employee who doesn’t feel they’re a good fit is offered $2,000 to quit.

This highlights Zappos’ focus on protecting the company culture and ensuring they have the right employees who want to be there.

5. 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.

Facebook employee onboarding

In 2014, the company changed its motto to the less sexy “Move Fast With Stable Infra”, 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.

Quora user, Joshua Chaisson provided an overview of their sharp onboarding recent Quora discussion.

"I think that if you are an engineer it's hard to beat Facebook's onboarding bootcamp program.  Bootcamp for engineers is an intensive program designed to immerse new hires into the companies code base, give people the chance to push code to over a billion users in their first week, get a comprehensive overview on the entire engineering organization and ultimately help them to select the best team for them to join long term."

Facebook’s onboarding bootcamp was covered in more depth by Bloomberg in 2015, check it out here:

6. Google: Data and Experiments

At Google, the sprawling 60,000 person company has found that team-level employee onboarding is more effective than taking a centralized approach.

Google employee onboarding

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.

In Lazlo Bock’s ‘Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead’, the Head of People explains how Google front-loads people investment, with 80% of their time focused on recruitment and onboarding.

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.

7. Pinterest: Start Knitting

Pinterest has employees with offices in San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, London, Paris, Berlin, Tokyo and Sao Paulo. But all new employees go through an orientation at Pinterest’s HQ in San Francisco.

Pininterest employee onboarding

Before new hires arrive, they receive an introductory email with their schedule and other details, and are given the opportunity to introduce themselves to the company.

Everyone in the new hire class meets on day one for breakfast followed by some brief icebreakers.

This gives new hires the opportunity to start absorbing the Pinterest value of "knitting" - a term used to mean collaborating with people and seeing the world from different points of view.

This continues during the week with talks from the company's leadership, onboarding workflows like IT setup, laptop and a bunch of essential tools (i.e. slack), and opportunities to get out into the neighborhood to volunteer with KnitSF.


Bonus Onboarding Program: Quora

Tailoring new hire goals to their booming startup, Quora knows the value of investing in an onboarding program.

Quora employee onboarding

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 startup 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.”

Bonus Onboarding Program: Netflix

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 are given significant responsibility and can have a solid impact from the get-go.

Netflix also does a great job with cultural diversity and inclusiveness resources that communicate Netflix’s values and what makes them unique.

Common Themes in These Onboarding Programs

All of these onboarding programs share common themes that contribute to employee experience success.

  • - 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.

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 solution like Sapling can help? See the demo below!

Andy Crebar

Andy Crebar is a Co-Founder of Sapling, which helps companies use Employee Onboarding to amplify their total Employee Experience (‘EX’). He is passionate about people, self awareness and self improvement.