When you think of employee orientation your first thoughts likely turn to hours of paperwork, explaining benefits and training your new hire. But orientation doesn’t have to be all about the formalities. It can actually be fun. Here are a few examples of companies who use interesting practices to induct new employees.
At CityMax.com, a build-your-own-website service in Vancouver, British Columbia, new employees always start on Fridays, when work is less hectic and everyone has time to introduce themselves. The hire is greeted with balloons, streamers, and a welcome card signed by the entire staff. By the time lunch rolls around, "the comfort level is through the roof," says co-founder and president Dean Gagnon. That's when new hires are asked to relate an embarrassing story about themselves. "It gives everyone insight into the new person," says Gagnon.
Before stepping foot on a truck, new employees at Gentle Giant Moving Company of Somerville, Massachusetts, are often required to run the steps of Harvard Stadium. The practice began informally in the 1980s, when CEO Larry O'Toole hired members of college rowing teams, who liked to work out on the stadium stairs. In the early '90s, O'Toole institutionalized the run as a way to test the mettle of new hires and emphasize that he expects them to push themselves. Most movers complete the trial within their first few weeks on the job. Office workers are encouraged to try as well, and about a quarter of them do. "Moving is very unpredictable," says O'Toole. "You need to know the person isn't going to let up."
New hires at Foot Levelers, a maker of chiropractic products, watch a DVD of "Rudy," the 1993 inspirational football drama. CEO Kent Greenawalt asks for everyone's impressions of the film. Then he passes out a sheet that identifies practices that made Rudy successful: Stay focused, have heart, plead your case, finish what you start, and a dozen more. Greenawalt estimates that several hundred people have watched "Rudy" in the 15 years he has screened it at the Roanoke, Virginia, company. "It moved me," he says of the film. "I decided: That's the kind of person I want working for this company. We've made it a policy that within 90 days, every new hire sees it. It's a rite of passage."
Zappos offers to pay new employees a $2,000 bonus, plus time worked, to quit after completing orientation. The practice, CEO Tony Hsieh's idea, began in 2005, with a $100 offer. "Our training team had gotten good at figuring out who wasn't going to make it, and we were thinking, ‘How do you get rid of those people?’" says Hsieh. Paying them to quit saves the company money by weeding out people who would jump ship anyway and allows those who remain to make a public statement of commitment to their new employer. In 2007, 3 percent of employees took the offer to leave and only 1 percent in 2008.
New hires at Beryl Companies, a call-center business in Bedford, Texas, spend several days learning about all aspects of its culture in fun and creative ways. “The first day and a half is spent with Lara Morrow (our Queen of Fun and Laughter) as they learn about the Beryl brand, all the culture programs and activities, how to get involved, how to grow their career, how to share their opinions and most importantly, what we saw in them that got them the job - what makes them special and unique,” says CEO Paul Speigelman. “They are greeted on the first day by members of the Better Beryl Bureau (our culture committee), support staff, middle managers and senior leaders who have created a human tunnel for new co-workers to run through as we cheer and yell for them. They are immediately integrated into the culture and know that they are somewhere special.”