As it's done at a lot of start-ups, at LevelUp we normally condone the "figure it out" approach to learning. After all, some things are better learned through experience. (Like, why you shouldn't eat the yogurts from the back of the refrigerator.) But there are other things we think are really important for everyone to be taught right off the bat. So, this year we decided to organize an intensive training program, called LevelUp University, for our largest-ever group of new hires—37 people joined our 80-person company.

A lot of time went into figuring out exactly what we should teach these 37 newbies during their two weeks of training at LevelUp HQ. After eliminating topics like Scooter Tricks 101 and IdeaPaint Art For Beginners (important—but we just did not have enough time), we finally settled on three big things that were crucial for them to know about our company. When we thought about it some more, we realized these three things should be taught by any start-up looking to build a culture of employees that are extremely driven and passionate about what they've chosen to do.

1. Why Our Mission Is Epic.
We expect everyone at LevelUp to give 110 percent. Why? Because we're building something epic, and the recipe for epicness doesn't call for weak-sauce. But in order for new employees to make it through the hard work at LevelUp, or at any start-up for that matter, they have to be genuinely psyched about what they're helping build. So, to get all our new hires pumped about what we're building, we give them a good ol' history lesson. (No, not the WAH-wa-Wah kind of lesson you're thinking of.) We tell the story of where our company started, the ups and the downs that followed, and the overall amazing success that we've accomplished, thanks to all of our awesome employees to-date. In order for new team members to join and be instantly energized about building the next big thing, they need to have a good understanding of where we've been...and get the institutional knowledge of what we've discovered over time.

2. How to Sell, Even if You're Not a Salesperson.
During LevelUp University, everyone learns how to sell, regardless of what position they're hired for. After letting new employees practice their pitches to each other, we send them off to local merchants, challenging them to pitch full-time employees that we've stationed at each merchant. The biggest reason we think everyone should get the experience of an outside sales rep is because it gives people a chance to learn LevelUp's value proposition. We think it's incredibly important for everyone at the company to be able to reiterate the benefits of LevelUp, whether they're chatting with a merchant, a LevelUp user, or even just friends and family.

3. Why We Play With Nerf Guns.
Like I explained in my previous post, company culture is a huge part of why we're able to make good things happen at our company. Though it may seem random that we use scooters as our main form of transportation and have hired several engineers that admittedly listen to Bieber, there's a method to our madness...we don't know what it is yet, but we're sure there is one. We think it's important for new employees to understand why we work so hard to maintain a moderately crazy, hardworking, yet extraordinarily fun company culture. We ask everyone to read "Delivering Happiness," which is a great book on how a fun company culture can lead to success, and we get together to have a team chat about how our culture is driven by the people sitting in the room. Getting new hires on the same page allows us run like a well oiled machine, plus helps them avoid confusion when they get hit with a Nerf dart for the first time.

The three things above make the most sense for us to teach new employees, and we think would make a lot of sense for your start-up to teach, too. Did we leave anything out? What do you cover during new employee training that's crucial to your company's success?

Published on: Feb 1, 2012