3 companies making the case for extended employee onboarding programs

employee onboarding programs

We’ve talked about onboarding before. A quality employee onboarding program (and a great welcome kit) helps new hires adjust and get settled, which in turn improves their productivity, sense of inclusion, and job satisfaction. It can also improve retention – research shows that almost 70 per cent of employees who attend onboarding or orientation are likely to remain at their job for up to three years.

While most onboarding programs have new hires up and running within the first few days, some companies are putting newcomers through a much more in-depth process – with impressive results. These companies invest weeks (or longer) into training each employee to ensure that they’re totally immersed in the company culture, mandate, and values. And while some of these examples are larger companies (yes, Facebook is number one), there are a lot of ideas that are relevant to small and medium businesses looking to attract and retain top talent.

Here are three companies making the case for extended employee onboarding programs:

Facebook’s six-week engineering bootcamp

Though Facebook offers several other training courses (like its two-week big data program), its most famous is the six-week engineering bootcamp at its California headquarters. Originally started in 2008, the program is mandatory for all engineering hires, no matter their level of experience, seniority, or skill. Essentially, new hires are assigned a mentor and given tasks to perform to help them familiarize themselves with the company’s unique code base and best practices.

“The primary goal of Bootcamp is to get people up to speed on our all parts of our code base while promoting good habits that we believe will pay dividends in the long term,” says Andrew Bosworth,  bootcamp founder (and VP of engineering). “We have high expectations for our engineers and part of Bootcamp is making sure those expectations are met.”


The bootcamp also gives engineers a chance to learn about the company and the various engineering streams within it. In fact, it’s not until the six weeks are complete that the employees choose which team they want to join. “We believe Engineers are at their most productive when they work on things they are passionate about,” says Bosworth. “Matching engineers with the teams that they are excited to join and where they can have a big impact is one way of achieving that goal.”

Zappos’s four-week customer service training

Every new hire at online shopping company Zappos goes through four weeks of customer service training (what the company calls “a combination of technical training and culture immersion”). The process includes classroom learning and supervised service calls, as well as ample team building exercises and presentations about Zappos’ culture, core values, and its holacracy management style. There’s even a graduation program at the end, complete with confetti, silly string, and air horns.


In the book The Zappos Experience: 5 Principles to Inspire, Engage, and Wow, author Joseph A. Michelli has this to say about the company’s onboarding program:

“Can you really imagine employees throughout your organization going through a month of training that would typically be offered for an entry-level service job? Can you see an accountant, an IT professional, and the new CFO all actively participating alongside a new hire who may be entering the workforce for the first time? All of these individuals would be learning about the company’s history, philosophy, and values. They would gain insights into the importance of customer service, understand the company’s long-term vision, and even spend two weeks taking real calls from real customers. How humbling would that be? What would that suggest about the importance of service or your expectation that everyone is responsible for your company’s culture?”

Bazaarvoice’s week-long scavenger hunt

This unique approach to onboarding game about back in 2009, when the content marketing company was just a few years old. “We had become known for our innovative culture, and had recently won the #1 company in Austin to work for, but we started to run out of new cultural ideas of our own,” says Brett Hurt, one of the company’s co-founders. “We needed a new spark of creativity, and we decided to form this team of Ambassadors to visit and learn from other top-rated companies to work for.”

employee onboarding programsThis evolved into the Bazaarvoice Scavenger Hunt, a week-long series of tasks designed to give new hires a well-rounded look at the company’s structure, history, and culture (and, a t-shirt to commemorate their completion). Tasks include interviewing past winners of the company’s achievement awards; exploring various departments and meeting key team members; and reading about the company’s corporate pillars.

“I cannot write enough about the benefits of the Scavenger Hunt,” says Hurt. “I noticed a near immediate impact in the way our employees related to each other and passionately carried the Bazaarvoice flag. It bonded them as part of a special club. It broke down barriers for communicating with other departments that are prevalent at so many companies that do not have such a process. It created more energy in the halls and everyone celebrated new team members in a very unusual and exciting way.”

Are you sufficiently inspired to give your own onboarding program a redux? Download our free eGuide, Onboarding: a practical guide, for tips, free templates, and more. Here’s a sneak peek:

See also:
8 things you need to do to prep for a new hire
How to integrate temporary employees with permanent staff


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