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11 Creative Ways to Onboard New Employees

A wise person once said, “Every saga has a beginning.”

Wait, that’s from the trailer of The Phantom Menace. Let’s try this again.

A wise person once said, “Every new employee gets onboarded.”

It seems pretty innocuous, right? It’s basically how you introduce new employees to your company. It can’t be that hard.

Except it can. Onboarding is, in fact, the official beginning of an employee’s saga with your company. And a poor onboarding can lead to long-lasting repercussions, ranging from turning to the Dark Side and destroying the galaxy to (more realistically) complete disinterest in your company and what it does.

Yes, there’s a lot at stake. Maybe more than you imagined, even if you cut the whole galaxy destruction out of it.

But while poorly planned onboarding can lead to all sorts of problems, a thorough and thoughtful onboarding can help your new employee and your company be their best selves. Going about onboarding the right way can lead to:

  • Better on-the-job performance: One study found that a solid onboarding program results in “54% greater new hire productivity.”

  • Longer retention: That same study revealed that a good onboarding program means employees are 50% likelier to stick around.

  • Stronger company culture: What is your company built on? Introducing your new hire(s) to your values and goals is a gentle way to ensure they’re a good fit early on. Comprehensive onboarding programs make you dig into your company’s values and figure out new ways to communicate them – which in turn helps you build on them further.

We’d suggest any onboarding program is better than none, but why do something so important halfway? Boring Powerpoints and videos are so last century. Put some imagination into your onboarding – it’ll be more enjoyable to put together, and more engaging and memorable to the employees participating in it. To help you out, we’ve put together some of our favorite creative ways to onboard new employees here.

Psst - you’ll notice some of these play together quite nicely and even borrow from each other at times. There’s no one way to onboard someone. If you find something that works for your company and your colleagues, please accept from us the highest of fives.

1. Gap weekend

This is a newer tactic we’ve seen, and we like it. It’s basically a gap year for new employees – er, we don’t mean a full year, of course. Typically, companies that do this offer their new employee either a flat sum or a portion of their salary not to come in.


Transitioning to a new job is stressful even in the best cases. And if you’re going straight from, say, a highly stressful job into another one, you may bring old, bad feelings with you. Giving newbies even a couple of days to decompress and really let things go can work wonders for their mindset – and lead to stronger performance when they do start working for you.

So, what does a Gap Weekend look like?

  • Budget-minded: Give your employee a few extra days between stopping at their last job and starting at your place. They can spend those days where they like: their couch, a park, a pub. We aren’t judging.

  • Working retreat: If budget is no consideration, pack them off to a nice hotel for a couple of days to properly decompress. Fluffy pillows and room service? They’ll be completely relaxed on their first day with you.

2. Get the ball rolling early

We hit on this in our previous blog about onboarding remote employees, but you don’t have to start onboarding on Day One. Why not start getting them the information they need on Day Zero? Email is a thing. You can send over documentation they’ll need to read at some point anyway. Your company’s history, their health insurance papers, and so on.

Bonus points if you can give them a Gap Weekend that includes them getting rolling. Two birds, one newbie and all that.

3. Swag bag

People like getting stuff. They like people who give them that stuff. Thus, if you give them stuff, they will probably like you.

There’s some psychology behind this suggestion: The newbie isn’t just thinking, “Aw, the company gave me cool gear!” They’re also feeling valued. A lot of employees don’t think about the costs of onboarding, or that even bringing them aboard can demonstrate a company’s trust and belief in them. While they may consciously be thinking “How cool!” they will subconsciously be understanding that you like them. You really like them!

What can you put in your swag bag?

  • Mugs

  • Glasses

  • Mousepads

  • T-shirts, beanies, or other items of clothing

  • Totebags

  • Water bottles

Don’t limit yourself to company-branded stuff, either. It’s likely people will spend a lot of time at their desks. What can you give them to brighten their surroundings up? Plants, posters, picture frames? How about the latest novel the company book club is reading, or a mixtape of everyone’s favorite songs?