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Why Employee Onboarding Matters

David Cheng Former Head of Content, Gusto 
Why Employee Onboarding Matters

At Gusto, we designed our new employee onboarding experience with the same care as our product. Onboarding should be delightful and intuitive, with as few repetitive, manual activities as possible. That’s how we built Gusto for our customers; shouldn’t we give the same attention to another key stakeholder—the employee?

In Good Company

Gusto is not alone. More companies are investing in their employee onboarding that goes way beyond selecting health benefits or setting up payroll. At Warby Parker, for example, a new employee is given a physical welcome packet on their first day includes items from the company’s history:

  • Jack Kerouac’s “Dharma Bums” (because Warby Parker was named after Kerouac characters)
  • A notebook
  • A gift certificate for a free eye exam
  • Two pairs of Warby Parker glasses (one to share)
  • Martin’s Pretzels (because it’s a popular snack amongst the founders)
  • A gift certificate to a Thai restaurant (because a Thai restaurant was the late night go-to place when the company was founded in Philadelphia)

At Patreon (a Gusto customer), they give their new employees a little party, with streamers and a “welcome” banner. Sometimes they’ll even wrap their desk chair with brightly colored wrapping paper. As you can see from the picture, having some fun is part of their culture.

What happens when your employees are scattered around the country? Another Gusto customer, PerByte, solves this problem with the occasional company retreat. For their most recent hire, CEO Josh Carlson took the entire company to a nearby amusement park:

An important part of that culture is a focus on work-life balance, having fun, and generally just enjoying life. It’s hard to do that with a handbook, but unsurprisingly easy to get the point across while you’re whipping around a roller coaster.

Recruiting Edge

A good onboarding experience isn’t only for current employees, but also for future employees. Especially in places like San Francisco or New York where the competition for engineering talent is high, a good onboarding experience can be the key recruiting advantage. Companies like ZocDoc are able to hire the best in part because of their incredibly thorough orientation. At ZocDoc, an operations associate, for example, is taken through a three-week training course to get up to speed quickly on their role and the ZocDoc culture.

That is in part why a company like Google is always at or near the top of the best places to work. Google invests in its employees past the first day, with ongoing employee training, employee wellness programs, and charity giving.

What We Do at Gusto

At Gusto, an employee’s onboarding begins before their first day. The hiring manager reminds the entire company to email the new employee well wishes before they start. On their first day, we have a welcome packet including a welcome balloon, the office gear they’ve requested (we email them days in advance what laptop/desktop setup would make them most successful), a welcome packet with helpful information and a watermelon.

Why do we give a watermelon? Before the founders made their first hire, they moved into a new office in Palo Alto. As a welcome gift, the landlord gave them a watermelon. So when Davey (our head of UX and Design) joined the following Monday, the founders wanted to share their appreciation and re-gifted the watermelon. Thankfully, that same watermelon isn’t re-gifted to each new employee (we buy new ones). But it’s this little bit of history that connects each new hire with the first hire.

Onboarding doesn’t stop on the first day or the first week. With each new employee, we take them through a series of workshops throughout the year so that each new hire is familiar with all aspects of the business, from engineering to marketing to support. We take great care in appreciating our employees and empowering them to succeed. Here’s an employee onboarding checklist to help you get started!

Updated: April 15, 2019

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