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Out of Office With

8 Creative Onboarding Practices That Take Employees Outside

These companies combine necessary training with fun activities that start team building from the first day on the job.

[Photo: Flickr user RamaRaju Penumatsa]

Most new hires spend their first few days on the job getting acclimated to the company, meeting their coworkers, and undergoing training. While these tasks are important, some companies like to immerse new employees in their culture by getting them outside and involved in activities that represent their values.

Here are eight creative onboarding practices businesses are using to engage new hires and help them get excited about their jobs.

1. Volunteering

Cornerstone OnDemand, a talent management software provider, brings all new hires to a three-day orientation at its Santa Monica, California, headquarters. While the program includes traditional activities like meetings with company leaders, new employees also get a chance to know each other and the company better by participating in a community service project.

"We work with children from the Boys and Girls Club to build and design skateboards and helmets," says Kimberly Cassady, vice president of talent. "Each kid was paired with a team of two to three employees, and together we built a skateboard and learned about each other," says Cassady. "It was a really cool mentoring opportunity," she recalls, "and it helped me get to know employees from other departments who I likely never would have met otherwise."

2. Selecting And Playing A Sport

True to its brand, new hires at the social sports networking app ATLETO meet with company leaders to participate in their sport of choice. This tradition applies to any new hire, from janitorial to new executives joining the ranks, and recently the company’s new CTO took everyone paddle boarding.

"The idea behind this is for new employees to pick sports they are passionate about," says Nicolai Galal, chief creative officer and cofounder. Additionally, he notes, "This pushes executive staff outside of their comfort zone and leads to beneficial team-building experiences."

3. Rowing

Suffolk Construction, a national construction firm based in Boston, has a one-week onboarding program for its newest employees fresh out of college. The program includes a variety of leadership exercises, including rowing the Charles River with Community Rowing.

"We wanted our onboarding process to be more than just an overview of company benefits and policies," says Kim Steimle Vaughan, chief people and marketing officer. "Team rowing is ideal for demonstrating the importance of teamwork, communication, and camaraderie when working on a Suffolk team," she asserts. "We often say, ‘We don’t build buildings, we build people,’" Steimle Vaughan explains. "Team rowing exercises kickstart the Suffolk experience for our newest people so we can start ‘building our people’ right out of the gate."

4. Walk And Order (Everyone's) Lunch

Going out to lunch with your coworkers is a common joining activity for companies, but Guardian Removals, a storage company based in the U.K., puts a unique twist on the experience.

"We take all new hires out for a walk around our business park and eventually to a cafe down the road that we've been visiting for years," says Max Robinson, office manager. "We'll get the new hire to order food and drinks for everyone and see what they choose. It's a good laugh, and it gives us a bit of insight into their personality."

5. Shopping Trips

TINYpulse, a Seattle-based employee engagement software provider, has an extensive onboarding practice that celebrates the new employee every day during their first week. One activity tasks the new hire to purchase an object that they believe matches the company’s values. The new hires present what they've found to the whole company during the company’s biweekly staff meetings.

Dustin Gransberry, senior manager, sales operations and enablement at TINYpulse, believes there are three benefits to the exercise. "You let the new hires get to know each other through teamwork, they are able to practice their public speaking and presentation skills, and you help them create physical anchors to learn the company values," he says.

6. Feeding The Whole Team

Grabbing lunch for the office might not sound like a task that would be very fun, but at Bazaarvoice, an Austin-based consumer-generated content provider, new hires are given a budget and asked to provide food for the team.

"We’ve had good feedback from the new employees that it’s a fun way to break the ice and meet their new colleagues," says Andy North, vice president of brand and communications. Besides getting to bond with others on the project, North points out other positives, such as making their purchases around Austin. "Meeting a significant portion of the office while serving the goodies, which have included donuts, breakfast tacos, cupcakes, chips and queso, and barbecue," is another plus, North says.

7. Walking Tour Of Successful Brands

New hires at Bedgear, a Farmingdale, New York-based manufacturer of performance bedding, are taken on a walking tour in downtown New York City to visit retailers that focus on customized products, such as Warby Parker, Asics, Samsung, and Chobani Soho.

"We like to show our staff the importance of how a memorable in-store retail experience gains customer loyalty," says Kristi Gulino, director of public relations for Bedgear. "Personalization at retail is so important for our brand," Gulino explains, "and this opens up their minds to customer engagement rather than selling just a product or service."

8. Taking Team Photos

The cybersecurity firm Distil Networks has offices in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco. When a class of new hires completes its training program, the group heads to the White House or the Golden Gate Bridge, respectively.

"Wherever we are, we take a picture as a group, then print those pictures for each office and hang them on the walls for the entire company to see how and where we are growing as a team," says Kati Ryan, senior director of learning and development.

Employee feedback has been positive, Ryan says, with new hires connecting on a personal level, becoming more comfortable in the office, and reporting increased productivity due to an ease of collaboration with people in other departments.

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