HR Management & Compliance, Learning & Development

‘Unboxing’ New Employees

By Dane Hurtubise
Opening up a box to see what’s inside is an exciting experience for everyone. When a new hire comes in for his or her first day on the job, it’s just as exciting for the new employee as it is for the employer. With advice on making this “unboxing” experience as effective as possible, we present an article by Dane Hurtubise, vice president of new initiatives for Greenhouse Software.

There are few things more exciting than opening something new for the first time. Companies selling consumer goods have become experts at this—making you fall in love with the product, building anticipation, and creating a memorable experience when you finally open the box. In fact, there is now an entire genre of unboxing videos, where everyone can join in the thrill of getting a first glimpse of what’s inside.
It’s not just about the excitement of opening something new, however; psychologists have determined that the very presentation of an item can significantly impact its perceived value. This means objects may be more valuable when they’re presented attractively and made into an enjoyable unboxing experience.
Unboxing doesn’t just apply to opening a new product, it can also be used to describe a new hire’s first day on the job. After spending so much time and so many resources recruiting new talent, positioning your company as a great place to work, and getting candidates excited about the company culture and its career opportunities, the last thing you want to do is lose that momentum and give new hires a ho-hum onboarding experience.
A new employee’s first day should be seen as another type of unboxing, and the experience they have as they begin their new career can determine whether they’ll instantly celebrate—or regret—their decision to join the team. After all, they have already formed an impression of the company throughout the recruiting process; making sure new hires have a positive and exciting unboxing experience will help make a strong and lasting impression.

Enhancing the Physical Reveal

The key to a successful onboarding experience is to build excitement and anticipation while confirming the new hire’s decision to choose to work for your company over another one. At the very least, you want new employees to arrive at a designated workspace that’s clean and equipped with all the tools they’ll need to do their jobs. This seems straightforward enough, but it’s surprising how many companies neglect this essential element of the new hire experience, and employees will notice.
To create a truly memorable experience, it pays to put some thought into the physical reveal. After all, the moment a new hire arrives at his or her work space for the first time is very similar to the moment a consumer arrives at home with his or her new purchase. Since what the employee sees and feels the very first time he or she encounters his or her work space will set the stage for the whole career, you’ll want to make sure it’s a good experience and in line with the company brand and culture.
There are several companies that have mastered the physical reveal. For instance, Percolate makes sure to convey its deep care for design, something that has been paramount since its inception. A new employee arrives at his or her desk already outfitted with a laptop, monitor, and other color-coordinated supplies like notebooks, coffee mugs, and mousepads.
Other companies strive to use the onboarding process as way to integrate new hires immediately into the company culture and mission. For instance, energy data company Opower presents its new employees with a bottle of champagne to save for when the company achieves its goal of reducing carbon emissions in the United States by 1%. This serves as fun reminder of the company’s mission, while getting new hires onboard with that mission right from the start.

Give Just the Right Amount of Information

How many of us read the instruction manual for a new product? Typically, we just dive right in. The same holds true when an employee joins the company for the first time. Yet many employers still give their new hires the equivalent of a bulky instruction manual on their first day: a thick packet of company policies, HR processes, and other paperwork.
This approach typically leads to information overload—new hires can be overwhelmed with information on the first day instead of focusing on more productive activities that can help them integrate into the company and get up to speed in their new roles. To avoid this, try to be more thoughtful in the information shared with employees and when.
Providing information doesn’t have to wait until the first day. Establish a preboarding process, and share information about the office and location, the new hires’ manager, their team, and company policies before they arrive on their first day. Such information can be sent via a physical package or by a link to the company intranet.
Companies like SendGrid utilize this strategy, finding that a comprehensive preboarding strategy equips new hires with all the information they need to eliminate first-day jitters. Instead, they arrive in the office confident and excited to get to work, already familiar with the office and their new coworkers.
To further help new hires get acclimated to their new role, consider the use of a buddy system. As it can be intimidating for new hires to approach their managers with every question that comes up, a buddy can be made available to answer the new hire’s questions (like what to people do for lunch or how to work the printer) or direct them to someone who can.
Also, holding periodic onboarding sessions led by members of each department will enable employees to learn more about the company and establish relationships across the organization.

Delivering a Positive Onboarding Experience

Viewing onboarding as an unboxing event—and doing everything possible to build excitement throughout the process—will amplify positive emotions and downplay the stress and nervousness associated with starting a new job. It will also help the new hire confirm that he or she made the right decision to join the team. The result is that the excitement a new hire has during the unboxing experience will engage him or her from the beginning, setting the stage for a long and successful career.