Employee Engagement

3 lessons from companies who nail employee onboarding

February 10, 2020


Connor Ward

A well organised first week will help new starters settle. A messy one will lose them.

I had one of those messy ones at my first job. On the first day, I was plopped on a desk and told to phone the outsourced IT team to get set up. It was an uphill battle from there.

Fast forward to Twine. Before I'd even started I was whisked off to Goodwood Festival of Speed. Without having stepped foot in the office, I felt welcome. When I arrived at the office on Monday a computer, Trello board and pair of headphones were all set up and waiting for me.

It’s called employee onboarding: the process new starters go through to become effective members of the team. Few companies invest in it, but those who do have the strong culture and high retention to prove it.

Below I’ve picked three of the best examples of onboarding that should get you inspired on what to do with your next hire.


Mailchimp does something unexpected: for your first week, you don’t do any work. Instead, new starters follow an itinerary on the theme of “listening”. They learn the ins and outs of the company, it’s philosophy and the culture that drives its success. The company's motto is "Listen Hard, Change Fast", after all.

Here’s how it goes:

Pre-arrival: Complete a behavioural survey (so the team know how you work)
Day 1: Arrive to see your desk decorated to your personality, pick up your bag of swag and meet your “Chimpanion” (a more experienced employee here to show you the ropes).
Day 2 - 3: Meet team leaders of every department so you know how everyone fits together
Day 4: Meet the co-founders
Day 5: Learn how the product works

Those first four days are all about making new starters feel comfortable about where the company is heading. The results speak for themselves, according to Chief Culture Officer Marti Wolf “it’s earned high marks from employees who’ve been through it, and our turnover rate is only 4%.”


Gitlab has one hurdle the other companies on this list don’t: all 223 of their staff work remotely. When working remotely, new starters don’t get any personal hints and nudges to help them settle in. Gitlab needed to make up for that, so they wrote a book that covers absolutely everything you’ll need to know. If you printed it out, it would total over 1000 pages.

On your first day, there are 80 actions you need to complete, from adding your birthday to the calendar to finding a buddy. At the end of the day, you’re given one final task: propose a change to the handbook. So every time they onboard someone, their onboarding gets a little better. See it for yourself.


For a software company, Intercom spends a lot of time playing around with print, and it's not always for marketing purposes: their design team produce newspapers and books just for internal use.

When it comes to onboarding, every new hire is given a hardback book of values, illustrated in the style of a children’s book. A keepsake from Intercom that screams “we care about our team”.

This is a great example of "employer branding": the image of your company as somewhere great to work in the minds of past, present and future employees.

Getting ready for your next hire

These companies have all invested a lot in their onboarding, but not everyone has a crack team of writers and designers on hand to jumpstart their program. That’s why I’ve come up with 3 easy places for you to start:

  1. Play around with Twine's welcome message tools
  2. Get inspired by the beautiful newsprints made at Newspaper Club
  3. Print some branded chocolate ?

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