Business January 28th, 2020

Memorable Onboarding For New Hires, The Zappos Way

When was the last time your company reviewed its onboarding process?

Weeks, months, perhaps years?

According to a Gallup poll, only 15% of worldwide employees are engaged at work. The U.S. is a little better, coming in at 30%. Yet, this means only 1 of 3 employees are enthused about their job or workplace. What can be done to make these numbers higher?

For starters, better onboarding.

Some companies welcome you into the fold by handing you a stack of papers. You sit for an hour or two, perhaps with others in the same situation, awkwardly filling out form after form. You may have met a dozen new employees, but you had no meaningful conversations with any of them.

The common denominator amongst poor onboarding practices is simple: you get oriented, but you don't get integrated.



"Employee onboarding is the design of what your new employees feel, see and hear. Often, companies confuse onboarding with training. While training does have a role within the onboarding, it doesn't represent the entire scope of the process," says Michel Falcon, founder of Experience Academy.

Several years ago, Falcon spent a day with the Zappos executive leadership team. He found that great customer experience can't happen without company culture and engaged employees.



Onboarding doesn't have to be on-boring. Zappos has long subscribed to the idea of creating a fun and unique experience for newbies. For one month, fresh-faced employees learn about the company's history and 10 Core Values, the importance of delivering WOW customer service by taking phone calls, and how to create meaningful bonds with coworkers through games, activities and projects.

"The whole point of the four weeks is to build relationships and make sure you're comfortable in your role," says Corporate Trainer Stephanie Hudec.

Whether you're joining the Zappos Family at an entry level or as a seasoned professional, everyone is required to participate in the same onboarding program. In fact, new Zapponians can't begin their official jobs until after new hire graduation.


"The original motivation for doing it was to make sure that people were there for reasons beyond a short-term paycheck."
  • Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO


Like all employees, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh also partook in onboarding. While there, he overheard people saying they weren't sure it was the right fit for them. Since they needed the money, they were going to stick it out. He decided to incentivize recruits by offering them $100 to quit.

"The original motivation for doing it was to make sure that people were there for reasons beyond a short-term paycheck," said Hsieh in an interview with Harvard Business Review. "They still had to go home and, over the weekend, think about it, talk to their friends and family, and ask themselves, 'Is this a company I can really commit to? Is it a company I believe in for the long-term,' and when they came back to work on Monday, they were that much more committed and passionate about the company."

Today the offer is equal to one month's salary. This enables people to find their satisfaction elsewhere rather than being unhappy in their role and quitting or being terminated.

Any company can improve their onboarding process. It's not all about fun and games; it's about your knowing your business' purpose, core values and mission. Says Hudec, "Your team has to believe it so they can teach it to others."

Companies, especially startups, don't need to have a four-week onboarding like Zappos. They can, however, implement processes that ensure new hires feel welcome, engaged and a part of the company culture. Here are just some of the ways this can be accomplished:



Send their paperwork and an employee handbook to their homes where they can fill it out and turn it in on the first day, rather than upon arrival.


Share your team or company's strategy or current roadmap to give them a broader picture.


Create personalized welcome emails, decorate their workspace, or meet them at the reception desk to provide them with a personal tour.


Establish a mentor for each new hire. The mentor is there to welcome them, answer questions and be a great resource to help them through the first few months on the job.


Have members of the current staff take new hires out for a team lunch.


Create a feedback survey to make sure your new hires have a chance to provide their thoughts on the onboarding process. Do they feel included and welcomed? Do they know what is expected of them? Are they having any difficulties?



Better onboarding not only benefits your new employees, but also your entire company. If you're content with one-third of your workforce lacking engagement, do nothing. If you want to make lasting change in your organization, do something.


Related Videos


Don't stop here!
Are you looking for a change of scenery, personally and professionally?
Maybe, just maybe, Zappos is the place for you!

Search open positions