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The ultimate onboarding process — here's what 7 teams have in common

A good onboarding process isn't just 'nice to have' — it can boost new hire retention by 82%.Being a new hire can feel a lot like being the new kid in school. You’re thrown into a fresh group of peers, without knowing anyone, and you often find yourself in that dreaded mid-day moment of, “Oh gosh, who will I eat lunch with?!”

Amy Rigby

Anyone who’s ever known the anxiety of showing up to a new job without clear expectations knows why it’s important to create an amazing employee onboarding experience.

But if you still need a little motivation to improve your onboarding, how‘s this for a wakeup call? In a 2018 Jobvite survey, nearly 30% of respondents said they’ve quit a job within the first 90 days

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, it costs an average of $4,129 to hire a new employee. After all that time and money invested, it’d be a shame to lose a new hire so quickly. 

Effective onboarding is a surefire way to increase the likelihood an employee will want to stay with your company. Research by Brandon Hall Group found that by implementing a strong onboarding process, employers can boost new hire retention by 82%.

So how can you ensure a good first impression? Let’s take a look at some of the best examples of employee onboarding from top-notch companies around the world.


Before new hires step foot into their offices, software company HubSpot provides everything they need to know on a microsite dedicated to their onboarding process. The site includes the orientation day schedule, notes on company culture, FAQs, even a fun playlist to “help ease your first day jitters.”

New HubSpotters begin their onboarding experience with an orientation day at HubSpot HQ in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where they get treated to breakfast, meet team members, learn more about HubSpot’s culture and tour the offices. Even international employees are flown to Cambridge for one to two weeks of onboarding “to ensure a consistent, cohesive and global experience.”

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, HubSpot even made its onboarding 100% virtual. Talk about being prepared and flexible! It’s no wonder Glassdoor named HubSpot the number one best place to work in 2020.


If you want a peek at creative employee onboarding, look no further than ecommerce brand Zappos. Before their first day on the job, new Zapponians immerse themselves in learning for four weeks. In addition to receiving a new hire training manual and online modules, recruits sit in a classroom where they learn about company values and how to deliver A-class customer service (a quality Zappos is famous for).

During their four-week training, new hires do a fun egg drop activity to inspire creative problem solving and show them that, even if an idea doesn’t work the first time, they can always try again. At the end of it, there’s a graduation, complete with a walk across the stage to get their diploma.

Another unique twist to Zappos’ employee onboarding is that the company offers new hires one month’s salary if they quit. Why? Zappos wants to ensure that the people who make it to new hire graduation are there for more than just money.


How do you onboard new employees when your company is 100% remote and distributed across the globe? Social media software company Buffer shows us how it’s done.

Their onboarding process starts with sending new team members important documents, including pre-boarding emails that let them know what to expect, an onboarding form that collects basic information, and links and checklists for the new hire to read through.

Next, Buffer pulls together an “onboarding dream team,” consisting of the hiring manager, a “role buddy” and a “culture buddy.” 

  • The role buddy is usually someone on the same team as the new hire or in a similar position at Buffer and “is the go-to person for any task or role-related question the new hire may have.” 
  • The culture buddy is usually on a different team and is there to assist the new hire with “culture-related discussions and provide additional context on company history and norms.”

When you’re new at a company, feedback is everything. Buffer prepares its recruits with documents outlining expectations at the 30-, 60- and 90-day marks. At each milestone, the manager and buddies meet with the new hire for a feedback session.

The Buffer team may be fully remote, but that doesn’t mean they can’t find a way to celebrate an addition to their team. On a new hire’s first day, coworkers throw a welcome party via Slack.


When a new hire accepts a job offer from LinkedIn, the company sends a congratulatory email that also lets them know their start date. Because weeks could pass between that email and their first day on the job, LinkedIn uses that time to get the recruit familiar with the company culture and manage expectations.

  • Every new LinkedIn hire gets a PDF outlining everything they need to know for their first day—from what to bring, to how to find the location, to where to direct questions.
  • They also get the LinkedIn Culture Code and are directed to the #LinkedInLife social media campaign, both of which familiarize them with what it’s like to work there.
  • On day one, LinkedIn’s Onboarding Team greets new hires and makes sure they’ve got everything they need to get started, including badges and paperwork. 

Because onboarding is more than just orientation day, LinkedIn makes sure its hiring managers understand their long-term role in onboarding. Hiring managers receive training and a checklist on what they need to accomplish with the new hire in the first 30 days. They even have the option to pick a “LinkedIn buddy” to introduce the new hire to the rest of the team, take them out to lunch and serve as a general resource.


With offices in Paris, New York and Lisbon, password manager app company Dashlane knows the key to successful employee onboarding is cross-functional collaboration. With each new hire, they personalize an onboarding plan with input from hiring managers, the IT department and office managers to make sure every employee has an excellent onboarding experience.

Pre-boarding involves setting up “office infrastructure,” ensuring recruits have the right equipment at their desk. Dashlane also sends out information on what to expect during the first week and has managers prepare everyone at the company to welcome the new arrival.

On their first day in office, new Dashlaners get treated to a swag bag and lunch with their coworkers. During their first week, they’re paired with an “onboarding buddy” who serves as a friend that acquaints them to life at the company. Like Buffer, Dashlane creates a 30/60/90-day plan for recruits so they know what they need to accomplish during their first three months.

To help break the ice during those initial weeks, Dashlane has a time-honored tradition: New hires must tell a funny story about themselves in 60 seconds at the first global town hall they attend.

From there, new Dashlaners are put on a rotating schedule of onboarding sessions with different teams, in person or via video chat, so they get a more holistic view of the company.


According to a CareerBuilder survey, nearly three in four companies admit they’ve made a bad hire—and it costs them an average of $14,900 each time it happens. So how can you safeguard against a potential mismatch?

One potential solution is to introduce a trial period, like chat support software company LiveChat does. When it hires for customer support roles, LiveChat requires candidates to complete two full-time weeks of training before they present an official job offer.

LiveChat’s onboarding process for customer support hires begins with reading—lots of it. Candidates must read the LiveChat website, knowledge base, canned responses and support philosophy, as well as some recommended reading from outside the company.

Next, new hires familiarize themselves with LiveChat’s team communication, which consists of email, Slack and Basecamp.

Then begins the hands-on training. Candidates get to answer support tickets, made-up and real, which are reviewed by the team lead. They also get to participate in support chats (under supervision), which involves extensive training where the candidates must use the product, read case studies, talk to the key account manager and more.

Of course, during those first two weeks, candidates are being evaluated for whether they will officially become hired employees. Because of this, LiveChat makes sure to meet with them as often as possible to give feedback and ask the new hire what they’re struggling with.

Feeling unmotivated?

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Another company that shows us how to do remote onboarding right is Doist, the maker of productivity software. With a team of 72 members in 29 countries, Doist has had plenty of opportunities to hone their employee onboarding, and much of it involves using their own products: Todoist for task management and Twist for asynchronous communication.

The first day as a new member of a remote team can be awkward, even lonely. Doist counters this by creating a welcome thread in Twist. Either the People Operations Specialist or the manager then posts some info about the new hire. Then, each team member responds with their name, location and team. It’s a streamlined way to give a warm welcome from every team member, regardless of location.

Doist then uses Todoist to create a checklist of onboarding tasks for new hires to complete. But as Fadeke Adegbuyi explains on the Doist blog: “Don’t equate a new hire checklist with onboarding. Successful onboarding takes months. It’s more than a checklist.”

A fun aspect of Doist’s onboarding is their Mentor Trips, where they fly the new hire to a different city to work with a mentor in-person. In a fully remote company, these physical get-togethers are a rare treat that can facilitate bonding during those crucial first weeks.

What can you learn from these 7 stellar companies? Here are some of their best practices to incorporate into your onboarding process.

After researching these top companies’ employee onboarding processes, a few commonalities surfaced. Here’s how you can bring their onboarding success to your company:

Pair every new hire with a buddy or mentor.

At least four of the companies mentioned above assign a “buddy” or “mentor” to each new hire. This is a genius way to make sure that every recruit has a go-to person to whom they can direct questions and concerns. It gives an instant feeling of belonging when you have a designated buddy to meet with!

Craft a 30/60/90 plan.

One of the biggest mistakes in onboarding is that employers don’t set clear expectations for new hires. Buffer and Dashlane create documents that outline the objectives for an employee’s first three months at the company. 

Giving new hires a way to know precisely how they’ll be evaluated at the start of their tenure—and of course, giving them lots of feedback along the way—can ease any frustration or anxiety they may feel.

Don’t neglect pre-boarding.

No, we’re not talking about air travel here. Pre-boarding is that crucial period between the job offer and day one at the company—don’t squander it! 

Nearly every company included in this list sends their recruits plenty of information ahead of time, including things like company values, notes on culture and information on what to expect on their first day.

Host a well-planned orientation day.

It’s not always necessary to host formal orientation events, but if you’re on a hiring spree where a lot of employees will be onboarded at one time, they can be a great idea. 

HubSpot shows how to do it with coordination and style by using an online hub to house all the information recruits need and hosting a jam-packed orientation day to treat new HubSpotters to yummy food, official headshots and a fun mixer.

Give them a way out if it’s not the right fit.

This one might seem weird to mention, but hey, sometimes mismatches happen. It’s best to have a way to deal with this early on, before you sink more resources into someone who’s not the right fit.

Zappos does this by paying recruits to quit during their four-week training period. LiveChat does this by instituting a two-week trial period. Buffer used to do something like this when it had its 45-day bootcamp but found that the probationary period placed too much pressure on the new hires.

Prepare your entire company to welcome the new arrival.

No one wants to walk into their first day at work and be met with confused stares and questions like, “And who are you?” Don’t get so caught up in preparing your new hire for their first day that you forget to prep the rest of your team.

  • At Dashlane, a manager lets the rest of the company know about the new hire’s arrival ahead of time and shares some fun facts about them.
  • At Buffer, one person starts a welcome party via Slack, kicking off a string of fun GIFs for the newbie.
  • And at LinkedIn, new hires are paired with a “LinkedIn buddy” who facilitates team introductions and treats the new member to lunch.

Have fun!

Whether you make new hires do an egg drop like Zappos or tell funny stories at a town hall meeting like Dashlane, don’t be afraid to incorporate a fun activity into your onboarding process. After all, laughter is a great way to break the ice!

Say goodbye to onboarding blues

Hiring can be high stakes. As an employer, you’ve invested time and money into attracting, recruiting and hiring new people. As a job seeker, your new hire has spent time researching and interviewing at companies, and they may be taking a big risk by leaving their current role or choosing your job offer over others.

Improve your chances of things working out by reviewing and refining your employee onboarding process. As we saw above, doing so can boost your retention rate and ensure that your new hire feels less like the new kid in school and more like a valued member of your team.

F4S can help make sure you hire the right people, and get them onboarded smoothly as they get acclimated to your unique team culture. Sign up for free today.

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