Tip #24: Use the PALS Onboarding Method

One of the biggest differences between weak and strong cultures can be seen on a new person’s first day. Weak cultures approach onboarding as a check-the-box routine—here’s your parking pass and your healthcare forms. Strong cultures, on the other hand, approach onboarding as an all-important opportunity to build safety and belonging. Here’s a set of best practices I call the PALS method:

  1. Personalized Welcome

    New arrivals are greeted warmly and see their name on a screen or a sign as they walk into the building—or, if working remotely, as they log on. They are connected with an ambassador, who shows them the ropes and serves as a resource.

  2. Artifact

    New arrivals are given (or sent via mail, in the case of remote work) a token of appreciation: a meaningful book, a welcome note from leaders,* an item of clothing, or a symbol of the group’s work. (At John Deere, new employees receive a miniature model of the first patented plow.) Something that says, This is the start of something special.

  3. Lunch with the Team

    New arrivals eat with a small group of colleagues—not to talk about work, but rather to create comfort and learn each other’s stories. If you’re remote, a virtual lunch date or an after-work happy hour will do. (It’s even better if the company picks up the tab.)

  4. Solo Meeting with the Manager

    A quick check-in to build familiarity and reduce anxiety. A Microsoft study found that hires who had early meetings with managers built stronger networks, possessed a stronger sense of belonging, and had higher long-term retention rates.

*On Day One at Apple, new hires receive a note that reads, in part: “People don’t come here to play it safe. They come to swim in the deep end. They want their work to add up to something. Something big. Something that couldn’t happen anywhere else. Welcome to Apple.” On Day One at Pixar, you are brought into the auditorium where the leaders say: “Whatever you did before, you are a moviemaker now. We need your help to make our movies better.”