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What Is an Unboxing Experience for New Employees?
The term “unboxing experience” was originally coined to describe the thrill associated with opening a new (likely expensive) product. In marketing, it’s referring to the way a company stages the packaging of their product, specifically high-end technology. Originally starting as a video trend in 2006 when a consumer posted a video of themselves opening the packaging of their new Nokia E61 cellphone, the term has since broadened to encapsulate the emotions and excitement surrounding any experience of unboxing, similar to the excitement of children opening gifts early Christmas morning.
In HR, it’s the setting up of a new hire’s first experiences at your company in such a way as to invoke that same kind of warm emotional anticipation and response.
Why Should Organizations Create An Unboxing Experience?
What do you do with a brand new cell phone you’re excited about? Better yet, how do you do so? You set it up, personalize it, download all your favorite apps, and sync your accounts so everything you had on your old phone is now on your new device. In other words, you eagerly bring everything you have over to the new device. By emulating that experience, you’re encouraging a sense of eager enthusiasm in your new hire to bring everything they have to the table as quickly as possible. It promotes engagement, helps the new hire feel welcome, creates a sense of being valued, and decreases turnover.
- Promotes engagement. According to Forbes, employee engagement is the “emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals.” As unboxing is primarily an emotion-centric experience demonstrating the company’s vision and loyalty to the employee, it’s no wonder that a proper unboxing experience drives employee engagement up by 54%.
- Assists psychologically and emotionally. In comparison to the old-school mindset of the one-day orientation, an onboarding that utilizes unboxing strategies eases anxiety and makes the transition into a new job more comfortable for the new hire. Given that the experience includes involvement from staff, proper presentation of value, and is not rushed, the new hire should start their job feeling included, valued by the company, invested in the mission, and prepared for the work they were hired to do.
- Reduces turnover. This study found that a strong onboarding process increased new-hire retention by 82%.
- Improves productivity. That same study found that it also increased productivity by over 70%.
What Should Be Included in an Unboxing Experience?
Just like the anticipation of a child on Christmas Eve, build that anticipation into the start date for your new hire. Do so through active communication during the part of the hiring process that is usually radio silent. Between the date they receive the job offer and their official start date, keep the conversation going.
Communicate with excitement about having them come on board and for what they’ll bring to the table. Offer assistance in making the transition into their new position as simple as possible by digitizing the mandatory paperwork for them to complete ahead of time. Start a countdown to their start date by offering something of value at least three times before their first official day. This can be kept simple, like a collection of menus from the best coffee and lunch spots close to the office, asking their input on what desk organizer they’d prefer, or even a compilation of starting advice from their new coworkers (which helps build excitement in the staff as well).
A successful unboxing experience doesn’t provide only what the hire needs to do the job they’re hired to do. To continue the Christmas analogy, doing that would be like receiving socks and only socks for Christmas. The idea is to go above and beyond: to give more than what’s needed and make it memorable. Fashion startup Polyvore hands new employees a $100 gift card to spend on the site. Video technology company Clearleap gives new employees a Roku media player. Opower, an energy data company, gives new employees a bottle of champagne to save for when they help reduce carbon emissions by 1%. An extra that lines up with your organization’s mission and culture makes onboarding exciting and memorable.
Beyond the mandatory presentations on non-discrimination and the history of the company, provide extra information that’s more on the fun side. Information like which coffee machine in the building works best, where to go on campus for the best cell signal, and the location of the gender-neutral bathrooms are not only useful things to know but also help make the new hire feel immediately included.
The Physical Reveal
Have the physical environment well equipped and tidy. Don’t deliver the “product” in a dented box with scuffed plastic wrapping. Take a good look at the most visible parts of the company (and positions being filled) to ensure they are presentation-ready for your new hire. This goes for making the environment as welcoming as possible. Imagine being a new hire who’s already nervous and overwhelmed, coming into their office for the first time to find it cluttered with the previous employee’s personal objects and coated with dust.
Arguably one of the most important aspects to focus on is human connection. Setting up great first impressions can make all the difference in how cohesive a team becomes. See the “Involve the staff” section below.
Tips for an Effective Unboxing Experience
Here are four basic tips for creating a great welcome to your next new hire.
Set the Stage: Create the Experience
Don’t rush the process. Half of the experience is the anticipation of unveiling. Set the schedule to include micro-unboxings. For example, give the new hire control over their work environment by handing over the key to their office and allowing them to be the one to open the door. Or have the new employee pick from a handful of different desks or cubicles. Or in the case of work-related tech, give them all the choices possible to select the brand and operating system that best suits their preferences. Make the new employee confident that they will be given everything they need to be able to do and feel their best.
Keep First Impressions in Mind: Start Early, Finish Strong
What makes your organization, branch and team the best to work for? Is it the culture? The benefits? The swag? In order to capitalize on unboxing strategies, use these advantages as early and as often as possible. Highlight the best aspects of the company and role by having them included in the job posting, sprinkled throughout the interview process, and presented with enthusiasm during onboarding.
Keep the unboxing feeling in mind while deciding how you “wrap” the company and position. Present the value during the interview process and open it up to allow the interview to happen both ways, so the potential hire can make an “educated purchase” of your organization.
Don’t drop these strategies once the person is on board. Keep in touch during the first few weeks and months. Follow up on what was discussed during onboarding. When it comes to things such as benefits, provisions, and promises that were touched on in the initial induction process, the ball can be dropped fairly easily. Make sure their expectations have been met or exceeded in these areas.
Be Wary of TMI
Along with the onboarding process comes the mandatory employee handbook, company presentations, and payroll paperwork. Spread this out as much as possible. Anyone would walk away feeling overwhelmed and drained after eight hours of slideshows and documents, and let’s be honest, it doesn’t really fit the unboxing feel we’re aiming for.
If it’s appropriate, set up this information online for the employee to review and docu-sign ahead of time. This cuts down the amount of things to be done on orientation day while adding anticipation for the employee awaiting their start date. Consider offering a financial incentive to the employee who puts in this work ahead of their first day. Their time is valuable. As this is a work-related investment of their personal time, offering some sort of bonus or compensation ensures they are adequately reimbursed and sends the message that the organization respects the time and effort they put in.
Involve the Staff
Just as an informed consumer scours reviews of a product for insider information, the personal views of your workers can offer your new hire peace of mind while building enthusiasm. Ask employees who love their job and who have bought into the vision of the company to submit their “reviews” for the new hire. This makes great content to share with an employee awaiting their start date. It’s also a good idea to involve said staff directly in aspects of onboarding, such as parts of the tour or giving a presentation.
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Kayla is the Chief Innovation Officer at Hero Culture, where the passion is to create company cultures of retention using the power of personality.
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