Recruitment & Retention

This HR leader turned onboarding into a video game

The idea came from employee exit interviews where workers said they had no idea what other teams in the company were doing.
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· 4 min read

The onboarding process can be as stale and tiresome for people leaders as it is for new hires. That’s why Princess Newborn, director of HR at UPS company Ware2Go, decided to flip it on its head and create an engaging onboarding experience that would excite and educate employees about their new role and organization.

“[Onboarding] is pretty similar across multiple companies,” Newborn told HR Brew. “You go into the system, you add your I-9, you fill out the information, add the emergency contacts, meet with your team. It’s not a very engaging activity.”

And it’s not very comprehensive, either. The typical one- or two-day onboarding process doesn’t introduce new hires to areas of the business outside where their role resides. To combat this, Newborn turned Ware2Go’s onboarding process into a 30-day long, 10-level video game.

Game time. Newborn came up with the idea to gamify onboarding after an exit interview with an employee who expressed frustration about a lack of communication between teams, which boiled down to one team not understanding the other team’s responsibilities.

“[We were] hearing that employees [were] leaving the company that had been here a year and still didn’t fully understand the full picture of our business and how every team supports our company goal and helps us get across the finish line,” Newborn said. “We looked at, how can we…get our current employees to have that understanding and to make sure from the moment an employee starts, they immediately hit the ground with that information.”

Newborn wanted to engage employees in an enjoyable, familiar way. When she realized a lot of people enjoy gaming, she collaborated with Ware2Go’s internal L&D team to create a new way of onboarding in January 2023.

How it works. Each level corresponds to a different onboarding task, Newborn said, including connecting with HR, learning about benefits, meeting different teams, and listening to a personalized message from the CEO.

Completing each level requires doing more than just watching videos, Newborn said. “There are different homework assignments on the levels, so it’s not just content to watch…but actually things you have to do to tick off that you have passed that level,” like scheduling a meeting with each team within the company so they can get to know them and how they can work together.

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Employees might find this new way of onboarding intimidating, but Newborn and her team planned for that.

“In their onboarding meeting, when we go over the schedule, we go over how flexible it is…and what days or weeks they are going to have a heavy workload or when they might be in a warehouse for a whole week,” she said. “We make it adjustable on the deadlines [so employees] have time to complete this.”

Reactions. New hires, particularly those who work from home, have told Newborn that they are enjoying Ware2Go’s onboarding and are finding value in it.

“One that stands out is from our product engineering team, where they’ve had lots of remote roles in the past,” she said. “This was the first time they formed connections with people outside of their departments. They said it made them feel connected to the company in a way that you don’t normally feel in a role where you are 100% remote.”

The program is still relatively new, so only time will tell what kind of impact it will have on the company’s retention and recruiting initiatives—but Newborn is optimistic that it will be a positive tool for the organization, and something her HR peers can learn from.

“Get as many people involved [in onboarding] as you can, even if it’s not a game,” she said. “Get that interaction across the company…[and] make sure you have leadership buy-in. The reason we are successful is because, from our C-suite to management directors, everyone is brought in to encourage and help people through this process.”

Quick-to-read HR news & insights

From recruiting and retention to company culture and the latest in HR tech, HR Brew delivers up-to-date industry news and tips to help HR pros stay nimble in today’s fast-changing business environment.