When it comes to onboarding and company inductions, I've delivered and experienced a real diversity in how these are delivered in different organisations.  Recently, I read about onboarding bootcamps where new starters attended a full week, or longer, for an intensive onboarding experience in order to better acclimatise them to the company's culture and help them to hit the ground running. 

There are some really interesting examples of onboarding out there from the likes of Atlassian and  Zappos.  But I was wondering what everyone else does?  Has anyone got any reallly good examples of using bootcamps and what value they brought to business?  How long are they and what content do you cover?  Does the business value this approach?

It'd be really interesting to hear about great L&D practice going on out there, what best in class looks like and the benefits, and downsides, of this approach.

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  • Hi Chris,

    Love this discussion as we are currently looking at ways that we can improve our onboading experience and make it inclusive for all departments.

    Currently for our retail devision we do an initial training fortnight called DNA. Due to the nature of the business this is very much an educational workshop to teach new employees about the products they will either use on customers or sell to customers. Currently this is compulsory before an emploee is allowed into their allocated work space.

    Personally I think a massive element of onboarding is helping our new employees to form long term relationships with other employees in the business so that conversation and communication can be encouraged to be very open and fluid. Therefore we ensure that all new starters from all over the country come and experience their training at head office and we book them into the company flat so they can all stay together and share their experiences in a more casual environment outside of the classroom.

    We also use this as a way to encouage team building so that all new employees know from day 1 that other people are in the same position as them.

    Currently only half of our work force get to be involved in this due to the nature of their role, so I am looking at ways that we can make this inclusive for everyone as well as being mindfull of our educational resources.

    As a downside to this aproach, we have to ensure that a yearly training calender is set up which provides us with 1 DNA per month. Given the nature of recruitment and candidates notice periods it can somtimes mean that onboarding for new candidates is extended and the business can sometimes be waiting up to 10 weeks for an employee to start in the workplace. I think we need to look at an interim solution to get employees involved in the business in some capacity before the next DNA commences so that we minimise the risk of loosing them altogether.

    We still have a way to go but we have seen huge benefits to our employee engagement for those who attend the DNA training so I am hugely in favour of an induction Bootcamp :)




  • Hi Chris

    Great discussion

    I havent attended or ran an onboarding bootcamp but i have attended an Entrepreneurial Bootcamp with Leeds Beckett University approx 10 years ago. The principles would have been similar if it were an induction programme.

     We went away to a place called Beverley (East Yorkshire) and stayed in student rooms (segregated by sex). The bootcamp was for one week with activity filled days from 8-5pm. It was intense and i learnt so much! Day one, we learnt about business, sectors, the entrepreneurial spirit, financing, creating a business plan. Day two, we had to go away and do our independent research for our own business idea. Day three we did team building activities and shared knowledge, Day four we covered everything on day one again but this time in a lot more detail e.g. how to apply for a bank loan, how to write up a business plan etc. On the final day we delivered our business ideas and plans, and submitted a formal business plan which was then marked, critiqued and returned.

    The bootcamp was really effective for 3 main reasons:-

    *There was lots of information and guest speakers throughout the week

    *We learnt lots from each other- other participants.

    *There was no time wasted on travelling to and from the location and with a diner on site, no need to leave the grounds which meant more time to actually study, learn and work


    For the above 3 principles, i would highly recommend an onboarding or induction boot camp!

    • I'm with you on this Iffat. Time away is a great way of learning. It's surprising what you learn networking informally of an evening over dinner isn't it. I've been involved in this sort of stuff too.

      I guess where I'd be a little more cautious is where this was an extended period of time that was mandatory rather than optional like the induction Chris mentions. There may be some in that mix that aren't able / willing to be away from home. My concern is whether this approach would exclude people just because of, for example, their family commitments.

      I might be being overly cautious though. What do you think?


      • Thanks for this.  I also agree about the learning through informal networking and social learning.  In fact, the anecdotal feedback we get for our current Group Welcome day is that the new starters really value getting meet with people from different areas, disciplines and divisions of the business and it helps them to build relationships outside of their own teams.

        I don't think anyone in my organisation is arguing that an onboarding bootcamp would be a bad idea, its more the logistics of it.  There would be a lot to organise and arrange and it would cost a lot to put people up in hotels etc.

        We currently run a Group Welcome on a quarterly basis and we get between 30 and 40 new members of staff attend.  So putting all of them up in a hotel for a week would be costly.

        I think the main things for us to workout are things like:

        Who is it for? Is it just for certain roles? maybe more senior roles and not admin and support functions?  But then does this become exclusive and divisive? 

        Organisation - organising something like this with all the logistics, bookings and communications could require a new member of staff on a 0.5 basis at the least.

        Do we mix divisions and disciplines or focus it all one particular area of need?  Would focusing it dilute the impact and the social learning?


        • Loads to think about Chris. Great questions. I'm getting quite excited for you. It's a really interesting, engaging puzzle!

          It's almost like you're busy there building 'personas'. It's something that I've been involved in from a community management, learning and even marketing perspective. Take for example the difference in the information needed by someone considering a level 3 CIPD qualification versus a level 7.

          I wonder if that could be it. Considering the different 'personas' of the various audiences and from this it might make some revelations around what each needs (especially if you chat with some of them too and get their input).

          For each 'persona' I wonder if there are some common questions to ask.....?

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  • Hi Chris,

    I've much to say on the topic! I've worked in a variety of organisations on induction both as an employee and an external consultant. One of the best approaches to induction I've seen is during my time at a credit card company. The externally contracted team I was part of was an extension of the internal L&D function. As far a people were concerned, we were part of the L&D team.

    What made this really interesting is the variety. Firstly, we inducted people into a variety of different roles including sales, collections and debt recovery to name a few. Secondly, with the global nature of the organisation, there was a need to ensure that the induction process was fit for a range of cultures.

    The shortest of these induction programmes was two weeks, where some of the more complex functions required an induction that spanned three to four. We had a nice blend of company cultural stuff, learning theory, team and individual development, systems, compliance training, skills training and more! The induction programmes were made up of of a variety of topics, some generic to all whilst some were department specific. Being financial services, audits on training material were required so the documentation, version control of this, trainer notes and material etc was certainly a logistical challenge.

    As Karen has mentioned in her reply, meeting members of the Senior Leadership Team was an imptortant step in making people feel connected to the leaders of the business. But just as important was getting to meet with and work with people on the ground floor. These changes in faces not only allowed those on the programmes to get a bit of variety, but also helped them feel connected to real people, doing the real job, who had been in their shoes. 

    As you say, they were able to hit the ground running as they process involved them doing some aspects of their job throughout the training period, returning back to the learning environment to reflect and share.

    Ther'es much more I can probably say, but for now, I'm wondering what sort of organisation you work in. What sort of roles are you onboarding people into? What's the job they're going to be doing?

    Great discussion Chris. Let's keep it going.





    • Hi Ady

      Thanks for sharing your experiences.  The company involved is based in the construction and manufacturing sector but is a very big company with branches through the UK and Europe.  They employ a wide variety of staff from marketing, sales, construction, engineering and office staff.

      The idea of an extended induction programme came about from discussions with a the Head of Sales who was concerned that it was taking our new starters in Sales far too long to get up to speed and become efficient at selling our products.  At present these members of staff only receive a 1 day group welcome when they start and are then expected to pick everything else up as they go.

      Its been interesting exploring the possibilities.  Our graduate scheme has been praised by senior leadership because the graduates seem able to fit right in within the company and really hit the ground running and understand the way the company works.  This is because they go through a comprehensive induction period of around 6 weeks and get to experience all the different areas of the company before they begin their main roles. 

      So we thought it might be good to have a longer induction for all new staff.  Maybe a week or so?

      But, there are lots of things which need ironing out.  Firstly this approach works for graduates because they are young and able to travel and stay away from home.  But asking new staff with dependents at home to spend a week at HQ in York when they live in Plymouth might not be suitable for them.

      Equally convincing the business that letting us have their new starters for 1 or 2 weeks and delaying their start with their team has proven difficult.

      We're also being asked questions like - is this suitable for everyone? or is it specific roles or specific departments?  So we've got lots of things to think about.

      I'm just convinced that we could reduce the time to efficiency metric we are currently experiencing amongst our new starters by providing them with a more comprehensive and focussed induction programme beginning with a 1 or 2 week bootcamp when they first start, enabling them to hit the ground running.



      • Hi Chris,

        Thanks for further sharing some more information. This is really helpful. 

        I get where you are with this and everyone else in your organisation. Especially the Head of Sales being concerned with speed to efficiency as well as the business giving up their new hires for so long at a time when they most need them.

        The organisation I reflected on in my response was how it was approached a good twelve years ago. I'm pretty sure that if the same approach was recommended today, I'd be faced with similar push-back around taking too long or not delivering competent new hires. In fact, one of my last projects in that organisation when the induction was being re-worked to accomodate a global system change I was set the challenge of reducing overall induction periods. For one of those programmes, we reduced it from ten days to nine. Woopee do! A saving of one day!

        I think nowadays it could be easier to achieve though and technology has been a big enabler for this. With online learning (on demand and live), collaborative spaces like Slack and Yammer, together with the face to face of classroom, mentoring and coaching, there's never been a better timer to mix up the approach. And actually, I don't believe this has to start from day one. There's no harm in drip-feeding resources, articles, videos, short courses ahead of someone's start date? As long as it's not too onerous and that they're motivated enough to join the organisation, I tend to find in these examples, people are prepared to do a bit of stuff that ultimately helps them too.

        In your organisation Chris, are you putting any thought into blending the approach using a mixture of technology, non-technology, one to many, one to one etc?


  • Hi Chris

    I love this idea of an on-boarding bootcamp.

    At a previous organisation I worked for the new starters would get a welcome text from the CEO a week before joining, on day 1 receive a welcome back with a branded note book, pen, water bottle and free lunch voucher.  The induction would include a fun and interactive day where they would learn about the companies vision, stratgeic objectives and values, met members of the Senior Leadership Team and other key members of the team to ask questions and learn about the company.  The on-boarding and induction process covered 3 areas - Welcome, Inform and Connect and gave the new startes a fantastic start to their careers.

    Looking forward to hearing about others experiences too.


    • Thanks Karen,  

      I've experienced a range of induction programmes, some just a set of meetings and more a functional HR form signing and mandatory E-Learning, others more detailed with things like Welcome Days to help induct people in the culture and values of the workplace.

      From talking to people and previous colleagues, I've heard some great accounts of organisations, particularly in Sales, who have a week long bootcamp.  This typically was 2 days of welcome to the company and introduction to the culture, strategy and values.  Then a further 3 day Sales training course, where new starters where taught how to sell their products using role plays and practical expereinces.  At the end of this week there was an assessment and people graduated with a certificate before they went to meet up with their new colleagues in their regional offices.

      It sounds like a really interesting approach in theory and I can see that it might have a great effect on productivity of new starters and getting them up to speed a lot more quickly than simply doing mandatory health and safety inductions.

      But i'm hoping some others will be able to comment on whether this style of induction actually works.


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