Making Culture Tangible

Beautifully Designed Employee Welcome and Onboarding Kits

For new employees, organizational culture begins even before the first day on the job. Some companies send welcome kits to new hires, or gift onboarding kits on the first day. The best kits are not only beautifully designed, but also help introduce new hires to the company's values in a tangible way. I wrote about Dropbox's Cupcake Welcome Kit on Huffington Post, but I came across several other ideas for Welcome Kits and Onboarding Kits while doing research that I wanted to share here! What kits have you come across? Let me know in the comments.

Dropbox: Cupcake Welcome Kit
One of Dropbox’s five core values is simply an image of a smiling cupcake. Why? Because Dropbox doesn’t want to take itself too seriously. When Dropbox makes an offer to a new employee, the employee receives a special delivery at home: a cupcake kit in a beautifully designed box. This ritual reflects Dropbox’s fun nature, and brings delight to its employees—even before they’ve joined the company. (Reposted from Huffington Post)

Dropbox's Cupcake Kit, Image Credit:  Kurt Varner

Dropbox's Cupcake Kit, Image Credit: Kurt Varner

Ogilvy's Induction Box
Ogilvy's South Africa office designed a welcome box for employees on their first day. The box was inspired by the advertising agency's founder, David Ogilvy, who wrote a short book, The Eternal Pursuit of Unhappiness and also created his famous eight habits of highly creative communities. According to AdWeek, the motivation for creating the box was "to make people feel like they belong, like they have found a place here. Working at Ogilvy is so much more than just another job. We wanted to create something that reflects this. The Induction Box solidifies the importance of what we stand for."

Ogilvy's Induction Box, Image Credit:  Adweek

Ogilvy's Induction Box, Image Credit: Adweek

Adobe's Kickbox

Adobe employees receive a special red box to kickstart their own innovative ideas. The box contains a candy bar, a Starbucks gift card, and a debit MasterCard pre-loaded with $1,000! Adobe believes the money "empowers individual employees to follow their instincts about emerging opportunities." Adobe encourages innovators use these funds to validate their idea. The box also includes scorecards, frameworks, exercises, and other materials to develop ideas. Once employees move through a checklist of actions, they can pitch their ideas back to the company. Adobe has funded some of these ideas. This idea was so successful, Adobe now has a guide on its website to teach other companies how to start their own Kickbox. 

Adobe's Innovation Kickbox, Image Credit:  Forbes

Adobe's Innovation Kickbox, Image Credit: Forbes

IDEO's Welcome Kit

On my first day at IDEO's San Francisco office, I arrived at my desk to find a beautiful spread of all my favorite office treats (Vosges chocolate, sunflower seeds, and Bengal Spice tea). Every new hire also receives a copy of the Little Book of IDEO, which narrates the IDEO values. How did IDEO find out what my favorite treats are? That's a mystery for another day. :)

My very own welcome kit at IDEO

My very own welcome kit at IDEO

Making Culture Tangible: Designing Intentional Office Spaces

This is part of a series of posts about methods for making culture, which is inherently intangible, more tangible.

SoundCloud's Reception area (Photo credit: Werner Huthmacker)

SoundCloud's Reception area (Photo credit: Werner Huthmacker)

Intentional culture creation calls for creating intentional spaces. Office designer Kelly Robinson, the designer behind the SoundCloud, Airbnb, and Couchsurfing offices, says that in intentional offices, “Everything has a place. Every place has a purpose.”

An article in First Round Review describes Kelly’s mindful approach to workplace design. 

“You should know what you want to accomplish with every square foot. “Every bit of your office serves a purpose of some kind,” Robinson says. “But if you don’t mindfully designate those purposes, the whole space becomes fair game for eating, meeting, collaborating and doing focused work. The result is a confusing — and potentially frustrating — vibe.” She encourages leaders to carefully consider what kinds of spaces they need, build them in the right proportion and clearly communicate ground rules to the organization. “Your desk is not a dinner table. It’s unhealthy to be shoveling food in your mouth while looking at your computer screen,” she says. It’s also not a meeting room or an appropriate place for loud phone calls. But you don’t need to hog a six-person meeting room to take a Skype call, either.”

In particular, there's one purpose that startups must plan for: Spontaneity. Your office should include spaces that can accommodate the hallway conversation that turns into a flash of genius, whether that’s a large central space or smaller drop-in nooks — ideally both. “Most conversations don’t need to be held behind closed doors. They just need a place where participants don't have to worry about being interrupted, kicked out or scolded for being too loud,” Robinson says. And don’t neglect the space between spaces — it has a purpose, too. “It's important to think about how people physically move around your office. The experience of traveling through the space needs to not be frustrating and not be ugly,” Robinson says. Barriers like excessive secure doors and sterile, claustrophobic corridors both literally and figuratively stop the flow of creativity.

At SoundCloud, Kelly created not just a reception space but a reception experience that telegraphs what the company is all about. “We modeled the reception bar after Apple’s Genius Bar,” she says. “There are always two people there, and it serves not only as a welcome for guests but also as an information hub for employees. Immediately there’s mingling. Guests don't feel like they're stuck in the lobby; they feel like they're part of SoundCloud for that moment. Collaboration, boundary crossing, creative mixing — SoundCloud’s office welcomes people right into its raison d’être, and sets a pace and tone for the time they spend there.”