By Jacquelyn Smith
Starting a new job can be scary. You're in an unfamiliar place, surrounded by people you don't know, trying to simultaneously learn the ropes and make a positive first impression.
It's not easy - but that all pales in comparison to what new employees at CareerBliss have to do.
Heidi Golledge, the cofounder, CEO, and chief happiness officer at CareerBliss, an online career community and information hub for everyone in the workforce, asks new hires to stand up and sing part of their favorite song for the entire office.
This might sound like a nightmare to some people, but Golledge promises her intentions are good. She doesn't do it to embarrass new employees or make them feel uncomfortable. "It's more of a bonding exercise, and a way to introduce new hires to the company's culture," she says. "And it's been effective for our team."
In the company's early days as a startup - when CareerBliss was part of CyberCoders, which was sold in 2013 - Golledge says "some folks started to resent new employees when we grew past the original 20 because they felt they always wanted to stay small with a boutique feel."
When the recession hit and CareerBliss was still hiring, her staff was even less excited to see new faces at the weekly All Hands meetings. "I felt that if we had a way for everyone to bond with a new addition, maybe that could alleviate some angst and have the new person feel part of the family from the first week."
So, she decided to ask them "out of the blue, in front of approximately 50 people" to sing a few lines from their favorite song.
"Then, it progressed to sing a line and add a yoga move or dance step," she says. "Once they started, everyone in the company would cheer for them and laugh with them, and it became something to look forward to versus something to resent."
Once her company hit 100 employees, Golledge says, she realized it would be too intimidating for new employees to sing in front of the entire staff, as well as giant webcams with several offices tuning in. "We were also hiring an average of eight people a week and started having the All Hands meetings every two weeks, so I came up with the concept of 'new hire crews' and began asking them to sing a song with their training group, instead of individually."
Golledge says this was a great way for new employees "to get to know their fellow trainees and put on a really fun show for the company amidst heavy cheering."
As for feedback on this unique strategy, she says it's been almost entirely positive. "It has become a right of passage for folks to join the company," Golledge says. "There has only been one person who had extreme social anxiety and could not do it. We gave him the option to opt out, but he ended up deciding he was actually not a good cultural fit for the company."
Golledge says CyberCoders, which she also cofounded, was distinguished for its unusually low turnover rate - which she attributes to "innovative approaches such as asking new hires to sing."
But the fun does not stop at Week 1 for new hires at CareerBliss. "Continuing to engage employees on a daily basis with fun things together as a team is key to building a great culture," Golledge says. And that's why she has made it her mission to incorporate "competitive games, good food, and a sense of celebration" into all of her company events.
"I really believe that finding fun ways for your team members to bond, regardless of the size of your company, will reduce turnover, get them to refer their friends, and will make your company an overall better place to be," she concludes.
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