There is absolutely nothing wrong with adding some fun to training programs!

Is there a time and place? Of course. You know how you find out where to appropriately add some fun? ANALYSIS. This was my last chance–I had to reinforce it one more time.

Did you know that 71% of employees feel stressed out during the workday? (APA, 2021)

Let’s face it–it is pretty stressful away from the office as well. So, why not keep training a little lighter when we can?

Onboarding is the perfect opportunity to introduce fun as part of your company culture and demonstrate it to your new people.

Reality check: Maslow’s applies to adults too

Abraham Maslow, a psychologist, wrote about “The Theory of Motivation” in 1943. It is often called upon when folks talk about educating children. For example: Kids who are hungry cannot learn effectively, so we offer to feed them breakfast at school so they are ready to learn.

Look, I know how I get when I am hungry–I am not interested in learning anything either. So, take this very basic idea, remember how you acted the last time you needed a snack, and keep reading.

Maslow’s theory is basically five layers of human needs. There are a million images on the web, but here is one for your convenience.

The theory is you work your way up from the bottom of the hierarchical triangle–as you meet each one, you can move up to the next one and ultimately reach self-actualization or your personal pinnacle of success.

The bottom of the triangle is literally air, water, food, and shelter. That’s fair. Remember the kids and food reference above? Humans need these basic needs in place in order to move up the triangle.

How does fun apply here? It is about motivation. If I don’t know where my next meal is coming from or where I am going to sleep tonight, I am not motivated to learn. Unfortunately, some of your potential learners could be facing these things outside of the workplace. It is going to take more time to engage them and motivate them to learn. Getting themselves moved up the triangle is probably why they took the job you are about to onboard them to fill!

This is not meant to be flippant in any way. These are real concerns for a lot of people in the workforce. Employees with these struggles are showing up for work because they must and I know I want them to be successful and I am going to do whatever I can to make that possible.

Did you know that 90% of employees place an emphasis on training that is “engaging and fun”? (Axonify, 2018)

They want it. We want to build it. So, what does fun look like in training? There are lots of options, but here are a few opportunities you have.

What makes your organization special?

Does your organization have a mascot? Can your company laugh at itself? Are there puns? Use it all to increase engagement. Drop all the buttoned-up formality and embrace the HUMAN side of your business. This is why onboarding is such a great opportunity for fun.

There will be plenty of tasks that require a more serious approach in training later. Right now, you want to show your new people “what’s in it for me” and confirm they made the right decision in choosing to work for your company. So, hype it up.

Socialization ideas

Onboarding Kits. Company swag. Maps. Fun FAQs (compiled from the current workforce). Key links they might need. Day one itinerary. What this looks like at your organization is up to you. Whether you send it to a new person in advance or have it for them the first day? Your decision!

Build a Bingo Card. Are there a whole bunch of different people your new folks need to meet? Make a Bingo card of their names and give the newbie the freedom to arrange meet-and-greets with them. Give them a deadline. This is incredibly versatile. Have too many people? Make it departments or work groups instead. The key to success? Make sure all the people on the card are aware of this exercise and put accountability in place so they participate.

“Baseball” Cards. This is a twist on the idea above. Make a digital “baseball” card for each person your newbie needs to prioritize for contact. Give then the power to then “collect” the cards. What do the cards contain? Name, title, contact info, a FUN fact, major projects, their role, etc. Make them digital or make them actual physical cards–whatever works. Provide your new employee with a way to organize the cards and turn them loose.

Scavenger Hunts. Are there key locations your new people need to know about? These can be physical, intranet, internet, etc. Send your new folks out to find specific things in those various places.


Remember a few posts back when we talked about the onboarding journey? I always envision onboarding as a game board or a quest. We often talk about gamification in eLearning, but I encourage you to expand beyond that. How can you “gamify” the entire experience? And carry it through their career?

As we have discussed in those journeys, onboarding is not a one-day or even one-week event. We should instead be looking at the individual learner’s experience during onboarding and beyond. We should be reboarding them as they advance, which then translates to an everboarding experience. Whether it is their first day or their 3,000th day–your employees always know where they are in their journey and are always working their way up the path to their next achievements.

Embrace informality

Did you know that 92% of employees say that the right kind of formal workplace training impacts their job engagement positively? (Axonify, 2018)

I know. You are looking at that subhead and that statistic and scratching your head. Develop a formal overarching program that has metrics and benchmarking that allows for the space to be informal.

TikTok Style. Not everything has to be highly produced, cost a bunch of money, or take a long time. Quick informative videos can be used very well as reinforcement materials. They are also great way to quickly add things to existing materials. Say you have an eLearning that has been developed for onboarding about a particular system in use in your organization. Nothing ever changes once a system is in place, right? Wrong. We all know it. Somewhere, sometime, someone is going to find a nugget that needs to be shared. So instead of waiting several weeks for a full-scale production, pick up a phone and get the info out there.

Shadowing. Job shadowing is a great way to introduce new people to their new roles. Again, this appears to be informal but when you put some checklists, talking points, and structure to it, it has a formal foundation that provides what you need to evaluate the program and your learner. But for them–it is a casual conversation with a co-worker.

After Hours. Does your team get together for social gatherings after work? Be sure you include the new hire. Keep attendance optional though–not everyone likes the same thing.

Keep the first week light and entertaining

Does it really make sense for the new person to be in the office by 8 a.m. on a Monday morning? Is anyone ever really ready to go at 8 a.m. on Monday? Why not tell them to report at 9 or 10 a.m.? That lets all the folks internally get their ducks in a row and communicate. This allows some time for troubleshooting—or making substitutions if someone is out sick.

Maybe the first day isn’t even a Monday? What if it was Wednesday or Thursday instead? This gives your new person a couple of days in the office and then a break to process all the new exciting things you have in store for them.

Choose entertaining, engaging, and fun activities for learning. All of the activities should flow well. Just because it is time for a piece of training doesn’t mean you drop the creativity and fun. Remember all the culture and personality? It should carry over into the training materials and events that need to be completed during onboarding. Are some of those topics serious? Of course. Do you need your new people to engage in and actually absorb safety training? Absolutely. Roll your culture and personality into those “serious” topics as well.