Work Culture

Chauffeur-driven cars to treasure hunts: Companies are giving new employees a first day to remember

A number of Indian startups have instituted some unique ways to welcome and integrate employees.

The first of any kind charms like none of what follows. The first ball of the first over of a cricket match, the first day-first show of a movie, the first date. And, of course, the first day at work.

Irrespective of how many jobs you have changed, day one at a new workplace sets off a swarm of butterflies in the belly.

Future prospects, new relationships, talent and skills being put to test, fear of failure, or merely the novelty of it all – any or all of this or more, could spark a mix of anxiety and anticipation in fresh recruits. Thus, it is imperative that they are put at ease. This could be key to not just their productivity but also their loyalty.

So, companies are increasingly striving to make day one an unforgettable experience – in a good way, that is. A number of Indian startups, in particular, have instituted some unique ways to welcome and integrate employees. Joining kits are getting fancier. Along with the basics like laptops, companies are also giving out t-shirts, mugs, stationery, and other merchandise. Some companies get bouquets delivered to the new recruits.

Quartz spoke in this regard to a few firms, which, according to LinkedIn, are among the most sought-after workplaces in the country.

Of warriors and chauffeur-driven cars

Flipkart, which tops the list of LinkedIn’s Top Companies in India in 2017, sends out chauffeur-driven cars to pick up employees on their first day. Once in office, it sends them on a treasure hunt, helping them get familiarised with the place.

Branded hotels company OYO Rooms, too, has put in place a set of unique practices. New employees are given specific titles as per the region they are joining in. These titles are then used to introduce them to the rest of the team, said Dinesh R, the company’s chief human resources officer.

For instance, offices in South India call their new employees “Spartans,” while some others might call their new employees “Warriors,” according to Dinesh. After this, all employees get to meet the leadership team and most other members of the company. “…the world knows about them, everybody sends out greetings to them on mail, photographs are pasted, and there is a lot of excitement on Day 1,” Dinesh said.

At Paytm, another of India’s hot startups, the engagement with new employees happens even before the person comes on board. Right through the hiring process, the communication with the prospective employee manages expectation-setting. “All that is a precursor to what the person can expect or look forward to when he or she becomes part of the Paytm family,” said Manav Jain, associate vice-president of Paytm. Post-induction, he or she undergoes orientation vis a vis the company’s values and processes. While there is no uniform company-wide policy in this regard, Paytm empowers team managers to handle all this.

Food delivery startup Swiggy, too, goes beyond just day one to make its onboarding process special. “To help employees ease into the new work environment, we ensure the time spent on the joining formalities is minimal with most of the documents being made available online,” said Girish Menon, vice-president of HR at Swiggy. Employees are handed a “First-day survival kit,” which, apart from a welcome note and other company details, contains snacks and other goodies. Swiggy is working on a “buddy connect program” that helps employees breeze through their first day, he added. “As an extension to our induction program, we ensure all new hires partake in the Customer Connect program that offers an on-the-floor experience…The entire onboarding program aims at lowering new organisation anxiety,” Menon said.

Some firms arrange dinners with the senior leadership so that the prospective employees get a better understanding of the role from around the informal table, said Alka Dhingra, assistant general managers of staffing firm TeamLease Services. Sometimes, they are invited to events or office parties. “The agenda is to involve them in their organisation (even) before the joining, to increase interest levels of the employee,” Dhingra said.

However, experts also say that companies must guard against overdoing things. “If you go overboard, you are kind of creating huge expectations in the mind of the new joinee…after a week, reality will bite,” warns Aditya Narayan Mishra, CEO of CIEL HR Services, a Bangalore-based firm.

Love at first sight has its pitfalls after all.

This article first appeared on Quartz

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.