Combining Comedy with Community, Justworks’ Onboarding Program Gets It Just Right

With nods to Billy on the Street and chats with top executives, Justworks’ JustStart program is more than your average new hire orientation.

Written by Olivia McClure
Published on Jun. 09, 2023
Combining Comedy with Community, Justworks’ Onboarding Program Gets It Just Right
Justworks
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If you’re familiar with Billy Eichner’s Billy on the Street comedic quiz show, then you already have a glimpse into Justworks’ onboarding program, JustStart. 

That’s because the company has its own resident comedian helping to lead the program: People Experience Manager Gabe Haney

Not only does Haney have a leading role in the company’s onboarding training videos, but he also plays a part in creating engaging experiences. And in his mind, one of the best ways to help new hires get to know each other is by bringing them together and asking them pop culture questions at random while on camera. 

“Sometimes I’ll say, ‘You have five seconds to name your favorite Meryl Streep movie,’ or ‘Name 10 ways in which Viola Davis was robbed at the Emmys,’” Haney said. 

Haney and his team then gather clips of employees’ answers and compile them into a video, which is shared with the rest of the company during an all-hands meeting. With each onboarding class being a different size (and often bigger than the last), this dynamic alternative to the typical new-hire introduction has become a key component of the onboarding process. 

Although knowing a new colleague loves the film Out of Africa may not be business critical, Haney believes these on-screen exchanges are essential for one simple reason: they start conversations. 

 Group Product Manager Justin Petrillo got to experience this firsthand when he joined the company last fall. He recalls how he and others in his onboarding class bonded while discussing their answers with each other. 

“It was helpful with building camaraderie and getting to know other people,” Petrillo said. 

JustStart was launched with the intention of making new hires, such as Petrillo, feel like they belong at the company from the moment they step into their roles. Haney said the program was created to cultivate these organic moments of connection while supporting new employees throughout their first 90 days. 

For Haney, making a good impression during the first three months of an employee’s tenure is critical, which is why his team aims to make every new hire feel as integrated and appreciated as possible. While this focus is especially evident in the onboarding program, it’s also reflected across the organization, starting from the very top. 

“Our leaders really understand that the key to keeping people is to put them in a place where they feel taken care of and their professional and personal growth matters,” Haney said. 

 

ABOUT JUSTWORKS 

Justworks’ software offers businesses support with payroll, benefits, HR and compliance. The company currently has offices in NYC, Tampa and Toronto.

 

Photo of Justworks’ reception desk with “Work Fearlessly” on wall and zigzag lighting above.
Justworks

 

Feeling Seen and Supported

Some companies wait several months after an employee joins their team before discussing professional growth plans. But at Justworks, new hires start growing from the get-go. 

The company initiates career-development conversations as new employees are still getting settled in. By taking part in a growth check-in within the first 30 days of their employment, Haney said, team members get to start mapping out their professional growth plan early on. 

Soon after this, new hires get to familiarize themselves with the wider organization by participating in a luncheon with the executive leadership team, during which leaders answer questions submitted anonymously by employees. Haney noted that this laid-back meet-and-greet with higher-ups has become many employees’ favorite aspect of the onboarding process. 

New team members across the company have equal access to these enriching opportunities, regardless of whether they work out of the company’s NYC headquarters. Kayla Comeaux, sales manager and launch captain for the company’s recently opened Tampa office, said Justworks has ensured new hires based in Florida get to experience every aspect of the onboarding process. 

Members of the leadership team, including CEO Michael Seckler, have been traveling to Tampa over the past few months to take part in fireside chats. Having leaders present onsite allows employees to ask them questions directly, adding a more personal touch to the experience. 

“It creates openness, which is part of our values as well,” Comeaux said. 

New hires also have the chance to connect with each other during fun events. Comeaux noted that a Tampa-based onboarding class recently attended a local hockey game together and held a Black History Month celebration, the latter of which introduced them to the company’s Black ERG, Blackworks. 

While new hires are encouraged to join one of the company’s eight ERGs, they can also engage with each through various Slack channels, including one dedicated to those who are onboarding. Petrillo noted that this Slack channel was essential during his early days at the company, as it enabled him to ask questions and gave him a good sense of how team members operate in a hybrid setting. 

“It sets you up to understand how people work and how to adjust to that,” Petrillo said. 

 

‘MORE THAN JUST WORDS ON A WALL’

According to Haney, Justworks’ core values — camaraderie, openness, grit, integrity and simplicity — are more than just words on a wall; they’re evident across the company from the moment new hires join the team. For instance, simplicity is reflected in the company’s product itself as well as in the way team members communicate. “We try not to have a meeting about a meeting,” Haney said. “We try to get to the nuts and bolts of what we’re doing.”

 

For Comeaux, these values define how team members collaborate with each other and build relationships, both personally and professionally. “It’s values that we can really live by,” she said. 

 

An Unfinished Story

Comeaux, who compared the company to “a moving spaceship that’s being built in the sky,” said Justworks is steadily making progress while embracing improvements along the way; a sentiment that applies directly to the JustStart program. To keep up with ongoing transformation, the company is ready to employ creative approaches for new-hire orientation. 

“The more we continue to take risks and explore, the better,” Comeaux said. 

 

“The more we continue to take risks and explore, the better.”

 

As the JustStart program continues to evolve, so too does Justworks’ approach to technical innovation. After launching its first mobile app last year, Petrillo said, the organization aims to take the same intentionality that went into that product and apply it to its member experience tools. This will make it easier for clients to explore their benefits options. 

“That’s where we’re going next on our journey, and it’s exciting to see,” he said. 

Those who join Justworks over the next few months will get to play a part in shaping this exciting future. For Comeaux, this ability to make an impact — regardless of tenure — sets the organization apart. 

“You’re not just another number joining the company,” she said. “This company does a really great job with getting people involved right away while sharing that sense of importance and camaraderie.” 

Justworks isn’t your average large company that’s set in its ways, Haney said. Rather, he sees it as an ever-evolving, complex organization that is constantly adapting to better meet the needs of its clients and its people. 

Every day brings different challenges, which is something Haney loves about his job. And for new hires, this desire to achieve more means they’ll have ample chances to define the company’s future — in other words, help write the next chapter. 

“Our story is not done being written,” Haney said. “We’re working on so many things that are going to transform our business.” 

 

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images provided by Justworks.

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