As the economic recovery ramps up, it’s likely your employees will start peeking over their current cubicle walls, eyeing the greener pastures beyond...

In light of this restlessness, employers need to have solid retention plans in place. While much attention has been devoted to shaping company culture for the long haul, and perhaps even improving the “candidate experience” prior to employment, what about that in-between sliver of time – a new hire’s very first day? Or week?

As the Wall Street Journal reported this spring, a sizable crop of employers are launching orientation sessions that feel “more collegiate than corporate,” organizing everything from scavenger hunts to lunches with the execs. The goal is to engage employees from the start – to make them feel welcome, integral, and immediately aware of not only the company’s policies, but its culture. Typically, they also celebrate the individuality of the new hire -- an approach which has already been shown to boost retention rates.

Recently, a study of orientation practices was conducted at Wipro, the third-largest IT services company in India. A research team of three business professors thought it was the perfect canvas for experimentation, considering the company's abysmal record with turnover.

First, they split the new recruits into three groups. In the control group, leaders conducted orientation the way Wipro usually did: assimilating newcomers by downplaying their individual identities (in this case, de-Indianizing their accents). In the second group, the discussion centered on company pride. These new hires were given sweatshirts bearing the company logo. In the third format, new hires were encouraged to express their own identities through questions like "What individual strengths would you exhibit if stranded on a life raft at sea?" Symbolically, they were given sweatshirts with their own names printed on them.

Seven months later, the individualistic method emerged as the clear victor, while the control group exhibited the worst retention rate - a full 47.2 percent higher than that of the "individual identity" group. Customers also seemed receptive to the individualized workers, posting high satisfaction.

There are countless ways to create an individualized and fun first day or week.  Maybe you give them gift bags filled with colorful stickers, buttons, and a pop phone (Fab.com). Maybe you mark their desk with a handmade welcome flag saying “Hi. I’m new. Come say hi!” (Birchbox). Maybe you use an app called Lunch Roulette to determine which random group of four is going out to lunch that first week (Warby Parker). Or perhaps, before their first day, you send not only a welcome letter but a gift card for dinner or money toward decorating their desk. (The Motley Fool).

The company that does it all, though, is Rackspace. At this IT hosting company based in San Antonio, their orientation looks more like a “Minute to Win It” episode, if it took place at a playground/sports stadium/food court:

From my perspective as a Millennial, the findings are not surprising. Having grown up in familial and school environments that encourage individuality, we feel comfortable both expressing ourselves and appreciating the unique traits of others.

Now, members of older generations may label these practices as “hand-holding”: just another way in which we are unwilling to grow up.  Perhaps an assumption exists that a new hire should automatically be excited about the new gig, and will become enamored with the company with time. From my perspective, if an employer rejects the findings, they’re also choosing to reject a surefire path to successful retention.

Tags: Millennial, Business, Retention, Orientation, The Motley Fool, Wall Street Journal, Wipro, Candidate experience, Economic recovery, First day, Fab.com, Birchbox, Lunch Roulette, Warby Parker, Rackspace, Minute to win it