Tom Cruise, Donuts, and the Power of Onboarding Videos

Creating onboarding videos like Dunkin Donuts

“What does your company do again?”
It’s a question many new hires dread. In today’s complex, global economy, businesses often offer niche services; even the most informed employee might find it difficult to explain to a friend or family member what their new company does.
A good onboarding video might help. In a short two- or three-minute clip, a CEO of a company can directly address every newcomer, guaranteeing they get clear, concise wording on what the value their company brings to the world without intermediaries. It helps the organization and it helps employees from scratching their heads and searching for words at family gatherings.
That’s just one way an onboarding video can be effective. There are many more. Onboarding videos can be inspirational and motivational. They can give remote workers a tour of headquarters, or give headquarter-based employees a tour of the field. They can be profound, or funny, or both. Done well, they can inspire generations of employees.

Legendary Onboarding Videos

U.S. Navy

Take Top Gun, the 1986 blockbuster movie starring Tom Cruise. Technically speaking, not an onboarding video. Rumor has it, however, that the flick is shown to every new Navy recruit, if they haven’t already seen it multiple times before. In essence, it’s used as an onboarding tool. Sure, it’s higher on inspiration than useful information for the average yeoman, but you can’t say it’s not effective.
Of course, most onboarding videos are more traditional, simple affairs.

Dunkin’ Donuts

Dunkin’ Donuts uses a down-to-earth, folksy onboarding video, that does a good job at conveying to hires what they are selling and how.  Scott Fanning, the president of Great American Donut, and Dunkin’ Donut franchisee, speaks naturally about the value his chain provides. It helps that probably every new hire is familiar with the delicious doughy product that they serve.


As a large, multinational, with a wide array of services, Cisco has a difficult job getting everybody on the same page. That’s why it brings employees from around the world to onboarding events featuring video briefings and discussion groups.

Like almost any product, onboarding videos have a limited shelf life. Onboarding videos need periodic reviewing. If yours features elbow-patched speakers with big, wavy hair and synthesizer soundtracks playing in the background, and do not star a young Tom Cruise or are parodic, it might be time to shoot a new one. It might be argued that the finite shelf life of each onboarding video is a reason in favor of creating them. It’s a healthy exercise self-inspection, renewal and revitalization, while for new hires, the targeted audience, it shows an effort has been made in welcoming them and arming them with knowledge.


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