How to Improve Employee Onboarding Experience through Design Thinking

Posted in Best Practice

Nobody likes being judged.

But everybody does it anyway.

As much as we try not to, our brains have a natural tendency to make internal judgements about everything we see.

That’s why, in any social interaction, we always want to put our best foot forward. Unfortunately, there’s often a mismatch between how we perceive ourselves and how other people see us.

Imagine someone walking into a cocktail party in their pajamas. The first thought we’d get would be, "Looks like someone didn’t get the memo."

In other words, there is some truth in the saying "first impressions never die," and the first impression that new hires make on their onboarding experience is no exception to that.

Sadly, traditional recruitment processes tend to neglect the onboarding stage. New hire engagement often drops after the candidate’s employment contract is signed, sealed and delivered.

Task completed!

HR officer over and out, or so you thought. Turns out, when communication stops after the contract signing, new hires end up feeling "ghosted" during the buffer period between the job offer acceptance and their scheduled first day.


The dreadful waiting game.

You might be wondering, “What's wrong with that?”

Well, there’s a list of reasons why, but one major issue in focus is that you could risk offsetting all the positive perceptions the new hire has of your company from their pre-onboarding phase by that one negative feeling in their onboarding experience. This is what The Gottman Institute calls the 5:1 Magic Ratio. This means, it only takes 1 negative interaction to cancel out 5 positive interactions.

Tread lightly.

That awkward dead silence from employers before the first day can give the impression of a cold and distant workplace culture. Remember, actions speak louder than words. You might be painting an image of a warm and approachable office environment in your recruitment ads, but feelings of disconnection during the critical onboarding phase can create distrust among new hires. What’s the drawback? Your new hire might already be hatching an escape plan, and they haven’t even began Day 1.

Giving someone the cold shoulder is never the way to go.

So, how can we provide a better employee onboarding experience to improve new hire retention?


Two words. Design Thinking.


By design thinking, we mean the systematic process of applying human-centric techniques to solve business problems with creative and innovative methodology. Where art meets science. In simple terms, it’s an approach aimed at creating solutions by addressing people’s needs.

To help set you up towards an A-grade onboarding process, we introduce to you the five steps of Design Thinking.


Step 1: Empathize
Know their story. Applying design thinking in building the onboarding experience of your new hires starts off with taking the time to observe and understand them.

So, get ready to go undercover. Leave no stone unturned. Through techniques such as journey mapping and storyboarding, you can better assess the points of interaction between your company and your new hire. From there, you gain a clearer idea of who your new hires are, which experiences are most important to them, and what activities they are most likely to engage in.

Get down to business, and find out what the people want!


Step 2: Define the Problem
Design thinking challenges HR managers to dig through the underlying problems that’s killing employee satisfaction.

Analyzing your new hire journey can lead to uncovering pitfalls in the onboarding process. By looking at a problem from different angles, HR managers are more likely to resolve unseen issues that’s been lurking around early on in the employee’s journey.

Indeed, the devil is in the details.


Step 3: Ideate
Design thinking encourages HR managers to avoid obvious solutions, and hit breakthrough ideas.

Don’t hold back! This is the time to let your imagination roam free.

Thinking outside the box can mean pushing past stiff and procedural new hire journeys, and moving towards more social and meaningful onboarding experiences. This means less reliance on formalities and paperwork, and crafting solutions that are simple, interactive and personal.

As the saying goes, fortune favors the bold.


Step 4: Prototype
Fail fast. Fail often. Fail forward.

Technology offers a plethora of features and tools that HR managers can tinker around with to help them turn ideas into tangible experiences.

More specifically, onboarding software provides the opportunity for HR managers to craft the journey of new hires without feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work it entails.

Letting your company’s personality shine through in your onboarding process can be an effective way to maintain that positive first impression among your new hires.


Step 5: Test
Feedback is your best friend.

Design Thinking is an iterative process that relies heavily on feedback to make consistent improvements to onboarding experiences.

When updating processes, test them out and always get feedback, even more so from the new hires themselves.

We always want to serve the best dish. Getting people to express what they think and how they feel is a way for us to know exactly what they want and need.

So go one step further. Asking new hires for their feedback can be a great way to make them feel valued and part of the team.



A little extra effort can go a long way!

Through design thinking, simple changes, like keeping in touch with new hires, can be small yet pivotal enhancements to onboarding experiences.

When we hand someone a job offer, it is because we want them. So show them you care!

Give your new hires the VIP treatment they deserve.

Here at Enboarder, we can help you build personalized onboarding experiences, you’ll see your employee satisfaction rating soar through the roof.

Don’t be a stranger, get a demo and find out more.

Start converting custom onboarding experiences into positive employee interactions.


Ready to rock onboarding? 👉