How to Improve Employee Onboarding Experience through Design Thinking

Posted in Employee Experience

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.

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.

Transitioning from pre-boarding to onboarding

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 one negative interaction to cancel out five positive interactions.

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 one.

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

How can we provide a better onboarding experience to improve new hire retention?

According to Harvard Business Review, implementing a formal onboarding program can lead to 50% greater employee retention and 62% greater productivity. Gallup data shows a positive onboarding experience is linked to employees feeling 3x as likely to feel supported in their role.

Design thinking can help you improve your onboarding experience so you can see these kind of results.

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 few more tips to enhance your onboarding experience

Looking to really up your onboarding game? Here are a few other tips to keep in mind:

  • Decide what success looks like: Think about which onboarding metrics matter, such as percentage of hires still employed at your company after one year, and report on your progress.
  • Build cross-department connections: Make sure you set up time with other teams, and if your company is small enough, with your CEO. Our paper with RedThread Research found organizations with more connection are 5.4x more likely to be agile, 3.2x more likely to have satisfied customers, and 2.3x more likely to have engaged employees.
  • Make it your #1 priority to be supportive: Ask yourself, “How can I deliver information in the most engaging way? How can I make employees’ lives easier? How can I better support them?
  • Aim to inspire, not just inform: Rather than just drowning new hires in endless policy documents, make sure to include things like informal lunches and welcomes videos.
  • Get personal: Our research shows personalization is the biggest thing employees want during onboarding. Your program should allow space for employees to bring their authentic selves to work and allow time for one-on-one feedback.

A little extra effort can go a long way!

Through design thinking, simple changes can be small, yet pivotal enhancements to onboarding experiences. When you hand someone a job offer, it’s because you want them. So show them you care!

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

Don’t be a stranger, get a demo and find out how you can start converting custom onboarding experiences into positive employee interactions.

Become an Enboarder insider!