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Placing employee experience at the core of onboarding programs

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Employee Experience at the Core of Onboarding Programs

Want to find out more about the key role of onboarding & get concrete tips to implement great onboarding programs?

Human beings are hard-wired to respond to experiences. It is this concept that has contributed to the rise of leading companies, such as Amazon and Netflix, and the crushing demise of their competitors. Today, understanding and optimizing User Experience (UX) and Customer Experience (CX) is a key strategic priority for business leaders.

Why offer an Employee Experience (EX)?

While the scope of “CX” is broader than that of “UX,” both disciplines deal with all the ways in which humans (users or customers) interact with products, brands and organizations, as well as how they feel about these interactions.

Investing in human-centered design is no longer optional in a highly competitive global economy– delivering both positive user and customer experiences is a critical competitive differentiator.

Similarly, as the war for talent intensifies, more and more companies are beginning to recognize the need to focus on and improve the experiences of employees in the workplace. A recent study by Mercer found that over 90% of organizations anticipated an increase in competition for talent compounded by more competition from emerging markets (1).

The increased competition to attract and retain top talent has given rise to the concept of the Employee Experience (EX). Much like UX and CX, EX has to do with the “perceptions that employees have about their experiences at work in response to their interactions with the organization.” Furthermore, research shows that a positive EX is linked to improved performance and higher retention rates (2).

Research reveals that 59% of organizations feel unprepared to adequately address the Employee Experience challenge. , and employees evaluating employers from the very beginning of the Employee Experience, what concrete actions can organizations take in engaging prospective and new employees? (3)

It’s valuable to begin by considering EX in terms of touchpoints in the employee journey that can be enhanced to provide a better Employee Experience. There’s little doubt that Onboarding is one of the most critical of these touchpoints because a great Onboarding experience is directly correlated to the engagement, performance and retention expectancy of new employees (4).

Offer the best employee experience during onboarding!

A new approach to Onboarding that builds on EX calls for a change in emphasis, from the process-driven, transactional aspects that serve HR to human-centered design that serves new hire needs and expectations.

The following EX capabilities, identified by Deloitte, can be applied to design employee centered Onboarding programs (5).

Using these EX capabilities as starting point, CrossKnowledge has identified three key interdependent. People-centered Onboarding programs must address: connection, engagement and performance.


Connecting the individual to the collective creates a sense of belonging and community for new employees. New hires want more opportunities to get to know their colleagues, and their manager, as part of their onboarding experience.

Aim to design social experiences, perhaps using cohort based activities, that enable new employees to interact with peers and strengthen their relationships with both colleagues and the company.


Getting the Onboarding design and delivery right is key to both a positive employee experience and driving engagement. New employees want to learn all they can about their new company. They also want to understand how their role and personal goals align with the corporate mission and vision. Aim to design a personalized, memorable, dedicated onboarding environment that compellingly reflects your company’s purpose.

Furthermore, engagement efforts are critical to helping the increasingly influential cohort of millennial employees thrive. Millennials’ expectations differ from those of other generations. They value a better designed experience that’s interactive, accessible and easy to use on their mobile devices.


Offering opportunities for development enables new employees to ramp-up to full productivity more quickly. Aim to provide both self-directed and blended learning experiences that focus on the right skills to support and accelerate performance. Incorporate steps such as giving regular feedback, ongoing conversations, coaching and on-the-job support. New employees experience a sense of achievement when they feel empowered to make contributions quickly.

Ultimately, the continued rise of EX will require HR and business leaders to rethink how they design workplace programs such as Onboarding. It means embracing a human centered design approach that considers and prioritizes the needs, pain points, expectations and values of new employees.