6 tips to improve onboarding for new employees

Written by 
Bryan Kitch
September 20, 2023
A graphic with the text 'Make onboarding memorable'
6 tips to improve onboarding for new employees
Written by 
Bryan Kitch
September 20, 2023

How to improve onboarding? Make it visual

Effective onboarding is crucial for organizations to make sure new employees feel welcomed, supported, and equipped to succeed in their roles. 

In this blog post, we'll explore the importance of a human-centered and holistic onboarding process and provide practical tips to enhance the onboarding experience for new hires.

Why new employee onboarding is important

Before diving into the tips, let's address the question, "What's in it for me?" New employee onboarding offers several benefits.

Increased productivity

Well-structured onboarding programs help new hires become productive faster, reducing the time it takes for them to contribute to the organization's goals.

Improved retention

A positive onboarding experience fosters a sense of belonging and engagement, increasing the likelihood that new employees will stay with the company long-term.

Enhanced job satisfaction

When new hires feel supported and have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities, they're more likely to experience job satisfaction and perform at their best.

What a good onboarding process looks like

To create an effective onboarding process, it's essential to consider the four Cs of onboarding, as defined by the SHRM Foundation:

  1. Compliance: Make sure new employees understand and follow legal and regulatory requirements related to their roles.
  2. Clarification: Provide clear expectations, goals, and performance metrics to help new hires understand their responsibilities and how they contribute to the organization's success.
  3. Connection: Foster relationships and connections between new employees and their colleagues, managers, and mentors to create a supportive network.
  4. Culture: Introduce new hires to the organization's values, mission, and culture, helping them align their behaviors and actions accordingly.

6 Tips for improving onboarding for new employees

1. Design a plan for each key phase of onboarding

Create a structured roadmap that outlines the activities and information new employees need to know before their first day, during their first week, first 90 days, and first year. This plan should be comprehensive and tailored to the organization's specific needs.

Designing a plan for each key phase of onboarding involves breaking down the onboarding process into specific stages and outlining the activities, resources, and goals for each phase. 

Here are some concrete ways to design a plan for each key phase of onboarding:

Before the First Day:

  • Send a welcome email or package to new hires, including important information such as their start date, dress code, and any pre-employment paperwork.
  • Provide access to necessary systems, tools, and resources, such as email accounts, project management software, or training materials.
  • Assign pre-reading or pre-training materials to familiarize new hires with the company's culture, values, and policies.

First Day:

  • Schedule a comprehensive orientation session to introduce new hires to the organization's mission, vision, and values.
  • Conduct a tour of the office or a virtual office tour, highlighting key areas and introducing new hires to their colleagues.
  • Assign a buddy or mentor to guide new hires through their first day, answer questions, and provide support.

First Week:

  • Provide an overview of the team's structure, roles, and responsibilities, including introductions to key team members.
  • Offer training sessions or workshops on essential tools, processes, and systems used within the organization.
  • Assign small projects or tasks to allow new hires to apply their skills and gain hands-on experience.

First 90 Days:

  • Set clear goals and expectations for new hires, outlining what they should achieve within the first 90 days.
  • Schedule regular check-ins with managers or mentors to provide feedback, address concerns, and offer guidance.
  • Offer opportunities for new hires to attend team meetings, cross-functional sessions, or training programs to broaden their understanding of the organization.

First Year:

  • Conduct performance reviews or evaluations to assess new hires' progress and provide constructive feedback.
  • Offer opportunities for professional development, such as training programs, workshops, or conferences.
  • Encourage new hires to set long-term goals and create a career development plan.

When designing the plan for each phase, consider the specific needs and goals of your organization. Tailor the activities and resources to align with your company's culture, values, and industry. Additionally, ensure that the plan is flexible enough to accommodate individual differences and adapt to changing circumstances.

Remember, the key is to provide a structured and comprehensive roadmap that guides new hires through their onboarding journey, ensuring they have the necessary information, support, and resources to succeed in their roles.

2. Build out your onboarding in your team's everyday tools

Use project management tools, HR management systems, or visual work platforms like Mural to centralize and streamline the onboarding process. This makes sure that all relevant information and resources are easily accessible to new hires.

​​When building out an onboarding program with your people operations team, it's important to consider using the right tools to streamline and enhance the onboarding experience. Here are some tools you should consider and why they can be beneficial:

HR management systems 

HR management systems, such as BambooHR, Workday, or Namely, provide a centralized platform to manage employee data, automate administrative tasks, and track onboarding progress. These systems allow you to efficiently handle paperwork, track employee information, and ensure compliance with legal and regulatory requirements.

Project management tools

Project management tools like Asana, Trello, or Monday.com can be useful for organizing and tracking the various tasks and activities involved in the onboarding process. These tools enable you to create checklists, assign tasks to team members, set deadlines, and monitor progress, making sure that nothing falls through the cracks during the onboarding journey.

Visual collaboration platforms

Visual work platforms, such as Mural and Microsoft Teams, provide virtual spaces for teams to collaborate, brainstorm, and share information. These platforms can be used to create interactive onboarding materials, facilitate virtual meet-and-greets, and encourage collaboration among new hires and their colleagues.

Learning management systems (LMS)

LMS platforms can be valuable for delivering and tracking training materials and courses during the onboarding process. These systems allow you to create and distribute interactive training modules, quizzes, and assessments, providing that new hires receive the necessary knowledge and skills to excel in their roles.

Communication and messaging tools

Effective communication is crucial during the onboarding process. Tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Google Chat provide instant messaging, video conferencing, and file-sharing capabilities, enabling seamless communication and collaboration between new hires, their managers, and team members. These tools foster real-time communication, making it easier to address questions, provide feedback, and build connections.

Employee onboarding software

Dedicated employee onboarding software can streamline and automate the onboarding process. These tools offer features like personalized onboarding workflows, automated task assignments, and interactive employee portals, providing a consistent and engaging onboarding experience for new hires.

When selecting tools for your onboarding program, consider factors such as ease of use, integration capabilities with existing systems, scalability, and cost.

3. Visualize important workflows and team processes

Visual representations, such as flowcharts, diagrams, or process maps, provide a clear and concise overview of how workflows and processes function. They break down complex information into easily digestible visual elements, making it easier for team members to understand the steps, dependencies, and interactions involved. Visuals eliminate ambiguity and make sure everyone is on the same page, reducing misunderstandings and errors.

Related: Visual Collaboration: What It Is & How To Get Started

Read on to see why visual collaboration is the key to unlocking outstanding onboarding experiences. 

4. Build company culture into your onboarding

Incorporate activities, such as team-building exercises, virtual meet-and-greets, or storytelling sessions, to introduce new hires to the organization's culture. This helps them feel connected and aligned with the company's values and mission.

Here are some tangible ways to incorporate company culture into your onboarding:

Welcome package

Create a welcome package for new hires that includes items representing your company culture, such as branded merchandise, company values cards, or a welcome letter from the CEO. This sets the tone and introduces new hires to the unique aspects of your culture from the start.

Culture presentation

Dedicate a portion of the onboarding program to a culture presentation. This can be delivered by a senior leader or a representative from the people operations team. The presentation should cover the company's mission, vision, values, and key cultural aspects. Use real-life examples and stories to illustrate how these values are lived within the organization.

Culture handbook

Develop a culture handbook or guide that provides an in-depth overview of your company's culture. Include information about the history, values, rituals, and traditions that shape your organization. This handbook can serve as a reference for new hires to understand and align with the company culture.

Cultural immersion activities

Incorporate interactive activities into the onboarding process that allow new hires to experience and engage with the company culture. This can include team-building exercises, group discussions, or role-playing scenarios that reflect the values and behaviors you want to promote.

Mentorship and buddy programs

Pair new hires with mentors or buddies who embody the company culture. These mentors can guide new hires, answer questions, and provide insights into how the culture is lived day-to-day. Encourage mentors to share personal experiences and stories that highlight the importance of culture within the organization.

Cross-functional introductions

Facilitate introductions and interactions between new hires and employees from different teams or departments. This exposes new hires to a diverse range of perspectives and allows them to witness how the company culture is manifested across various functions.

Culture ambassador sessions

Organize sessions where employees from different levels and roles share their experiences and perspectives on the company culture. These sessions can be in the form of panel discussions, Q&A sessions, or informal coffee chats. This provides new hires with multiple viewpoints and reinforces the importance of culture throughout the organization.

Ongoing culture integration

Ensure that the company culture is consistently reinforced beyond the onboarding process. Incorporate culture-related activities, events, or initiatives into regular team meetings, performance reviews, and company-wide communications. This helps new hires see that culture isn't just a one-time introduction but an integral part of the organization's DNA.

Remember, building company culture into your onboarding process requires a holistic approach that combines both formal and informal methods. It's important to create an environment where new hires feel welcomed, engaged, and empowered to embrace and contribute to the company culture from Day One.

5. Use templates to scale team onboarding

Develop standardized templates for onboarding materials, such as welcome emails, training materials, and checklists. This provides consistency and saves time when onboarding multiple new hires.

With Mural, you can scale your onboarding capacity, and provide the most engaging experience possible for new employees, regardless of their location. 

Here are a few ways (including free templates) to use Mural’s visual work platform to enhance your onboarding process.

Onboarding checklist

Create a checklist template in Mural to outline the key tasks and activities that new hires need to complete during their onboarding journey. This template can include items such as paperwork, training modules, introductions to team members, and setting up necessary tools and systems. New hires can mark off completed tasks, providing a visual representation of their progress.

One fun way to do this is with the Mural road trip onboarding template, which visualizes the onboarding process as a trip across country. 

An image of the Mural onboarding road trip template
Check out the Mural onboarding road trip template

New hire welcome mural

Design a welcome mural to introduce new hires to the company, team members, and important resources. Include sections for personal introductions, team information, company values, and links to relevant documents or websites. This template encourages new hires to engage with their colleagues and explore the available resources.

Team introduction mural

Create a team introduction template in Mural to facilitate virtual introductions between new hires and their team members. Include sections for team member profiles, roles and responsibilities, and fun facts. This template helps new hires familiarize themselves with their team and encourages interaction and connection.

Onboarding timeline

Design an onboarding timeline template in Mural to visually represent the duration and sequence of onboarding activities. Include milestones, deadlines, and key events. This template provides new hires with a clear overview of what to expect during their onboarding journey and helps them stay organized and on track.

Training and resources hub

Create a training and resources hub template in Mural to centralize all the training materials, resources, and links that new hires need. Include sections for training modules, videos, documents, and FAQs. This template serves as a one-stop-shop for new hires to access the information and materials they need to learn and succeed in their roles.

Virtual meet-and-greet

Design a virtual meet-and-greet template in Mural to facilitate introductions and interactions between new hires and their colleagues. Include sections for icebreaker questions, fun facts, and discussion topics. This template encourages engagement and helps new hires build connections with their teammates.

A great way to structure this for distributed teams is to use the Mural world map template — have everyone put their photo over their location, and share something cool about where they live.

An image of the Mural world map template
Need inspiration for a team offsite? Get started with the Mural world map template

Feedback and reflection mural

Create a feedback and reflection mural to gather feedback from new hires about their onboarding experience. Include sections for feedback on the process, training, and overall experience. This template allows new hires to share their thoughts, suggestions, and concerns, enabling continuous improvement of the onboarding program.

Remember, Mural is a highly customizable ‌platform, and you can adapt these templates to fit your specific onboarding needs. You can also explore the Mural template library for additional templates and inspiration.

6. Check in at key milestones and get feedback on the onboarding process

Regularly assess the effectiveness of your onboarding process by seeking feedback from new employees. Conduct check-ins at key milestones to address any concerns, provide additional support, and make necessary adjustments to improve the onboarding experience.

Why visual work is the secret to a great onboarding experience

Visual work plays a crucial role in enhancing the onboarding experience and facilitating connection between new hires. Here's how.

Simplifies complex information

Onboarding often involves a lot of information, including company policies, procedures, team structures, and workflows. Visualizing this information through diagrams, flowcharts, or infographics helps simplify complex concepts and makes them easier to understand. Visual representations provide a clear and concise overview, allowing new hires to grasp the big picture quickly.

Enhances comprehension and memory retention

Visuals have been proven to enhance comprehension and aid in information retention. When new hires can see the information presented visually, it helps them process and remember it more effectively. Visuals engage different parts of the brain, making the information more memorable and increasing the likelihood of retention.

Promotes active participation

Visual work encourages new hires to actively engage with the onboarding process. By involving them in creating or interacting with visual materials, such as collaborative whiteboards or interactive presentations, new hires become active participants rather than passive recipients of information. This active participation fosters a sense of ownership and investment in their own onboarding journey.

Facilitates collaboration and connection

Visual work provides a platform for new hires to collaborate with their colleagues and build connections. For example, using collaborative whiteboard tools like Mural allows new hires to contribute ideas, share insights, and work together on visualizing team processes or brainstorming sessions. This collaborative environment promotes interaction, encourages teamwork, and helps new hires establish connections with their peers.

Supports multimodal learning

Visual work caters to those who are visual learners. By incorporating visual elements into the onboarding process, organizations can accommodate diverse learning preferences and make sure that new hires receive information in a way that resonates with them. This inclusivity promotes a more effective and personalized onboarding experience.

Creates a lasting impression

Visuals have a lasting impact on individuals. When new hires encounter visually appealing and well-designed materials during their onboarding, it leaves a positive impression and reinforces the organization's commitment to a thoughtful and engaging onboarding process. This positive experience contributes to their overall satisfaction and engagement with the company.

By incorporating visual elements into the onboarding process, organizations can create a more engaging, memorable, and effective onboarding experience for new hires.

Set the stage for your new employees with successful onboarding

By implementing these tips, organizations can create a human-centered and holistic onboarding process that sets new employees up for success. Remember, a well-designed onboarding experience not only benefits the new hires but also contributes to the overall growth and success of the organization.

Investing in a human-centered onboarding process is crucial for organizations to maximize the potential of their new hires. By leveraging tools like Mural, organizations can streamline and enhance the onboarding experience, fostering a sense of belonging for new team members.

About the authors

About the authors

Bryan Kitch

Bryan Kitch

Content Marketing Manager
Bryan is a Content Marketing Manager @ MURAL. When he's not writing or working on content strategy, you can usually find him outdoors.