Improving the New Hire Experience through the Development of Human-Centered Onboarding Practices

Date of Award


Degree Name

Ed.D. in Leadership for Organizations


Department of Educational Administration


Matthew Witenstein


The first year of employment is a critical time that significantly impacts new hire perceptions of the organization and their level of engagement. This experience, commonly referred to using the term "onboarding," is the complex process of facilitating the new hire's adjustment to the organization and providing them with a clear understanding of their role within it (Karambelkar & Bhattacharya, 2017; Klein et al., 2015). This time also significantly determines whether the new employee will ultimately choose to remain with the organization. The new hires who perform at the highest level and deliver optimal outcomes expect that their organization see them as valued partners, and that genuine interest is taken in who they are as multidimensional people with lives outside work (Caldwell & Peters, 2018). For many organizations, this critical time is squandered, with the focus being on employee assimilation and routine checklists versus understanding the new hires' unique skills and needs. In this participatory action research study, the author used a mixed methods approach and three-stage exploratory design process to co-create a human-centered onboarding process. The goal was to ensure that new hires have the resources and interactions necessary to perceive role clarity, a sense of belonging, and psychological safety. The researcher developed a Taxonomy of Love in Onboarding as the framework to develop both the survey and focus group questions, and to guide the data analysis and subsequent program development. The primary research question asked whether a semi-structured onboarding process can be designed to reciprocally meet the organization's goals while providing new hires with all necessary elements to perceive belonging, contribute to the organization's success, and recognize their safety to challenge norms and express alternate opinions. Compared to traditional onboarding processes, which typically focus on the needs of the organization, this study placed the new hires at the center of the process. The research and outcomes demonstrate how the taxonomy and human-centered design process yield outcomes that first serve the people, a necessary component for the people to be enabled to truly engage with the organizational mission and vision.


Business Administration, Cultural Anthropology, Department of Educational Administration., Health Care Management, Information Technology, Labor Relations, Management, Multicultural Education, Organization Theory, Organizational Behavior, Public Administration, Social Psychology, Social Research, Systems Design, onboarding, human-centered, critical theory of love, belonging, inclusion, psychological safety, Appreciative Inquiry, Funds of Knowledge

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