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illustration of employee trying to leave but there is a maganet pulling them back

This is your onboarding call…

Q&A with xDesign, onboarding extraordinaire and TIARA Talent Acquisition Award winners.

Content Insight

xDesign believes in making onboarding both fun and valuable.
The success of the onboarding programme is that it can flex based on intake numbers.
Fostering a culture of inclusivity and collaboration, encourages new hires to engage with peers.

Table of Contents





Debbie Walton

Editor at TALiNT International



xDesign, winners of the Excellence in Onboarding Award at the 2023 TIARA Talent Acquisition Awards spoke to TALiNT International Editor, Debbie Walton about their success in staff retention, donut sessions and effective feedback.

Innovative onboarding initiatives

TALiNT International: The judges highlighted the well-executed initiative with technology, gamification, and micro-sessions. Can you elaborate on the specific elements of this initiative that contributed to its success in onboarding new employees effectively?

xDesign: We utilise software to enhance our onboarding experience in various ways, such as our virtual pre-onboarding platform, HRIS system, virtual team-building exercises and virtual socials. These elements develop a deep community feel for new joiners from day one, allowing them to feel at ease and hit the ground running.

Our micro-sessions include virtual coffee chats, Donut sessions (where colleagues are randomly assigned a 15-minute chat with another colleague), and optional stand-ups. These provide new starters the opportunity to join informal sessions with team members from across the organisation, so they can learn about different aspects of the company, ask questions and build relationships.

We always aim to make our onboarding both fun and valuable. Gamifying our onboarding plays a key part in this. Our gamification elements include tools such as Miro, Wordwall, and Slido to create interactive sessions that encourage active participation, which we believe also has the added benefit of enhancing knowledge retention. As we use these platforms internally on a regular basis, this also means that new starters are familiarised with tools they will likely use in their role, and so can begin their work more effectively.

Technology integration 

TI: The use of technology was commended by the TIARA judges. Could you share insights into how technology was seamlessly integrated into the onboarding process, and what impact it had on the overall employee experience?

xD: We have implemented a pre-onboarding space where we provide incoming employees access to an online platform that houses all onboarding materials and resources. This allows new hires to access information at their convenience, providing flexibility in their learning process. The space incorporates helpful information relating to the organisation, such as our company values and employee benefits. It also features information relating to different departments within the company so they can engage with material ahead of starting in their new roles. We believe removing the unknowns ahead of the start date reduces stress, and encourages a seamless integration into the business.

Gamification for engagement

TI: What outcomes or improvements did you observe in terms of employee participation and satisfaction?

xD: We have gamified elements of various sessions but have particularly focused on ones that are values-based, which provide new joiners an opportunity to create and collaborate on activities related to our company culture. The gamification element has helped reinforce positive desired behaviours and promote our inclusive work culture. There is a particular focus on ensuring that we cater to individual needs and learning styles – our values are an integral part of our organisational culture and ensuring that they can be understood and embedded by all has been key for cultural assimilation.

By incorporating gamified elements into our values-based sessions, we witnessed a stronger integration of new joiners into our company culture. Employees gained a deeper understanding of our values and felt a greater sense of belonging. The introduction of gamified elements also sparked higher levels of participation among new joiners. Employees were eager to contribute to activities and discussions, leading to more dynamic and interactive sessions. We Collaborate is one of our values and is something that our new joiners are encouraged to do from day one. Encompassing gamified activities and emphasising collaboration has fostered a strong sense of teamwork and unity, which has proved particularly helpful for new joiners when getting started on their first projects.

Micro-sessions approach

TI: The judges mentioned the use of micro-sessions. How did you structure these micro-sessions, and what advantages did they bring to the onboarding programme in terms of learning retention and employee adaptation?

xD: Micro-sessions were structured as short, focused modules covering specific topics relevant to the onboarding process. These included sessions on our values, departmental overviews, and optional drop-ins, which were designed to be digestible and spaced out throughout their first week so that new hires were able to absorb information effectively. This enabled greater flexibility as employees could complete them at their own pace, fitting them into their schedules seamlessly. By allowing new employees space between sessions and having optional sessions to drop into, we observed increased engagement across the board.

Retention and probation pates 

TI: The judges noted excellent retention and probation rates associated with your onboarding initiative. Can you share specific metrics or success stories that highlight the impact of onboarding on employee retention and successful completion of probation periods?

xD: We continuously collect feedback from new joiners who participate in the onboarding programme, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Many new joiners have expressed an appreciation for the thoroughness of the onboarding process, stating that it provided them with the necessary tools, resources and support from across the organisation to succeed in their roles. The implementation of the onboarding programme resulted in a notable increase in probation completion rates. We saw a 100% probation pass rate across the business, which suggests that the onboarding programme effectively prepared employees for their roles, leading to greater confidence and competence during the probationary period.

We have also had a 97% retention rate with only two people exiting the company from 1st October (when the programme was introduced) to now. Beyond this, our efforts have seen us achieve an overall retention score of 94% (obtained from the June 22-23 period), compared to a sector average of 14%.

Adaptability and scalability

TI: How did you design the initiative to be adaptable to different roles and scalable as the organisation grows? What considerations were made to ensure its effectiveness in various departments and levels?

xD: We built the onboarding programme so that it could flex based on intake numbers. We wanted to ensure that the process could accommodate the growth of the organisation without compromising its quality and effectiveness. This included utilising and implementing scalable platforms, to create spaces for individuals to access and engage with the right information and resources at the right time.

We structured sessions into modular components that could be customised based on the various roles being acquired. All sessions addressed the core onboarding objectives, but they also each had role-specific flexibility in the information and resources provided. Every team is different, and allowing managers and team leaders to personalise their onboarding experience for their respective teams reflects the role with more accuracy, and creates a more effective transition into the business. We always collect feedback after onboarding is complete, and after receiving fantastic feedback across multiple disciplines, we can be confident that our process is successfully adaptable and scalable.

Feedback and continuous improvement

 TI: How do you gather feedback from new hires regarding the onboarding process, and how has this feedback loop contributed to the continuous improvement of your onboarding initiatives?

xD: Feedback from new joiners is obtained through surveys via our people success platform, Lattice. An initial survey is sent out after they have completed their first week at xDesign and a further survey is sent out after their first two months of employment. We also facilitate an onboarding round-up session on the last day of their first week, which provides new joiners with an opportunity to talk about their highlights of the week and offer direct feedback on their experience.

This feedback loop is instrumental in identifying areas for improvement and making iterative enhancements to the onboarding process. By actively listening to employee input and incorporating their suggestions, we are able to continuously refine and enhance the onboarding experience.

Employee integration beyond onboarding

 TI: Onboarding is just the beginning of an employee’s journey. How does xDesign continue to integrate and support employees beyond the initial onboarding phase, ensuring a smooth transition into the organisation’s culture and ongoing success?

xD: Beyond the initial onboarding phase, we ensure that xDesigners receive ongoing support so they can continue to integrate beyond their first week. This includes regular check-ins with their managers, team members and onboarding buddies, as well as the cohort that they started their journeys with.

We frequently offer opportunities for professional development so that individuals can continue to grow and unleash their potential. New joiners are encouraged to create personalised development plans tailored to their career goals. We provide access to a wide range of learning resources including online courses, webinars, workshops and in-house run sessions. They are encouraged to explore areas of interest and proactively seek out opportunities for skill development. We also promote cross-functional collaboration and encourage new joiners to work across and engage with various teams and departments.

We foster a culture of inclusivity and collaboration, encouraging new hires to engage with their peers and participate in company-wide initiatives. By providing ongoing support and fostering a sense of belonging, we ensure that employees can thrive and succeed in the long term.