This project exists in every organisation

Every one of our clients has one common task.

They all onboard new employees.
Larger clients may do it daily, others weekly and some monthly. The frequency may change but the task itself – introducing a new employee to an existing environment – is common to all.

The exciting thing is onboarding is an activity improved by design.
Second exciting thing is the onboarding budget is most often separate to the Communications, Advertising or Marketing budget.


Every business must manage staff turnover as efficiently and effectively as possible. Used to be new staff were met with a handshake, shown where to put their stuff and where to sit, and left to do the job.

Problem is, as we get to almost full employment, it’s a seller’s market. Finding the right people is difficult, then managing their expectations and their perceptions of the business and it’s staff is becoming increasingly important.

Luckily that’s all about brand, and that’s fairly and squarely in our remit.

Better still, successful onboarding has a direct ROI.

Successful onboarding improves productivity, employee engagement, retention and it increases compliance. Increased compliance makes life easier for managers. Sure, there are software solutions available but the better way is to make the process personable.

Luckily that’s all about human centred design and that’s fairly and squarely in our remit

Begin each day as humans but technology and pace of change make us feel a little bit less human*.

Activities within onboarding

Design activities during the onboarding process include but are not limited to:

The before

The now: understanding the current process, what works and what doesn’t. Introduce tools like an employee journey map to write your own brief.

The advertisement: design of an advertisement to ensure it’s on brand. But is an advertisement the solution? Think Defence Department videos, think links to specific website pages. Introduce new ways to attract talent.

The collateral: marketing collateral to build perception. Corporate video, relevant, updated website, inspiring brand photo library.

The interview

The space: ensure the space reflects the culture of the organisation. Think large digital output, think video playing in the background, think inspiring meeting room naming, think wayfinding. Ensure the organisation’s culture is on show in the reception area.

The conversation: use collateral to explain the business culture. Perhaps the brand vision is captured in motion or animation. Could be visualised in a culture booklet. Could be better use of the annual or sustainability report.

The documentation: prepare a dynamic organisation chart so candidates can better understand their place in the business – could be online/interactive/animated. Make an impression with job descriptions.

The first day

The welcome: design of an innovative welcome pack reflecting the organisation’s brand and culture. What does it physically look like, feel like, wear like? Collateral such as lanyards.

The process: use the best of service design. When do they come, where do they come and who they meet? Then what they do? Do they arrive at 10am to ensure everyone is settled and ready? On a Tuesday, so everyone has the Monday to prepare?

The training: strategic design using a mixture of online and face to face training. Could include interactive training videos, motion graphics, or animation. Supported by bespoke printed materials and directories.

The contracts: introduce a designed visual employment contract (it’s been done before) — or animate the social contract.

The first week

The event: What are the insights from the employee journey map. Perhaps collateral for a monthly morning tea for all newbies? Invitation to a walking meeting to introduce local coffee/lunchshops?

The environment: introduce the concept of a buddy book – a workbook introducing one employee to another to make the onboarding more comfortable, more personable, more human.

It’s becoming harder to actually do a job –
so many things, processes and technology gets in the way

The power of the workplace experience is not to be underestimated. Employees want to relate to workplaces that provide employees with an environment where they can excel and thrive. As designers we can help integrate the human experience with the necessary technology.

Take away

This information comes from insights from our self-funded Design Maturity research conducted in 2019.

The research

  • analysed the link between the mature use of design and the success of Australian private companies, and
  • identified activities done by organisations to creative value for its market.

What we found — and documented in case studies – was the more integrated and innovative the use of design, more socially and finally successful the company. More information about the research here. If you’d like a copy of the report, contact me.

What do you think? Got any problems/questions? As always, happy to discuss further, just email.

*Volume 03, Issue O1. Make. Delloite.

Carol Mackay

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About Carol Mackay

After 30+ years running a graphic design firm, I pivoted from client-focused projects to consult to the design industry. Now with the Design Business Council I use my experience, and research, as a design mentor and coach. I help designers build robust, sustainable businesses, and help businesses integrate, and profit from, design.

The core of the DBC is the building a design community – over 85% of designers work in businesses with less than 5 employees, many less than 3. That means designers don’t have the same support network of other professionals. The DBC’s solution is supplement paid gigs with research, mentoring breakfast meet-ups, informative UNseminars and practical workshops in Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.

An archive of my previous career is at
My current work can be viewed at and

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