Corporate Employee Onboarding Program

Igniting cultural transformation through onboarding.

ANN INC, the parent company of Ann Taylor and LOFT, recognized the need to refresh their corporate Home Office onboarding materials. The current employee onboarding program content was outdated and did not reflect the capability of a brand-known fashion retailer. Our task was to bring a ”modern day” reset to its purpose, its identity and its distribution.

Our Assignment – Redesign the Onboarding Program

Vignette’s role was to strategically lead the redesign of the onboarding program with a core business objective of making the content and materials more accessible, easier to understand, engaging from an employer brand perspective, and ultimately help new associates get their careers in motion. To drive the change at Home Office, we developed an employee promotional campaign to raise awareness and activation around the new content and materials.

Insights About Onboarding Process and Culture

We first guided ANN stakeholders through a process to define the ideal state of the program and its measures of success. What did they hope to accomplish? In a perfect world, how would this new program educate and motivate new hires? Our objectives were to:

  • Lay a clear foundation so new hires could easily understand their role, responsibilities, and future career opportunities.
  • Maintain the momentum of the recruiting process by keeping new hires engaged and passionate about their role in the Company.
  • ANN INC was going through a transformation process to elevate their brand, which became a major dependency to our work so our brand vision could be guided by the new brand guidelines.
  • The program should lower the turnover rate of new hires within the first year at the Company.

With leadership’s ideal outcome in mind, it was now time to understand how to achieve these objectives by better understanding the associate’s perspective of the organization. We interviewed over two hundred people at the Home Office. From senior leaders to recent hires we began to truly understand the current onboarding process and culture. What we uncovered was a cultural gap between what HR believed to be happening, versus what was actually happening during the first year for any employee or associate working at ANN INC.

Building a Supportive Culture for New Employees Became a Major Pillar in Our Strategy

Through surveys and interviews, and further data analysis, we uncovered that new hires who made it through their first year tended to have a long tenure at the Company. The first year was key. Building a supportive culture for new employees became a major pillar in our strategy. This process delivered many insights that we summarized and presented through a deliverable we call an Insights Brief. This deliverable and process of review and iteration guided Vignette and ANN INC to align on a new direction that would be designed to deliver upon the defined business objectives and measures of success. Our refined direction took shape in these new creative ways:

  • Rebranded the Program Name. New Associate Assimilation was the current name of the ANN INC. onboarding program which felt cold, clinical and authoritarian, was  replaced with New Associate Experience, which denoted a much warmer, inclusive, and ongoing onboarding process.
  • Ninety-day immersion Program. The program was redesigned from what was once a three-day facilitated, classroom learning format to a ninety-day immersion that encouraged collaboration, exploration, and relationship building.
  • TEDx Style leadership communicationThe new program was redesigned to deliver continuous  engagement through a TEDx like leadership communication vehicle that addressed new associate concerns and gave a platform for leaders and influencers within the Company to connect with new associates.
  • Connection between Home Office and associates in the FieldThe new program enabled a closer and better connection between Home Office and associates in the Field. With the expanded length of the program, we added more opportunities to measure how the new program has impacted the Company and the connection between associates and customers.
  • Mentor Program. The new program was also designed to pair new associates with seasoned associates, helping to create fluid and seamless education for new associates.

Elevated presentation that embraced the core values and brand of ANN INC

All materials for new hires were redesigned in an elevated presentation that embraced the core values and brand of ANN INC., accompanied by an aesthetic that was memorable and complimented their already stylish office environment and culture. One key purpose of the new onboarding materials was to help corporate associates understand better, and connect to, ANN INC.’s products and the clients they serve, as this is something day-to-day most would not experience first-hand. We introduced a new strategic and creative onboarding program with a campaign that targeted both new hires and current employees:

  • Your Story Starts Here. With shifting trends in employment and career priorities, we created a campaign targeting New Associates that embraced Your Story and Your Career as a journey—not as a destination. ANN INC. was there to help you grow. This was presented through all communication vehicles like posters, emails, and environmental signage.

  • Their Story Starts with You. To address the culture transformation, we created a campaign that engaged current employees to raise awareness of their impact on new hires. The campaign highlighted the importance of engaged new hires, and emphasized the core values of ANN INC., specifically Putting Our Best Selves Forward Every Day and Honoring Our Full Lives.

An Effective Outcome

The integrated program rolled out, and survey feedback confirmed positive feedback and achievement of our measures of success.

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