Reimaging Onboarding at MetLife


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Using the design process, we moved from an undefined, perceived problem to a strategy that reimagined the employee onboarding experience at this Fortune 50 company.

As the newly hired Director of Employee Experience, I assembled a team to conduct discovery, synthesis, strategy development and to craft a compelling story for senior HR leadership buy-in while building alignment throughout HR.

The Challenge

This Fortune 50 company had a problem. Many had the opinion that employee onboarding was “broken,” the CEO included. When probed for areas needing improvement, none could articulate what the problems were.

To navigate this level of ambiguity and lack of problem definition, I set three initial goals:

  1.  Define the scope of onboarding as a service
  2.  Explore the experiences of recent new hires and hiring managers
  3.  Understand the steps, processes and known challenges from those delivering the service

Michael built the experience design capability from scratch in HR which was no easy feat and included challenging our HR colleagues and leaders to think differently every single day.

Sonya Asure, Employee Experience, Consultant

Step 1: Define the Scope of Onboarding as a Service

To define onboarding as a service we first had to define the customer:

  1. Hiring manager
  2. New employee
  3. Business unit, particularly in the case of class hires

Next, we examined the end-to-end value chain and employee life cycle by mapping the value chain as a two-sided User Story Map and visualized the employee life cycle.

Through this work, we realized onboarding started prior to the offer, at the point a hiring manager identified a need and ended when a new hire could reasonably be expected to fulfill that need.

Step 2: Explore the Experiences of Recent New Hires and Hiring Managers

I assembled a team to conduct qualitative research while building relationships with stakeholders. This included training the team in qualitative research techniques, as well as how to synthesize findings.

In the end, we interviewed:

  • 66 new hires
  • 31 hiring managers

This work would later be repeated globally.

I had the pleasure of collaborating with Michael on the Employee Onboarding experience. Under Michael’s leadership, we conducted 1 to 1 interviews with recruiters, hiring managers and recent hires to gain insights into what was working and opportunities to improve and we uncovered a lot of opportunities to improve.

Sonya Asure, Employee Experience, Consultant

Step 3: Understand the Steps, Processes and Known Challenges From Those Delivering the Service

The team spoke with 13 subject matter experts that were part of service delivery across multiple Centers of Excellence to learn the current-state processes, as well as known challenges, sources of data and systems used.

Mapping the complete value chain showed the connection between numerous processes across HR, IT, legal, security and more.

Michael was involved with our employee onboarding and employee experience projects. These were complex projects that had many moving parts and many stakeholders. He was able to navigate this and really make an impact on employees through his work.

Calvin Loke, Director, HR Chief of Staff Office

Synthesis and Analysis

I led and coached the team to pull together our findings and identify trends.

Data from new hires was pulled from the global employee surveys and incorporated into our research using natural language processing to measure sentiment and look for additional trends.

Quantitative data was used to validate long-standing assumptions as well as qualitative findings. For example, there was a long-standing assumption that there was a problem with new hires receiving their laptops, however, interviews revealed system access was a much larger problem with greater negative impact. IT Help Desk data for new hires supported our findings and showed 84% of new hire cases were related to system access.

Turning Learnings into Strategy

As we dug, we learned that what was manifesting as poor onboarding experiences, were symptoms of deeper challenges.

We mapped and visualized the symptoms and challenges as Impacts and Issues. Impacts are the symptoms people saw and Issues are the root causes. We could bandage the Impacts, however, they and other symptoms would keep manifesting. By focusing on the Issues, we could more efficiently move the entire organization forward to provide a more resilient end-to-end service and consistently delightful experience.

Michael has the ability to dig deep into understanding pain points and finding the root cause. He helped drive and create well thought out qualitative and/or quantitative research to understand complex problems. He was also able to scale this capability in the organization through programs and his mentorship.

Calvin Loke, Director, HR Chief of Staff Office

Telling the Story

With the actual problems discovered, it was time to get buy-in from HR Leadership and prepare to build alignment across the organization. 

The story was built using the structure of:

  1. Our Mission: to build alignment between the need to take action and both corporate and HR strategic goals and values
  2. Problem Definition: to establish both scope and a frame of reference for why onboarding matters in business terms
  3. Current-State Findings: to ground and identify impacts and their root causes—the issues
  4. The Opportunity & How We Get There: to set the strategy including goals, needed infrastructure, initial OKRs (Objective and Key Results) and a set of “how might we?” examples to show the art of the possible


I presented the final story to HR Leadership who immediately committed to moving forward. As a result, I was made Interim Service Owner for Onboarding. I formed a small team to begin work, including identifying key sponsors, building relationships and completing a pilot project to improve communications from hire to first day.

The presentation was so successful, I was asked to create a training on how to build a strategy using data and how to present using a persuasive story.
Additionally, I began a road show to align HR on the onboarding strategy. This included a series of workshops with HR teams to design solutions, along with experiments to validate them.

Michael prioritized our list based on desirability, viability and feasibility and we started with reengineering the Offer Letters. Our offer letters were complex and full of legalese which made it very hard for new hires to understand the things most important to them such as their start date, salary, benefits, etc. The head of Talent Acquisition didn’t believe our legal partners would support this project, but Michael knew if we brought together all the key stakeholders early and often, we could break down silos and improve the experience. And that’s exactly what we did. We conducted usability testing to determine if we improved the experience, made more changes, and tested again. In the end, we implemented Offer Letters that were easy to understand while also meeting the legal requirements.

Sonya Asure, Employee Experience, Consultant