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Project Hero

Visa's new hire experience reimagined

The Hero project spanned five months and covered the entire design process from research to final prototype. Our goal was to make a better onboarding experience for Visa's new hires. In order to do so, we partnered with our Global HR team and leveraged the design thinking method. We interviewed our new hires to find out what currently goes wrong in the experience, and came up with four prototypes that we will be rolling out as pilot in the near future.

In case you are wondering why we named this project "Hero". It's because we found in our research every new hire had a "hero" that helped them with all sorts of issues throughout the onboarding process. For instance, from getting a up-to-date shuttle schedule to setting up their computers; From getting the benefit information to figuring out parking for their first day. The company's onboarding process is somehow broken and less efficient than it could have been. So we want to be the "hero" in this case to fix this and make our new hires think they've made the right decision joining the company.

My Role: UX Designer | UX Researcher | UI Designer

Process: Research | Analysis | Ideation | Prototyping

Tools: Sketch | Illustrator | Adobe Draw | InVision

We embraced the design thinking process to approach the challenge. During the course of five months, we hosted three workshops in San Francisco and Austin in order to collaborate and iterate on solutions in person with the core team.

Design Thinking Approach

We got together in our San Francisco office for the project kickoff and discussed what would success look like. My responsibility was to facilitate the workshop and make sure we capture enough insights for the team to move forward.

We also identified some of the obvious pain points and broken process for internal employees, and pointed out who feels each pain the most. For instance, the IT guys who work in the Tech Bar at every location would suffer every Monday because that's when new hires start their first day, and 80% of them would not have a working computer for various reasons. On the other hand, the hiring managers start their suffering immediately after they decide to hire someone. Because from that moment they will get at least 20 emails bombarding them about how to correctly onboard a new member for their teams, along with all sorts of request for approval emails that demands their attention to move forward. 

Interviews & Empathy Maps

We interviewed more than twenty recent new hires to learn about what went wrong or well in their experiences. We also asked them about their best new hire experience in other companies in order to learn from others who do this well. We found that there are lots of places for improvements, from basic tools such as computers, to deeper connections like Visa's values and purposes.

"I got the wrong shuttle schedule on my first day. I felt unprepared."

"You have to be
self-efficient and ask a lot of people to figure things out."

"I sat on the bench for two hours on my first day. Nobody knows what’s going on."

"I have to go to ten different places to track my progress for different onboarding items."

"Getting office supplies is a scavenger hunt."

"We had a batch of bad badges and none of the chips worked."

"I had two weeks without health care coverage."

"Getting things done here is not as easy as I want it to be."

"I gave up on figuring out parking and parked at Costco next door on my first day."

What we learned from our research

New hires feel anxious and vulnerable because their life is in upheaval. 

New hires want to view everything about their onboarding in one place.

New hires feel unwelcomed and anxious because of a series of inhuman experiences.

New hires have a strong impetus to perform in their jobs but are stopped by bureaucracy. They learn that hacks and cheats are the only way to get things done.

New hires prefer personal touch points because building relationships is important.

New hires are not connected to Visa values because they are not infused into the experience.

"I still don't know what's the culture in Visa and how we all fit in to it"

"I didn't know who to go to and kept getting redirected to different departments"

"I went through three computers my first three weeks - I could have started three weeks later"




We mapped our findings with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. We found that our new hires are stuck at basics. Ideally an employee is inspired to innovate and their time goes to impactful activities. Unfortunately, higher level aspirations and their full potential are stifled because employees spend much time on basics like computers not working, and receive little sense of belonging and purpose. Without feeling supported and empowered, people feel disconnected from Visa’s purpose and values, even months into the job.

Design Thinking Workshop

We hosted a design thinking workshop in our San Francisco office to share back our learnings and insights from the interviews with new hires. In order to have the right focus and move quickly, this time we only invite the core (two pizza) team from the Global HR department to attend the workshop.

The result? Instead of having twenty people in the room where everyone has different opinion about what the solution should be, we were able to really focus on the important issues and successfully avoided the situation where too many cooks in the kitchen, and were able to move faster with our ideas. 

During the workshop, we shared our interview insights with the Global HR team and brainstormed the solution together. We split up in teams for brainstorming and storyboarding exercise. By the end of the workshop we had many promising ideas that everyone in the room was excited about. We decided to draw out those ideas and tested it with more people before we devote significant resources into pursuing them. By doing so, we were able to de-risk the idea and make sure we hit the right mark before going too far on any of the ideas. (Yes, we believe "fail fast, fail often" is the way to go!)

Initial Ideas

Below are the initial ideas we came up with during the brainstorming session in the workshop. I illustrated the ideas, printed them out and tested them on more new hires in order to see if our ideas solve their needs and gathered useful feedback before taking some of the ideas forward to prototype. 

I made a storyboard to illustrate the use case for the our design. The storyboard also helps the workshop participants to communicate the idea to their stakeholders when they need to get buy-in from them.









Concept Feedback Workshop

We hosted another workshop to share back the findings and feedback we got from testing the initial ideas with new hires. We leveraged the feedback grid (What worked; What could be improved; Questions; Ideas) from to capture the results. Then we brainstormed on more ideas and also made the current concept better with our new learnings. By the end of workshop, we successfully got more fledged ideas and decided to move forward to prototype the top four most promising ideas.

During this workshop, we also mapped out our entire onboarding process from offer accepted to week one in order to make sure we didn't miss any low-hanging fruits. By looking at the process map, we quickly identified some improvements that could be done. So we devoted a small amount of time and made some quick fixes onsite. For instance, we rewrote the email that goes out to new hires about their day one information by making it more clear and with more human touch. 

Prototype & Iteration

We voted for the ideas based on several criteria (how helpful it's going to be to solve problems for our new hires; how difficult it is to implement; how impactful it would be to the whole company, etc.) Due to the limited resources, we picked the top four ideas and move forward to prototype, test and iterate them.


An app that helps new hires to see a consolidated view of everything regarding their on boarding and keep track of their progress.

Before going digital, I like to sketch out ideas on paper first. It helps me quickly get my thoughts out and gain feedback in a cheap way. And then I wireframe them out with more details go in to the design. I avoid using color because I would like to stay focus on the functions and contents. 


As you can see, the initial designs treat the tracker as a linear process. However, after talking to the new hires and the Global HR team, I found that this is not true. The fact is that a lot of times the process overlaps with each other. For instance, sometimes people start the job with the background check still going.


I also found that people don't care about seeing the linear process, they just want to see how far they've gone through for each process. So it makes more sense to design a nonlinear visual with the ability to show progress on individual milestones. 

What do new hires say?

Love this! I am reassured by the visual cues that things are progressing. 

I like that everything is in one place. Now I don't have to go to ten different places to check my progress.

I feel more at ease and confident. But I don't want to log in each time.


A premium gift box for our new hires that contains a prepaid Visa gift card, a hand-sign welcome note from our CEO AL, and some swags to add more fun to the experience.

What goes in to the box?

In the beginning I was wondering what should go in to the box to make our new hires feel welcomed and valued. So I tested it for a couple rounds. Initially I put in a prepaid Visa gift card, a welcome note hand-signed by our CEO, a mug, a pen, and a charging cord, all Visa branded, along with some gift wrapping shredded paper to make it celebratory. After several testings I found that people prefer something "techy" and something they can use once they start the job. So I added in a Tile (a gadget that helps you find your belongings when they get lost) a earphone, and a Moleskine notebook. The results were better and people appreciate the box more. 

How to make the card "pop"?

Since the Visa card is the signature item that goes in to the box. I was wondering what's the best way to show the card and how could we create a "wow" moment when people open the box and see the card for the first time. I came up with several different presentations and tested them.


I found that if I stick the card to the lid, people accidentally ignore it and just went ahead fiddling with other stuff in the box. I also found that in order to give the card all the spotlight, the card needs to "stand" for approximately 25 degree, instead of lying flat. So when I carve the hole, I made sure it's small enough for the card to be stuck and thus stand when people open up the box. 

One surprising findings that comes out from my testing is that people actually don't want big amount of free money in the gift card. Most of them would be very happy with $100 in the card. The highest amount I heard among all the testings is $250. I also asked them if they could only keep one item from the box what would it be. All of the participants told me it would be the hand-signed note from our CEO. So I learned that obviously, the value and meaning of the note is higher than everything else in the box.

Does the swag really matter?

Another interesting thing I learned: Since people I tested with kept telling me that they don't care about the Visa swags (mug, pen, etc.) as much as the prepaid gift card and the CEO hand-signed note, I switched to a smaller box, took out everything else and just leave the card and the note. Guess what? people are not happy about the fact that there's no swags in the box. So here's what I learned: Even though the swags are not important as the card and note, they are there to "support and spice up" the experience. 

What do new hires say?

I feel like I have a new family and support. They really want me here! 

I would definitely tell my parents about the CEO's hand-signed note.

This alleviates the uncertainty and anxiety between offer and day 1.


The "Day 1" experience was shortened and focused on getting to know the local team prior to diving into the work. It provides a locally defined onboarding that connects new hires to local teams and resources.

In a big company like Visa, making change to a existing progress is usually lengthy and difficult. But since we wanted to move quickly and validate our ideas as fast as we can, we didn't have time to wait for six months for the process to change. So we decided to do this as pilot only with a small amount of selected teams. By doing so, we are flexible and agile enough to tweak our ideas along the way when we find things that need to change.  


In order to make sure we can have a shortened and localized day 1 experience, we called each hiring manager, walk them through our plan, and made sure they are on board with what we are doing. We intentionally decided not to hand out computers on Day 1. Because we want the new hires to just focus on getting familiar with the environment and start building relationships with people in the local office. 


We’ve had a couple hiring managers turned down our request. But we didn’t give up on this prototype, and the results were very rewarding. People love this concept! We did a post-interview for all the participants and one of them even mentioned that “it was the best day 1 experience he has ever had”. Because they were able to just get familiar with the environment, meet the local team before diving into their work, they were more comfortable with their job and knew who to go to when they have questions. 

What do new hires say?

The whole process made me feel connected. I got good insights on what my team is working on.

The activities prior to the official orientation really took my butterflies away.

I feel more comfortable and prepared on the official day 1.


An assigned buddy, or “genie”, was available at all times to answer questions, troubleshoot problems, and provide general support and guidance

The main purpose of this idea is to ensure consistent communication and a point-person to guide and answer questions. Since our tech bar is always super busy, the average wait time for our new hires is 20 minutes before they can get their tech issue fixed. So one of the "super power" a genie has is being able to submit high priority ticket that fast track a new hire's request. 

The results we got were great. So we were thinking this can be a real job/position in the company. It would be an interesting idea to have a group of genies whose responsibilities are helping new hires get ready for their work and develop long term relationship with them.

This pictures is one of our new hires, Akshay, with his Genie, Dhanya in their local office. Dhanya had helped him solve all sorts of issues. From telling him the best sushi restaurant in town, to pointing him to the right person every time he has questions about his work. He now calls Dhanya his best friend at work.

What do new hires say?

My genie was my go to person whenever I am stuck. I am so grateful that she's always there to help me if I have any questions.

Having a genie made me feel much more 

comfortable. Definitely a 

good idea to have someone assigned to help new hires.

I didn't know the scope of questions I could ask to a genie. Can I ask things about 401K?

North Star Experience Story

While iterating on the prototypes, the idea of what a North Star experience has becoming more and more clear as we started to see a pattern of the feedback emerging. So I made the storyboard to illustrate what an ideal new hire experience would look like based on all the learnings we got from the beginning of this project. I used one of our new hires - Lisanne, as the protagonist in the story. 

Lisanne's Reimagined New Hire Experience

1. Lisanne just had a great conversation with her recruiter, and is excited to begin her next adventure.

2. Arriving home one evening, Lisanne finds a beautiful package from Visa, containing a personalized card and a hand signed note from Al Kelly.

3. Lisanne has decided to enjoy her time off between work at her favorite beach. While she is there she receives a text from her Visa genie Dhanya confirming her background check is complete.

4. Lisanne took an Uber paid by Visa to her first day. While chatting with the driver, she learns he drives many new hires on their first day, and that they speak highly of Visa.

5. Lisanne arrives to the lobby of Visa to find a new hire “everywhere lounge”. Music is playing, there is fresh coffee, and Frank, her new team mate is ready to meet her.

6. Frank then takes Lisanne to her desk, which is cleverly appointed with her favorite flowers and a Visa Yeti water bottle to keep her coffee hot.

7. Lisanne then leaves with Frank and the rest of her team for team lunch outside the office. There she learned Frank is a stand up comedian on Wednesdays.

8. Lisanne receives her laptop and finds it configured with the software her co-workers were talking about. No manual setup needed!

9. Lisanne attends her new hire orientation where she learns about the company from the executives point of view. She appreciates this setting, and how it helps her connect to Visa's value.

10. Lisanne bumps into her Genie Dhanya in the coffee room. She asks about where great Sushi is, but is relieved to see Dhanya because she also has a personal question about maternity leave.

11. A few weeks later, Lisanne is invited to a design thinking with her fellow new hires. She loves to connect with her fellow new hires, share stories, and come up with new ideas.

12. Lisanne is proud of her new job and impressed with her new hire experience. So much so, she chooses to share a few of them via Instagram.

Hero Infographic

For the final presentation, I made a infographic showing fun facts about this project. In order to make it more fun, I decided to hide the numbers and have the stakeholders guess them as a warm up exercise. It turned out to be a very engaging experience for the stakeholders. 

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