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CASE STUDY: 3 Key Components of xDesign's Award-Winning Employee Experience

21 June 2023

Within just one year, xDesign jumped up more than 30 places to rank as the No. 1 UK’s Best Workplace for Wellbeing™ (Large size category).

Below, we share some of the key aspects of their workplace experience that helped boost their survey scores to achieve this incredible result.


 The Company


xDesign is a software consultancy supporting some of the world’s fastest-growing and most recognisable brands to create bespoke, award-winning, digital products for web and mobile.

The company, based in Edinburgh, comprises nearly 450 employees who also provide tailored expertise on development solutions for their customers.

Some of their most impressive employee survey scores include:

  • 92% of employees saying “I want to work here for a long time”  (up 10 percentage points (pp) from the previous year)
  • 96% of employees agreeing “We celebrate people who try new and better ways of doing things, regardless of the outcome” (up 7 pp from the previous year)
  • And 97% of employees agreeing that "this is a great place to work” (up 5 pp from the previous year).


The Challenge


When xDesign first began working with Great Place To Work in 2021, their leaders sought to develop a better understanding of the employee journey, and obtain more data and in-depth insights into their workplace culture.

“We wanted to know the areas that are thriving, and which ones might need some further attention as we grow,” explains Ciji Duncan, Chief People Officer at xDesign.

“At the time, we weren’t doing anything in the same way across the company, and this felt like a perfect starting place to bring consistency to our people proposition.”

In February 2022, xDesign ranked number 34 out of 93 companies recognised as a UK’s Best Workplace for Wellbeing in the Medium size category.

Yet even with this outstanding result, their leaders had understood that while it's one thing to earn a ranking, it's another to keep it; seeing this as an opportunity to improve their employee experience even further throughout the rest of the year.

As Euan Andrews, xDesign’s Founder and CEO, told us:

“What we’ve created at xDesign is a technology company that puts people at the very centre of everything it does. To evolve and refine our approach to supporting our teams, we need lots of feedback and insight on various aspects of our people proposition. After all, supporting your people isn’t a ‘one off’, it’s a continuous process. Working with Great Place To Work has provided us with the perfect vehicle for gaining the required level of insight and for playing back our success to the business and outside world.”


The Solution

Using their Great Place To Work survey data (which included anonymous comments written by employees in their responses), xDesign was able to implement key changes to their employee experience strategy, namely:

1. Encouraging camaraderie from the start

One key priority was developing the company’s sense of community and improving social activities for all their people working in-office or remotely.

This includes pre-onboarding, which can often be overlooked by companies evaluating their employee journey.

“We know the candidate's onboarding journey begins as soon as they sign their contract of employment,” says Ciji. “We have identified that creating a connection with new joiners before they start is crucial to executing a seamless xDesign journey.”

New joiners at xDesign are introduced to their teammates, manager, People Partner, and an ‘Onboarding Buddy’ via email.


They are also invited to attend both in-person and virtual induction sessions, including coffee chats that allow people to have a no-agenda conversation with colleagues who sit outside their everyday teams, so they can engage with people on a more personal level.

Furthermore, new starters are also offered a call with the company’s Onboarding Partner to ask any questions anytime during the pre- and onboarding stages.

“All of these touchpoints ensure that new joiners stay engaged with their new role, and feel supported through access to relevant information ahead of joining,” says Daisy Winskell, Onboarding Partner at xDesign.

xDesign-fun-place-to-work-stat-97-percentIn terms of social activities, changes were made to the structure of the company’s ‘Fun Club’ so that this could be more inclusive for everyone.

Previously, one employee was responsible for the planning and execution of monthly Fun Club activities. Today, this belongs to a voluntary committee of colleagues who ensure these events are accessible to all – e.g. a meditation/breathing session for those able to attend in-person events, and a virtual murder mystery held for remote teams.


2. Flexible development that’s fair for all

Alongside camaraderie and fun at work, xDesign’s leaders also focused on improving communication throughout the business.

“We’ve strengthened and evolved our internal communications so that everyone feels like they’re fully engaged and on the journey with us as the business develops at pace,” says Ciji.

“In particular, we’ve used the data and insight [from Great Place To Work] to better communicate our commitment to wellbeing. This is something that has always been a priority at xDesign, but providing better comms around the support available has made it more accessible for everyone.”

xDesign-stat-98-percent-empathy-from-managerOne key aspect of employee wellbeing is job design and a sense of fulfilment at work, which is closely connected to career progression.

xDesign opted for a different approach to the traditional annual/bi-annual performance reviews to allow for more regular communication around employees’ growth, which in turn has helped managers to build stronger relationships with their direct reports.

And since better manager-employee relationships lead to higher levels of trust and employee engagement, it’s a win-win worth pursuing.

“[Our] performance reviews are a two-way, open conversation in which employees (and People Partners) are fully involved," says Ruby Foster, People Partner at xDesign. "This approach allows us to maintain our continuous feedback culture, and ensures reviews are meaningful and timely for an employee's growth."

Reviews therefore take place at key milestones that occur in conjunction with the development conversations teams have regularly throughout the year.

“The People Development and People Operations team both play a huge role in ensuring not only managers are equipped to have tailored performance conversations, but also that employees feel empowered in the process,” says Ciji.


And while the same promotion process is applicable to all employees, to ensure fairness, the company recognises that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing.

All staff have access to a people success platform that provides transparency around the different roles, competencies, and success measures associated with each role.

Employees can endorse a colleague for a promotion, or can put themselves forward for a promotion – a method suited to a variety of personalities, as some people may not feel comfortable with putting themselves forward even when it is deserved.

On top of this, all people managers receive mental health training from week one, and undertake a manager induction that establishes the importance of managing individuals in a way that makes them thrive.


3. Checking in on people’s wellbeing

In addition to empowering middle managers to support their people’s wellbeing, xDesign’s People Operations Team also run regular wellbeing catch-ups with all employees to see how they’re doing.

"Employees are also given the opportunity to answer pulse surveys regularly on wellbeing-related topics," says Karrell Simms, Senior People Partner at xDesign.

"Employee responses are anonymous and our People Partners respond to every comment sent in. This feedback collated, as well as the check-ins we do with our colleagues, form a core part of the company's wellbeing strategy." 

xDesign-stat-95-percent-wellbeing-issues-All People Partners are also trained in mental health first aid to further support the wellbeing checks, and the People Operations Team is continually growing in line with the growth of the business to make sure no-one gets left behind.

“We were, and still are, absolutely elated with our No.1 ranking on the 2023 UK’s Best Workplaces for Wellbeing list,” says Ciji.

“Last year it was an achievement just to place – so as hard as we worked to ensure everyone at xDesign was valued, heard, trusted and able to reach their full potential, we absolutely were not expecting to get to No.1!”


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