How do you engage with and motivate staff on their work journey?

Now, more than ever as many of us work remotely, employees need to feel a sense of belonging and an emotional connection to the company they work for. Even before a future employee joins a company, they may already have a sense of the culture through social media, what a friend that works there has told them or they might even be a customer. Over the past few years, we have been lucky enough to work with some of the best people in the industry who know a lot about how to engage their people. Together, we have seen the benefits of using design to engage and retain staff, so we’d like to share some of our insights.

Design has an important role to play in getting these messages across and can help to inform, motivate and engage employees. If they understand the business strategy, they will feel empowered which helps them become your biggest brand advocates.

As an employee, you go on a journey with your company, from that initial contact or job application to the first year of employment and beyond.


Internal branding is just as important as external branding.

It is very easy to focus on your customer facing brand, at the expense of the employee brand. In fact employees have an invaluable role to play, no matter what their job title is, as they all have the ability to influence external perception. Your employees represent your brand and everything it stands for, so it is crucial that they understand the brand story and what it means to them in their day-to-day job. This in turn will create a consistent customer experience.

You could argue that any external marketing efforts are wasted if your employees don’t understand the brand story. Not surprisingly, customers are not going to buy into a brand if the staff don’t act in the way that they expect.

Companies need to make sure their culture aligns with their customer promise. For example, if a customer phones with an enquiry and is met with an unhelpful, or even rude, member of staff the chances are they will not use that service again. Your internal brand needs to be clear and understood by your people and live up to the external brand promise. It’s no good saying one thing but doing another.

Big brands like Apple and Google are clear about how they represent themselves to potential employees and they are not afraid to shout about the perks of working there.

Google puts a value on keeping talent and goes to great lengths to hold on to good people. Among many of the perks they offer are childcare, paternity leave, a bowling alley, free haircuts and nap rooms. They also allow engineers 10% of their time to innovate as they recognise the importance of time to come up with ideas. They donate money to charities for employee volunteering. They also happen to have some of the highest paying salaries in the tech industry. The list of perks goes on but they realise how important their talent is to them. Google say on Glassdoor, “At Google, we know that every employee has something important to say, and that every employee is integral to our success.”

Google also puts a huge value on design and their offices are renowned for being inspiring, engaging and innovative workspaces, to help get the best out of their employees.

Similarly, Apple is renowned for treating their staff well. There’s no doubt that it is a challenging place to work but employees seem to agree that the pros outweigh the cons. As you might expect, Apple places a large emphasis on the design of their HR materials. Everything is sleek in appearance and well designed to impress potential employees. They always put the employee at the centre of the materials so they feel it’s about them rather than the company. Clever.

The employee journey

We all know how important the customer journey is. We like to think that the employee journey is just as, if not more, important. As we see it, there are three main steps in an employee’s journey with a company. Here we look at how you can use design to help bring each step to life.

It’s important to think about your audience, in the same way that you would with your external comms. Think about who you are trying to reach and what you are trying to say. What’s the best way to reach people? What works for one audience, might not be right for another. Perhaps it’s by email or leaflet or digital animation or you could turn to more traditional formats, sending something thoughtful and personal in the post. Be creative, you know your employees better than anyone, so consider what will appeal to them. Think about what’s worked well in the past and don’t try to second guess, why not ask them?

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Attracting talent

When attracting people to your brand, it’s important to consider what you want that external message to communicate and what impression you want them to take away. By creating a strong, distinctive visual identity and tone of voice, your prospective employees should have a good sense of what you’re about and your company culture.

Show stands and comms

There are many companies offering apprenticeships, particularly since the government initiative put in place in 2019, so attracting the right talent is competitive. How do you engage parents and students alike, especially now that a lot of the careers fairs have moved online?

If you are exhibiting at a busy careers fair, your stand needs to spark curiosity and intrigue to make the prospective student or parent engage with you in the first place. From our experience, infographics can be a useful way to get information across quickly and succinctly, showing statistics in a clear, visually appealing way. Often, companies have a tendency to put far too much information on their stand, making it look cluttered and confusing. It’s much better to have a simple message or theme that grabs attention. We’ve also found that something to do (or eat!) is often a good way to draw people in and start a conversation. Good design can help to create a unique, ownable and memorable look for your ‘stand’, whether it’s in person or online. It’s always good to have some sort of take-away too, whether it’s a leaflet or postcard or something more memorable.

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Digital media

Videos of real apprentices and employees talking about their experience of the company can help to further engage and embed the brand. They are a powerful way of communicating to prospective employees and if well done, are relatable and authentic. These can be effectively topped and tailed with integrated motion graphics to bring the video to life and give it some energy. These videos could be used on social media and appear on your website and YouTube channel.

Careers site

A dedicated area on your website for jobs is often the first place prospective employees will look for work. The impression you give here is key as it will give the person searching for a job a feel for the company and whether or not it’s right for them. Design can really help set the tone for the type of person you are trying to attract through your visual identity, tone of voice and photography style.

Oven Rescue

Oven Rescue, a successful independent oven cleaning company, came to us as they wanted to attract more franchisees to the brand and so we suggested a microsite entirely focused on them, rather than aimed at customers. We recommended that we develop a specific franchise identity using different colours so that it was differentiated from the customer comms. The tone of voice used is friendly, simple and informative. We also did a photoshoot and video of the existing team to give it an authentic feel. In the video, the franchisees talked about their experiences and what to expect – these were used on the website and in a social media campaign. We also used pay-to-click to target a specific demographic and areas.

With a fresh new look, Oven Rescue has a more professional and approachable way to sell their services. The social media campaign which used PPC, helped to attract new people to the opportunity and has resulted in new franchisees.

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Engaging employees

Of course, attracting talent is only the beginning of the employee journey. Sometimes people find that when they join a company, the experience is quite different and potentially a let down after the initial recruitment phase. First impressions last so make sure your first interaction with a new employee is a memorable one, using inspiring and engaging communications. Their experience of the internal brand should be consistent. So often, a company will have a great recruitment ad and if the applicant is successful, they receive a shiny Welcome book. But beyond that, the internal brand is forgotten and plays second fiddle to the customer branding, which comes as a disappointment and the employee is left to find their own way.

From our experience, those companies that go the extra mile to make sure that their employee’s experience of the brand is consistent every step of the way, enjoy better staff retention and loyalty.


Welcome book

A company Welcome book is a great way to induct your employees and to help them to quickly understand your brand ethos and what to expect. It should be an opportunity to set the tone, to excite and inspire your employees and also to act as a useful reference for where to get a great sandwich as well as checking how many days holiday they get. Sadly, all too often handbooks are rather dry in content, dull visually and are quickly stuffed in a drawer and forgotten.

Design and tone of voice can really help to create something inspiring. It needs to be something memorable and functional that they will want to keep referring back to.

More and more, companies are giving thought to that first impression and are making sure their new recruit feels welcome on their first day. With remote working it is even more important that a new employee feels welcomed and a sense of belonging. A well designed ‘kit’ can still be sent out to new recruits to welcome them.

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Onboarding materials

Those first few days and months after an employee joins are critical and they will form an opinion of the company. Staff retention can be a real problem for a lot of businesses and new employees often leave in the first year. One of the biggest reasons sighted is that the job is not what they expected or they didn’t know what was expected of them. A thorough onboarding process is essential for new staff to feel a sense of belonging and to be accountable. Design can really help to make this process look attractive and manageable for a new starter and help managers to keep them on track as well. 

Harwoods Group

Harwoods Group is a high-end car dealership mainly in the South East of England. Like many businesses in this industry, they had a high turnover of staff and this was something they wanted to address. They appreciated the importance of staff retention and aimed to make a good first impression. They wanted to look professional and slick, whilst appealing to a broad range of employees and getting across the friendly, family feel of the business.

So they rethought and wrote their onboarding process and then asked Silverback® to design the new starter materials. Together, we created a suite of materials including a Welcome Pack, a Log Book with easy ‘Pit stops’ along the way to track their Induction Journey for the first 6 months and a Support Guide for both the Line Manager and Buddies to help them mentor and monitor their progress. We used a mixture of aspirational images as well as real people photography of employees to make the materials feel authentic.

Retention rates went up 5% in the first year of having the starter materials.


The Welcome Pack makes such a positive statement of intent especially. I have some pretty compelling evaluation stats to prove it’s been a winner.”

Elaine Henderson
Harwoods Consultant


Staff training is an area where design can really help to make the content come to life and resonate with the employees. We have all been to training with ‘death by Powerpoint’ presentation and uninspiring handouts. Training needn’t be dull and is actually a great opportunity to engage your employees as you have their full attention. Well designed interactive workbooks, graphics to dress the room and a few slides or even video or animation can really help to make the training memorable.

One of our clients is a leading health and beauty retailer (naming no names!). They realised a few years back that training was often just telling people to adapt their body language and smile. They also knew that many of the complaints they received could have been addressed through better staff training. So they set about creating a programme that would work for them, combining video, online learning, print and face-to-face learning to immerse their employees in an interactive customer experience training programme. They knew that design needed to play a big part in bringing this to life. This included a distinctive visual identity and a set of icons to help embed their training toolkit. These were later made into an app and rolled out across 700 stores. As a result, they enjoyed sales growth and a huge drop in customer complaints which could be directly attributed to the training.

Digital engagement

A staff intranet can be extremely effective as a tool in the engagement process, especially at the moment with so many people working remotely. A well designed intranet allows cross-functional collaboration and engagement in large companies, enabling employees to be close to their business via their personal devices. It’s also a way to access learning and most of all, to feel a sense of belonging. Even on a small scale, a staff intranet can be a great way for people to feel connected and it can be used as an online suggestions box, to give recognition, celebrate Birthdays, to give people a sense of belonging.

A well thought out launch strategy to support the new platform can really help staff awareness and drive them to use the intranet. This could include a teaser and launch campaign, across both digital and printed media, such as posters, cutouts, floor stickers, coffee cups, roller banners, web banners and themed merchandise!

We did just this for one of our clients (who sadly can’t be named). Within 8 weeks of the launch, the intranet had been a resounding success with over 10,000 employees logging on, 4,500 employees installing the app on at least one device and over 8,000 images shared.

Our client commented, “Launching this social media platform has far exceeded our expectations. It has really built a community feel across the company.”

Work environment

Having moved to a new studio space recently, we have seen first hand how the design of your working environment can impact people’s moods and productivity. A space that is specially designed for you and how your company works can make a huge difference. It’s also a great opportunity for your employee brand to come to life through your choice of colours, shapes, textures, even graphics and words to help embed your brand.

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3. Retaining staff

One of the most challenging jobs a company faces is how to hold on to valued employees. Particularly in the retail sector, businesses typically experience low retention rates which means investment in those people may have been a waste of time and precious resources. Company culture is so important to keep people engaged and motivated and we believe that design can play a role in that too.


Meggitt PLC is a UK based international company specialising in components and sub-systems for the aerospace, defence and selected energy markets. Innovation is at the heart of everything they do and they have a clear vision, “Enabling the Extraordinary: To Fly, To Power, To Live”. 

The company approached us to help them create an internal engagement piece to be rolled out globally. The idea was for employees to nominate their peers based on their achievements. The initiative was called ‘Extraordinary people’. We realised that we needed to come up with an idea that was easily understood, would translate across multiple languages and was practical to transport to numerous countries. 

Based on Meggitt’s existing brand guidelines, we created a pack of items including a nomination form, promotional posters, cardboard engineered voting boxes for offices, all on the theme ‘Extraordinary people’. We also designed a ‘wall of fame’ to celebrate people’s successes.

Throughout the project, our aim was to create a consistent brand but also something workable for each country where office size varied from very large to very small. The designs needed to translate into multiple languages so iconography was helpful for this. The result is a striking, functional and motivating piece to engage and inspire employees.

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Recognising success

One of the main ways to motivate and inspire staff is by recognising success. Companies do this in a range of ways to suit their business and design can help bring these ideas to life. You could even go as far as naming your rewards and recognition brand and giving it its own identity, so that it stands out and is immediately recognised internally. In the past, we have designed nomination voting boxes and postcards, recognition greeting cards, even a ‘hall of fame’.


Motivating staff

Beyond recognition, there are all sorts of tried and tested ways to keep staff motivated. 

Sometimes, particularly in a large company, departments want to have their own identity to better communicate what it is they do. They might also think about communications internally to explain why they are there, what they do and importantly how they can help other staff. This might take the form of a leaflet or a small event (in a canteen for instance) to help ‘up’ their profile and general awareness internally.

This approach can also be useful when trying to explain an external concept. For example, how do you explain to staff who your customers are? Words are fine but imagery can help to build a better picture of your customers. These can even be brought to life through animation and videos.

Making an inclusive culture

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace is a high priority for most companies. Design can be used effectively and sensitively to show what this means to your particular business. It may be that you want to put together a policy or go a bit further and create an internal campaign or even a suit of logos. By creating something tangible and concrete, you are making a stand and signalling to staff and externally that it’s important and that you take it seriously.

Case study

Utility Warehouse (UW) is a successful discount club offering a wide range of utility services. They are a company that understands the importance of employee engagement. In fact their business model relies on good internal comms with 45,000 distributors! They have done a lot of work around distributor engagement, finding ways to motivate their people, known affectionately as the Purple Army. 

Over the years, we have designed many of UW’s distributor communications. We began by rebranding all their partner packs to make it clear what the different levels are for Partners. Each one is a different colour to help differentiation and contains different materials.

We have also designed their distributor magazine, News Plus, several years running, talking about Partner success stories and tips. This is often on a tight timeframe which requires working together very closely with the UW team.

When the company moved offices a few years ago, we helped them by designing a ‘moving office’ booklet with fun but practical information about the move. We also designed graphics and wayfinding for the new office to give the staff a sense of belonging.

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Every year, we look forward to working with UW to come up with creative ideas and a visual identity for their annual event, Express Day. This is a huge event for their distributors and involves not only coming up with a great idea but then executing it across numerous items including show stands and banners, signage, tickets, merchandise. It’s a great opportunity to let our creative juices flow as we come up with fun interactive ideas for the attendees which seem to get more ambitious every year!

exterior event branding signage
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On the digital side, we have designed email teasers as well as new product launch campaigns.

UW recognised that design played an important part in the success of their training, as often these sessions were the only place they would see distributors face-to-face. We worked with UW to create a suite of materials for the UW College of Excellence, including designing a logo and interactive workbooks for the various courses. All the training materials used a simple and playful identity to make them easy for the participant to complete.

Dealing with change

Mergers and acquisitions happen in business and a big consideration for the companies in question will be how to communicate this internally and how to bring different workforces together. It obviously has to be sensitively handled and communicated which is where design can help, laying out clearly why the changes have come about, what the benefits will be to the businesses and how it will impact you as an employee.

Chandlers have recently merged with Parkers Building Supplies and sister companies Stamco and Fairalls. The new enlarged company has 37 branches operating from the Midlands to the South East, with over 750 employees. They are very similar businesses, with the same commitment, values and approach to working with their customers; so the management is confident that both staff and customers will benefit from this relationship. 

Following the business merger, the business asked us to come up with a creative campaign to communicate that it was business as usual and to get across the family feel of this independent business. Although the campaign was primarily aimed at customers, it was just as important to send out a positive message to employees about the merger.

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In a different league

We knew that their people were key to the company’s success and so we suggested we communicate their strong team and combined knowledge. We decided on a football theme which resonates with a largely male audience and gets across that team spirit. We came up with the line “We’re in a different league” as a theme for the campaign to make them stand apart from their competitors. We ran a fun photoshoot using actual employees from all the businesses and we included building and football props, we even created a football strip using the colours from each business. This was used in photography and as a standalone graphic device on and offline. The concept was then rolled out across a large range of items including ad vans, billboards, posters, flyers, coffee cups and a fun, in-store cut out promotion.

We also created web banners and social media templates as well as some videos, topped and tailed with graphics and sound; the sound was also used for their radio ad.

The creative campaign really captured the spirit of the newly formed group which is all about celebrating their people and keeping the independent feel. The campaign has been well received by staff and customers alike.


“This was always going to be a tricky brief as we were bringing three brands under one roof.  We had no set look and feel and wanted all the brands to have equal emphasis. The team came up with a number of concepts, any of which would have worked but we felt the football concept was right for us. The photography shoot was great fun and they managed to put everyone at ease. We are delighted with the final creative, which has been rolled out on and offline. The designs have been very well received so far.”  #Troopwork

Sue McKinney
Head of Marketing, IBMG (Independent Builders Merchant Group)
behind the scenes photography
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An ever-evolving process

Never has it been more important than now for companies to engage their people, to make them feel appreciated and motivated, in a time that is otherwise rather unsettling. Beyond online quizzes and socials, your employee brand can really make a difference right now. 

It’s important not to become complacent. Your employees are all on the same journey, just at different stages. Design is an effective way to reach your staff at different points along their employee journey and can make a huge difference to their experience of the company. If they are clear on the business strategy, they feel empowered which helps them become your biggest brand advocates.

So companies need to be constantly finding new ways to Attract, Engage and Retain staff, then Repeat this again, and again. It’s an evolving process and something that needs to be reviewed and improved all the time from our experience.

Get in touch!

Need some help with your Internal Comms? We’re passionate about helping you attract, engage and retain staff. Whether it’s one step you need help with or all three, why not give us a call and book a meeting to talk about what you could do to up your internal communications game.

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