It feels like everyone is bought into the idea of employee experience. It’s a hot topic in most HR circles. It’s become a profession in its own right. But how many companies are truly embracing it? What if it wasn’t an all or nothing?

Just imagine a workplace where everything is carefully designed around your people – from the physical environment to the organisational processes. Wouldn’t it be amazing? 

Everything would feel like it flows. Like it’s just meant to be. Interactions would become easier. Old pain points would smooth away. Productivity would rise. Employee satisfaction would be on the up. You could look to your competitors and laugh heartily as their frustrated employees gaze your way with wantful eyes. 

But it isn’t quite that simple, is it? Let’s be honest, redesigning the whole employee lifecycle is a big ask. Employees are complex emotional creatures. Business are intricate ever-moving systems. It’s a difficult challenge even in a simple organisation.

Yes, you can chop it into chunks and take it in stages. But then there’s the segmentation and personalisation, the constantly moving parts, and the interwoven processes that need to be unpicked and updated.

The thing is, we don’t need to see it as an all or nothing. Employee experience is an outcome, but it’s also a valuable tool.

Employee experience, the tool

Designing employee experiences uses a technique called design thinking. It’s a human centred approach, emphasising empathy, creativity and iterative problem solving. And it’s been used by tech teams for many years – creating products and services that provide exceptional customer experiences.

Ever wonder why the consumer apps on your phone are so intuitive? It’s likely due in part to design thinking. They’ve been crafted around your exact need. At its core, design thinking is based on some fairly simple principles:

  1. Use research to understand and frame the problem
  2. Test the solution
  3. Iterate and improve

It’s all about designing a solution from the user’s perspective. Whilst that may not seem like a wildly revolutionary idea, it’s surprising how often we stroll into solution-mode based on a heavy set of assumptions we have carried around for some time. Following the basic design thinking principles alone can provide huge value to almost any challenge.

Employee experience, in action

We worked with a police force who are understandably very short on time. They have a super important job to do, and their priority is keeping people safe. Which is great to hear. 

That does however make life difficult for internal initiatives. With so much important high-risk/high-value work, when do they get a look in? We were brought in for one such initiative. But how do we get employees to engage in an internal program, when they don’t even stop for lunch? This is where design thinking was key. 

So, we ran workshops with their officers to understand what life is like in their shoes. Only through that real understanding, could we build the right solutions. We took ourselves into their stations and: 

  • Created personas together
  • Mapped out the experience of a typical day
  • Looked at the opportunities to engage and the tools that they used
  • Employed creative thinking to work on solutions together

The result – we found opportunities and strategies that previously weren’t thought possible. Even in the response team (who are constantly pulled from one job to the next), we were able to work out ways of making this initiative work – which their people were totally behind.

Employee experience, the takeaway

Using design thinking to map out the employee experience is enlightening. Not only does it make for the best design, it also gives you insights and opportunities that get lost in our usual assumptions. Because we all think we know the challenge. But until we work with our people to see things from their perspective, we only really know our take on it.

So, leave your assumptions at the door, work with your people, and use employee experience as a lens to see their way of life. Then, and only then, can you find the solutions that really work.

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