Employment Hero

Think Like a Designer: Creating a Compelling Employee Experience

When it comes to managing people at work, the experience they have throughout their time with your company means everything. It can leave a long-lasting impression and ultimately be the difference between them recommending your company as a great place to work, or well… not so great. With this reality front-of-mind, it’s vital you get it right so both current and past-employees are advocates of your organisation. While this is considered a popular HR trend of 2020 and beyond, it’s also one that has many benefits, such as greatly improving employee engagement. This can be achieved in many ways, with one being through the design thinking process. 

Creating a positive employee experience stretches further than the occasional team lunch and free tea and biscuits in the lunchroom. It encompasses every aspect of the employee lifecycle from attracting top talent right through to exit interviews. Not only will you have a team of happier employees, but you’ll also see an impact to your bottom line. Jacob Morgan, author of “The Employee Experience Advantage” and avid researcher of the future of work, found that organisations who invest in the employee experience result in 4 times the average profit and more than double the average revenue. Additionally, Harvard Business Review states that “those that invested most heavily in employee experience were included 28 times as often among Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies and 11.5 times as often in Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work”. 

But how does a people manager think like a designer and craft a compelling employee experience, I hear you ask? Simples! Read on as we teach you strategies to think like a designer and create a compelling employee experience. It will assist in boosting your teams’ engagement and have them performing at the top of their game. 

Employee Experience - Jacob Morgan - Employment Hero

Starting off 

Changing up the structure of your strategy meetings can sound like a scary beast to tackle, but we’re here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be.

When starting out, we suggest taking a look at the employee lifecycle. This forms the pillar of your entire strategy. For every stage of the employee lifecycle, you should evaluate and create strategies for each and review how they work together. This way, you’ll be on your way to creating a robust employee experience that will have a big impact on your business and employees.

designed employee experience - hr trends - employment hero

Ready to put your thinking cap on think like a designer? 

What is Design Thinking?

According to Interaction Design Foundation, design thinking can be described as; 

“an iterative process in which we seek to understand the user, challenge assumptions, and redefine problems in an attempt to identify alternative strategies and solutions that might not be instantly apparent with our initial level of understanding. At the same time, design thinking provides a solution-based approach to solving problems.”

The Design Thinking Process - Employee Experience - Employment Hero

Before you get started, map the design thinking process to every aspect of the employee lifecycle. By doing this, you can get a thorough overview of what you need to improve. Not only this, it will keep you on track to achieve a well-rounded employee experience.

We know that many of you are new to the design thinking process, so we’ve included a running example throughout this blog, which we will mark with an 🌟 EXAMPLE.

With this being said, you’re probably sitting there thinking “great, but where do I start?”. 

It starts with research, which leads to us to the first part of the process. 

Empathise

The first phase of design thinking is to understand the problem you’re trying to solve on an empathetic level. This forms the basis of the entire process, so it’s crucial to get this right. If you’ve heard the team ‘customer-centric’ thrown around by designers, apply this thinking to being ‘employee-centric’. 

When it comes to designing the employee experience, this step involves finding out:

  • Who your employees actually are
  • What issues they’re currently experiencing

Find out what they enjoy, what they find difficult and what they believe would make the biggest difference to them at work. All of these questions will determine what can make their overall experience at work a better one. 

Although it may seem overwhelming initially, researching your team can be as simple as sending around a survey and asking a few people to participate in a more in-depth interview. A few questions can provide a lot of insight! Another great way to understand your employees is to have them participate in a journey mapping session. By using journey maps you can get to the nitty-gritty of how your team is feeling at every stage of the employee lifecycle and create a strategy to improve every aspect. 

 🌟 EXAMPLE: You send around an initial survey for your employees to complete with four questions so you can improve your retention (fifth stage of the ELC) strategy. These questions might include:

  1. What do you find most challenging in your day-to-day?
  2. Rate your learning and development over the past year from 1-10 and explain why. 
  3. How likely are you to recommend a friend to work here? Why/why not? 
  4. How satisfied with the feedback or recognition are you receiving for your work? Why/why not. 
Journey Map NN Group Design Thinking - Employment Hero

Source: Nielsen Norman Group 

Define

The second stage is to define the problems or challenges at hand. You’ve got your research, so where do you go from here? Remember that this definition will form the centerpiece of your efforts and include metrics to measure over time.  

In the define stage, you have the opportunity to dive deeper into your people analytics to look at common trends. Is your turnover increasing? Have you noticed a drop in the number of people participating in your employee happiness survey? This is the time to take an open-minded approach and analyse where you can improve your employee experience. 

 

 🌟 EXAMPLE: From the previous step, you find that many employees believe there is a lack of career growth at the company because they feel as though they don’t have the skills required to progress, even though they have a $500 learning allowance per year. 

The definition/goal could be: All Employees are using 100% of their learning allowance.

To recap:

  1. Empathise: You’ve talked to our employees about how they’re feeling and now have a greater understanding of their expectations at work.
  2. Define: You’ve examined our findings from the Empathise stage and identified challenges to solve.

 

Ideate 

The third step is to brainstorm ways you can fix the problems you’re experiencing. When it comes to thinking outside the box, it’s important to get your creative brainwaves pumping. At Employment Hero, we take five minutes at the start of each creative strategy-based session to do an activity completely unrelated to the task at hand. It gets the entire team excited to solve problems. Some of our go-tos include: 

  • Name all of the things you can make with an X (e.g. piece of string). 
  • Draw as many things you can that are round. 
  • Two truths, one lie.

Once you’ve completed this, it’s time to get to the action by: 

  • Brainstorming – bouncing ideas off the team verbally.
  • Brain dumping – using post-it notes to individually write down ideas and go through them together at the end of a set time.
  • Challenging assumptions – you turn common expectations of scenarios on their head to give you a fresh perspective.

💡 PRO TIP: Ask people from outside of your HR team to be involved in this process. People in other teams often have a fresh perspective and bring new ideas to the table.

 🌟 EXAMPLE: Using brain dumping to come up with ideas on how your team can be accountable for driving their own career growth. 

To recap:

  1. Empathise: You’ve talked to our employees about how they’re feeling and now have a greater understanding of their expectations at work.
  2. Define: You’ve examined our findings from the Empathise stage and identified challenges to solve.
  3. Ideate: You’ve identified the challenge(s) to be solved and now it’s time to get all ideas on the table.

Prototype

The prototype stage involves the changes you’ve agreed on in the ideation phase to come to life. The changes made in the prototype stage aren’t rolled out company-wide, however, can be brought to life and tested on a small group or team of people. 

This stage is used to show you how your changes would come into effect with the wider team. It also allows you to go back to the previous steps if changes need to be made. 

 🌟 EXAMPLE: Roll out a professional development plan to one team first and gain their insights and thoughts on the process. This can be on the types of questions asked, how often it is reviewed, etc. 

To recap:

  1. Empathise: You’ve talked to our employees about how they’re feeling and now have a greater understanding of their expectations at work.
  2. Define: You’ve examined our findings from the Empathise stage and identified challenges to solve.
  3. Ideate: You’ve identified the challenge(s) to be solved and now it’s time to get all ideas on the table.
  4. Prototype: You’re now ready to watch your ideas from the ideate stage come to life and test them on a small scale. 

Test

Although it’s the final part of the process, this is often the stage that is the most time-consuming. This is because you will often find that processes need to be looked at again and reiterated. Most of the time you’ll find yourself going through this process many times because you’ll be faced with feedback you may have never thought of, which can spark inspiration for other ideas. See how the diagram below constantly evolves and loops back? 

 🌟 EXAMPLE: Roll out the professional development plan to the wider office and gain your team’s suggestions and feedback. 

5 stage Design Thinking - Employee Experience - Employment Hero

At the end of the day, you need to determine whether or not this part of the employee experience will contribute positively to the business and your employees’ overall experience. 

To recap:

  1. Empathise: You’ve talked to our employees about how they’re feeling and now have a greater understanding of their expectations at work.
  2. Define: You’ve examined our findings from the Empathise stage and identified challenges to solve.
  3. Ideate: You’ve identified the challenge(s) to be solved and now it’s time to get all ideas on the table.
  4. Prototype: You’re now ready to watch your ideas from the ideate stage come to life and test them on a small scale. 
  5. Test: You’ve launched a prototype, learn what works and what doesn’t and now you’re ready to test your idea on a grander scale.

The wrap-up

Designing thinking isn’t just for designers. This method can be a powerful way to solve long-standing problems and bring new ideas to life. Equipped with what you’ve learnt in this blog, go forth and review each stage of your employee lifecycle within the view of design thinking. We know you will be pleasantly surprised with the outcome!

Want more?

Learn more about what your employees are looking for in their role with our FREE ‘What Employees Want’ whitepaper. 👇👇👇

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