Employee Experience – A Design Challenge

We all know Tom. He comes to every meeting with his laptop up, but head down. He’s at the table, but somewhere else. He’ll weather this meeting, just like the next. And the one after that…

Google says the average person will spend about 90,000 hours of their life at work. But the real question is how many of those hours will be spent clocked in…but checked out. More and more companies are trying to understand and improve employee engagement levels. Because all the research says companies with engaged employees outperform their uninspired peers. Not to mention, who wants to spend their best hours sleepwalking through the day? So, they’re looking for ways to improve the employee experience in hopes of driving higher engagement levels.

So, we’re left with a choice. We can leave all 90,000 hours of that experience to chance. Or, we can thoughtfully DESIGN an employee experience that gives employees a chance to flourish. We can dig into the details of the day-to-day and create brand-led employee experiences that transform organizations and engage the workforce. And we can start with a deep, empathetic understanding of our employees and what they need to show up as their best selves.

When designing an employee experience, we need to take a look at three things. They should all work together in service of the brand promise and the employees that bring it to life. And we need to balance short and long-term change across all three in order to build momentum quickly.

  1. Where employees LIVE.

The physical environment will either support and inspire employees or just get in their way. From conference room amenities to those casual corners where employees just hang out – they’re all important. Together, they speak volumes about the brand and influence employee behaviors.

  1. How employees MAKE.

The way employees work together in the day-to-day includes all the processes, procedures and tools needed to get work done. Equally important are the rituals shared week in and week out – from team check-ins, to project kick-offs and even celebration practices.

  1. Ways employees GROW.

The factors that enable an employees’ growth include leadership, coaching, learning and performance management. We can be inventive with respect to how we encourage employees’ professional and personal growth at work – taking advantage of both formal and informal opportunities. It doesn’t always mean an online or offsite course, it could just mean a little more “in-the-moment” feedback or exploration away from your desk.

Employee experience has become a hot topic (and buzzword) these days. But it’s easier said than done. So all the research, thoughtfulness and design that has traditionally gone into creating customer experiences is now being redirected at employees. It just makes sense, as do the reasons for Tom’s apathy when you just dig a little deeper.

So next time you’re wondering why Tom’s sleepwalking in your next meeting, or if he even cares – ask yourself one question. Is he just a product of his experience?

Mark Brown is a Brand Director at Joe Smith, the brand consultancy of Padilla.