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.

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.

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.

2 - 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.

3 - 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?

JS Brand Exploration 01: Carytown Bicycle Company


Here in Richmond, cycling has taken off in a big way. Some of the buzz could be credited to major bike races being hosted around the city, but that doesn't really tell the whole story. A biking culture has seemingly appeared out of thin air over the past few years. And that is thanks to a group of advocates and business owners harnessing their passion for biking to offer rich experiences that have catalyzed a community.

Carytown Bicycle Company is one of the bike shops responsible for this phenomenon. The owner and his staff are committed to providing an unforgettable customer experience that invites anyone who walks through the door into their biking community - in turn creating advocates for the sport and their shop. We recently had the privilege of exploring Carytown Bicycle Company's brand and pulling the veil back on the experience they create everyday. 

For more check them out here.


This Delivers That


A great brand boils down to the experiences it delivers. That assumption begs the question what is at the core of delivering a great customer experience time after time? We hear a lot of talk these days about customer-centric design, or embedding purpose into each moment of interaction, or how storytelling is crucial to ensuring your brand resonates at an emotional level. While, arguably these are all incredibly true, we would simply suggest that great brand experiences come from the people inside your organization. What if truly great brand experiences emerge when customer needs, wants and emotions collide with the purpose, passion and talents of the individuals inside your company? What kind of internal environment might be needed to foster that kind of sustainable connection? Simply said, what if great experiences and the brands that result are built from the inside-out? That would be an idea worth exploring.


Zappo’s has become widely known (with countless online stories) for building an internal culture that empowers their employees to creatively connect with their customers in a way. This connection breeds happiness, a little weirdness, and often delight, Now, they’ve recently announced a new workforce scheduling philosophy that could take the employee and customer experience to a new level. The idea is to give call center employees the flexibility to schedule their hours in an ‘open market’ that pays more during times of high call demand. Essentially, the process empowers their employees to not only choose their own schedule but decide how much intensity they are willing to take on during their week while being compensated accordingly. How this will translate to the customer experience, time will tell. But, logically speaking, customers will now be talking to call agents who WANT to be there at that specific time and are fully present and focused because they’ve been given the freedom to schedule around their personal lives.

Zappos warehouse.jpg

Zappo’s has been revolutionary in creating a culture that empowers their employees in terms of HOW they do their job in service to the customer. Now, they’re amping it up a notch and giving employees the freedom as to WHEN they do their job. We’ll be watching closely to see how this plays out. But our guess is that creative and joyful responses to individual customer needs will only continue to progress along with the Zappo’s overall brand experience. 

For more check them out here