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Why human-centred design should be at the centre when designing employee experiences

Developing the right employee experience is incredibly important in this day and age. Never before has talent had so many opportunities at their fingertips, or the built-in mentality that they can up and leave whenever they like.

Another important aspect is that a great employee experience translates to a great customer experience. Employees are one of the greatest sources of performance potential within an organisation and when people are motivated and engaged with their work, that is passed along to the end customer and reflected in the bottom line.

An example of this is the work done by Google Labs in 2018 to find out what determined a successful team within their business – was it workplace culture, or the personalities of the people within that team?

They looked closely at the data in an initiative called Project Aristotle and found that personality type mix, gender ratios, democratic teams or teams with a self-appointed leader made no difference. What they did find, however, is how people felt at work is what made a difference.

It found five key common attributes in best-performing teams: psychological safety, dependability, structure and clarity, meaning and impact. Clearly, the employee experience at work can make a huge difference.

So, how do companies ensure they’re providing the best possible employee experience? Gadd says first things first, businesses should be wary of a one-size-fits-all or ‘best practice’ approach.

“HR teams love best practice and sometimes focus so much on what makes other organisations successful that specific organisational context or individual preferences of employees within their organisation can be overlooked,” she says.

“As experts in our profession, HR professional love to have the answers, whereas at Humankind we believe the best answers lie within the employee group.”

She says using human-centred design when designing employee experiences is key to this. Despite it being seemingly common sense to put the person at the centre of design, Gadd says areas like UX design and CX design are much further ahead than most People & Culture teams in this regard.

“While many HR or People & Culture teams use aspects of human centred desgin, more often than not, there is a lack of commitment to the end-to-end human centred design approach,” Gadd says.

Gadd says other reasons for the gap in application of human-centred design is customers’ needs are often prioritised over employees’ needs and/or organisations are rushing to get solutions out the door.

“While an employee focus group may have been held in the initial ideation phase, the design and execution of a particular initiative is often completed within the HR team before being thrown out to the organisation,” she says.

In order for businesses to address this, Gadd says organisations must deliberately focus on the experience of their employees and invest as much time and energy as they do on customers, as it will pay off.

“Seek to apply human centred design to all aspects of the employee experience knowing the up-front investment of time will have long term impacts on employee satisfaction,” she says.

She says the HR and people and culture community needs to get more proactive in how they approach and design employee experiences. Here are Gadd’s top tips below:

  • Have an interest in best practice, but don’t solely rely on it. You don’t need to have all of the answers. Instead, your role is to facilitate thinking and ensure purpose is kept front and centre, building solutions with employees, not for employees.
  • Apply the principles that have been applied successfully for so long to CX and UX to EX. The experiences we’re having as customers in our personal lives are not consistent with our workplaces, which often feel like they’re stuck in the 1980s.
  • Using the BASIC principle is a great tool. BASIC means beautiful, accessible, simple, intuitive, and consistent. Imagine if all experiences at work succeeded in being BASIC – it would be truly wonderful.

Humankind’s EX programme provides businesses with an objective perspective on their employee experience, introduces employee-centred design and provides an opportunity for recognition, which is great for employer brand.

Its Employee Experience Awards are also open to enter. To get the most out of the interview process and gain deep learning about your company and the current experience of your people register early now. Registration closes August 30, with the awards night being held in November.

For further information, head to the Humankind Employee Experience Awards website.


What? The Humankind Employee Experience Awards.
How? Register here to start the process.
When? Before August 30, with the event being held in November.
Why? To get great profile for your employer brand and gain deep understanding of the current experience, from your employees’ perspective.

Elly is Idealog's editor and resident dog enthusiast. She enjoys travelling, tea, good books, and writing about exciting ideas and cool entrepreneurs.

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