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Cerkl Broadcast

What Does Employee Experience Design Focus On?

Organizations are embracing employee communications and experience as a core part of their operational strategy.
Written by: Penny Swift
designing an employee experience
Published: June 11, 2024
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In today’s fast-paced, digital world, we’re accustomed to getting what we want instantly. This isn’t just shaping consumer expectations, it’s impacting how employees experience the workplace. Just like with any service, we now expect a user-friendly, personalized work environment — both physically and virtually.

This shift, coupled with the evolving employer-employee dynamic and a competitive talent market, has made employee experience (EX) a top priority for organizations. There is no doubt that by strategically designing a positive EX, companies globally can gain a significant advantage.

Mercer’s Global Talent Trends 2024 report states that 50% of HR leaders globally have plans to enhance the employee value proposition (EVP) and EX during 2024 to better attract and retain top talent. 

It’s important to note that employee experience design (EXD) and the employee value proposition are closely linked. 

  • The employee value proposition is the promise, the benefits, and the experiences that an organization offers to its employees.
  • Employee experience design is the intentional design of the employee experience to deliver on the promises made in the EVP.

EXD involves crafting an employee experience that is aligned with the organization’s EVP. It’s about creating an environment, processes, and interactions that support the EVP and make it a tangible reality for employees.

By integrating EXD and EVP, organizations can create a compelling and consistent employee experience that drives business outcomes and sets them apart from competitors.

We’re going to explore both EX and EXD and suggest 10 components of a good employee experience strategy. 

employee experience design

What is Employee Experience?

Although it is sometimes confused and interchanged with the concept of company culture, employee experience is much more than just the culture or fabric of an organization. Instead, it is a combination of company culture, the technology and resources available to employees, and their physical working environment. Each component is a contributing factor to the perceptions and interactions that create employee experience.

Company culture may be defined in many different ways. But, ultimately, it’s the mission, values, and “tone” of the workplace. It’s the way employees would describe the company when the CEO isn’t listening. It has the potential to energize or discourage employees and is a key part of the holistic employee experience.

Another vital component is the technological environment and resources available to employees. The physical working environment is also hugely important. It consists of the office layout, the offices or cubicles themselves — right down to the paint colors on the walls. It can also include perks like an onsite gym, low-cost daycare, or catered meals. Considering how many hours of their life the average worker spends at an office, details matter and contribute to higher employee engagement and a more positive employee experience.

employee experience design

EX is Not Only About Employees

Dieter Veldsman and Marna van der Merwe of the Academy to Innovate HR (AIHR) provide background to the employee experience (EX) movement in an article, Employee Experience Design: All HR Needs to Know, pointing out that it’s not just about employees. It’s also “not the silver bullet that will fix all organizational challenges.”

“The design of employee experience also acknowledges and defines which experiences will provide value for the organization and in what manner. For example, if the onboarding experience is positive, it improves employee productivity time, which leads to better outputs.”

Dieter Veldsman and Marna van der Merwe

In other words, it’s about the employee and the organization — a two-way street. While it matters to employees, it also adds value for organizations. 

What is Employee Experience Design?

When it comes to EXD, you have to find the right problems to solve, says Marc Bolick, founder and managing partner of Reshift, a digital marketing and development company. In Employee Experience Design — Finding the Right Problems to Solve, he says there are many ways to define EXD. 

“In our view, EXD offers an antidote to the uncertainty and complexity inherent in today’s workplace by using the power of design to envision and implement a desired experience for a specific type of employee in a specific part of their employment lifecycle. It involves the application of the mindset, methods, and tools of human-centered design to determine the desired experience of employees… then to intentionally curate, create, and continuously refine a system of interactions that produce the desired human outcomes.” 

Marc Bolick

But the most important element is that it’s all about being “people-first.” To design a good employee experience strategy, you need to understand the needs and abilities of the people in your workforce. It’s about designing with them, for them, and including them in the full spectrum of problem-solving activities. Ultimately, “it’s about co-creating employee experience.”

He points out that there isn’t a step-by-step process for EXD. But there are core activities that an EXD team must follow. These include finding the problem, looking for clear opportunities to solve it, and constraints, including budget and time. Of course, there’s a lot more to it, so let’s move on to our 10 components of an EXD strategy. 

employee experience design

10 Components of an Employee Experience Design Strategy

As you will have realized, employee experience doesn’t happen by accident. It requires an intentional, systematic approach to strategy and communications to create the kind of organization that attracts and retains exceptional talent. This all begins with an understanding of employee perceptions and expectations. Then you can shape activities and communications around them. 

There are several ways to design an effective plan, starting with a personalized approach that is based firmly on employee feedback.

#1 Personalization

The best employee experience strategies acknowledge the unique characteristics of the organization and its workforce. There is no cookie-cutter approach. To create a right-fit experience, companies must first know their employees. 

What are their strengths? Their outside interests? Their demographic information? By understanding each unique member of the team, companies can build experiences to suit their specific needs. Whether it is training that is based on career objectives, a choice of communication tools, or offering clubs and groups to foster a sense of belonging and teamwork, personalization is at the heart of a great employee experience.

#2 Supportive Culture

A supportive culture is a crucial element of a strong EXD strategy. It fosters a positive work environment where employees feel valued, respected, and empowered to do their best work. 

Similarly, as Dieter Veldsman and Marna van der Merwe point out, employee experience helps to create “a high-performance culture where employees feel valued.”

“ It has never been more critical to design for tomorrow, plan for transitions, and cultivate a culture where all stakeholders can thrive in perpetual motion.” Mercer

#3 Recognition

Recognition is a powerful strategy for EXD because it acknowledges and values employees’ contributions, fostering a sense of appreciation, motivation, and engagement. This is why it’s vital to recognize and reward employee achievements. 

By incorporating recognition into the employee experience, organizations can boost morale, increase employee engagement, encourage desired behaviors, and create a positive work environment. All of this will drive productivity, retention, and overall business success.

Mercer’s Global Talent Trends 2024 report emphasizes the need to celebrate employee contributions by what great looks like at individual and team level. They encourage organizations to invest in digital platforms to help colleagues and managers share positive feedback and give public recognition. 

#4 Flexible Communications

As companies grow, they naturally start to adopt a higher number of policies and procedures. They may also add new technology to support those processes. Unfortunately, what may have been created as a way to create efficiency and repeatability can often mutate over time and impede the ability of employees to do their work and meet their goals.

A key component of employee experience is empowering employees with the right technology in the right context to enhance their day-to-day activities — not get in their way. Periodically, leadership teams should re-evaluate processes for unnecessary or inefficient steps. They should also look at employee knowledge bases and resources to ensure that they are constantly updated, user-friendly, and able to support employees to do their best work.

#5 Visibility

Employees want to understand the company mission and their part in it. By tying individual goals to the corporate “big picture,” employees are naturally more invested in the work that they do. Mundane tasks suddenly have real value when employees have a transparent view of their personal impact on the success of the company.

Instead of waiting for annual or bi-annual performance reviews, employees want to know how they are performing against expectations on a day-to-day basis. Don’t make data a secret. Use it to draw employees into the company mission and reinforce the importance of their role. Socialize goals, share KPIs, and celebrate milestones along the way. It’s the fastest way to boost employee engagement and a better employee experience.

#6 Technology

Technology options are vast and varied. They can include a company intranet, messaging platforms, or any other e-learning or user application that has the potential to help employees do their job. Technology should enable effective employee communications between colleagues, management, and even customers — and give users the information and insight they need to be successful.

#7 Internal Communication

HR and internal communication teams play a pivotal role in employee experience. Just as marketing teams view messaging and information through the lens of the consumer, internal comms teams have a unique opportunity to view communications through the eyes of employees.

In recent years, companies have placed a high level of emphasis on reducing customer effort. They understand the importance of creating effortless, efficient experiences for consumers so that they will remain loyal to a product or brand. The same holds true for employee experience. By providing proactive communications, consumer-like tools and technology, and an effortless employee experience, workers feel valued — and loyalty skyrockets.

As a guide, employee experience should mirror the customer experience. What sets the brand apart? Is it intuitive technology? A reputation for exceptional support? Employees should be treated with the same level of care and have access to the same differentiating brand attributes as customers.

#8 Leadership empowerment

Mercer advocates setting employee expectations through organizational structure and senior leadership. That’s why it’s important to equip managers with the skills and resources to effectively coach, motivate, and support their teams.

According to Mercer’s Global Talent Trends 2024 report, leaders set the tone. It makes these points:

  • Resilient organizations are 1.8 times more likely to balance empathy and economics in decision-making. 
  • Executives of resilient organizations are 1.3 times more likely to say that jobs should be made redundant, not people amid the continued rise of AI and automation.
  • Reskilling and deploying workers whose jobs are impacted by new technologies requires a growth mindset — yet less than half (46%) of executives rate their organization’s culture as high on skills agility.

#9 Work-Life Balance

In its EX Trends 2024: Unlocking the future of intelligent employee experiences, ZenDesk says IT and HR Leaders are pushing for more adaptability and customization to meet rising expectations and improve employee experience. Work-life balance is highly regarded by IT and HR Leaders, with 84% agreeing that the ability to customize work location is a key contributor.

This shows how important it is to promote healthy work habits and offer programs that support employees’ well-being outside of work. 

#10 Diversity and Inclusion

There is no doubt that it’s critical to create a work culture that values and respects all employees, regardless of background or identity.

We highlighted earlier that Mercer found HR leaders were aiming to enhance the EX/EVP to attract and retain top talent during 2024. However, even though executives see diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as top drivers of business growth, a lot fewer are prioritizing DEI. 

At the same time, while 98% of HR leaders report their company’s DEI initiatives have produced concrete results over the last few years, 4% of workers say their company’s DEI practices “leave much to be desired.” 

employee experience design

What’s Next?

As organizations design and implement strategies for employee experience, they should periodically pause to measure results and,  if necessary, course-correct. Employee experience looks different for every organization and takes a bit of experimentation and a lot of flexibility.

Above all, employee experience should be approached as an opportunity for internal teams to make a lasting impact on every facet of the business — from reduced turnover to a better customer experience that is driven by happy, engaged employees.

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What is employee experience design? 

Employee experience design is a process that involves creating a positive and engaging work environment by designing and improving the interactions and experiences that employees have with an organization. It involves understanding the needs, desires, and pain points of employees and then designing solutions to improve their overall work experience.

How do you design an employee experience?

To design a successful employee experience, organizations need to understand their employees’ needs, goals, and pain points. This involves gathering feedback, and conducting surveys and interviews to identify areas for improvement. Those responsible for the design should prioritize and focus on the most critical areas, and then implement solutions that address employees’ needs. But that is not the end of the process. Organizations need to continuously monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of their solutions and make adjustments as needed.

How do design thinking and employee experience go hand in hand?

Design thinking and employee experience both focus on understanding and improving the experiences of individuals. Design thinking is a human-centered approach that involves empathy, creativity, and experimentation to solve complex problems. Employee experience design applies these same principles to improve the work experience of employees. It does this by understanding employee needs, desires, and pain points, and designing solutions that meet these needs. By combining design thinking and employee experience design, organizations can create a positive and engaging work environment that improves employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention.

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