Creating an employee experience with human-centred design.

Mark Lewis
April 27, 2023
min read
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The Intersection of HR Leadership and Human Centred Design

Most HR leaders don’t have a background in Human Centred Design or Design Thinking, which are very useful skills when it comes to designing employee experiences. So… How might we help busy HR leaders design a great EX without having to complete a Design Thinking program? Seems like I got my answer from speaking with a busy HR leader! Which I’ll come back to shortly.

The Role of Specialised Consultancy in EX Design

First, I believe the most effective employee experiences are designed with the help of a specialist like Rowboat Design or Livework Studio. Yes, engaging a consultant will make this a bigger project and cost more, but you will achieve better results in terms of alignment with employee expectations and improved organisational outcomes.However, I recognise that not all businesses are willing to prioritise this level of investment in the Employee Experience design process.

Getting Started with EX Design

So this brings us back to our busy HR leader who helped me realise when you can’t hit the ground running with a consultant, you CAN hit the ground walking yourself. This started when I saw an Excel spreadsheet one of our team was working on. It was a 12-month onboarding journey one of our customers had created. It was so well thought out that I needed to speak with them to understand how they went about designing this onboarding experience.

Practical Steps to Designing an Employee Onboarding Experience

It turns out to be a wonderfully simple process that any HR leader can walk with, where this P&C team got together for a couple of hours with a tonne of sticky notes. They started writing every single onboarding activity down, one activity per sticky note.Then they put a 12-month timeline on a whiteboard and placed each sticky note on the timeline in its relevant spot. It was immediately clear that new starters were so overloaded with onboarding activities in their first couple of months that it was surprising they had time to do the job they were hired for.

The P&C team reflected and was able to re-prioritise and spread the activities over 12 months, this had the benefit of a reduced induction load on managers and provided new starters with a more meaningful and realistic plan for getting up to speed in the organisation.The final step was to capture the timeline with each of the activities into a spreadsheet for minor iteration with stakeholders, then across to Crewmojo for configuration.

Balancing Trade-Offs: Employee Experience Design Without End-User Co-Creation

You could argue this approach doesn’t include enough co-creation with end-users, but this approach is about making trade-offs with the time investment available. The P&C team are also long-tenured and well-connected in the organisation so they have a clear idea of what a good experience looks like for their organisation.The onboarding experience struck a balance of org compliance needs, employee development and realistic time frames, much of which came from zooming out and contextualising the whole process vs a more traditional approach of layering on activities in isolation over many years.

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